Genevieve was a TV executive in NYC for 20 years when a little girl’s question changed the course of her life – and she jumped off the corporate ladder. She began delivering pajamas and books to children in shelters and in 2001 founded Pajama Program, a national non-profit which is recognized for both its success – to date having delivered 7 million new pajamas and new books to children – and Genevieve’s story. Genevieve is a professional speaker and consultant, inspiring people to listen to their heart-voice connection to achieve success. Her first book: Purpose, Passion and Pajamas: How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection and Lead with Meaning, was just released on August 4th. Genevieve has been interviewed on various media including OPRAH, TODAY, GMA, CNN, Fox & Friends, O Magazine and Forbes and is the recipient of many awards.
- CEO Hack: I meditate and try to be gentle with everybody
- CEO Nugget: Listen to your heart voice
- CEO Defined: Passion, Equity and a little bit of possession
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:31
Hello, hello. Hello, this is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Genevieve Piturro of genevievepiturro.com. Genevieve, it’s awesome having on the show.
Genevieve Piturro 0:40
Hi, Gresh lovely to be here.
Gresham Harkless 0:43
No problem. Super excited to have you on and before we jumped in, I want to read a little bit more about Genevieve so you can hear about all the awesome things that she’s doing. Genevieve was a TV executive in NYC for 20 years when a little girl’s question changed the course of her life – and she jumped off the corporate ladder. She began delivering pajamas and books to children in shelters and in 2001 founded Pajama Program, a national non-profit which is recognized for both its success – to date having delivered 7 million new pajamas and new books to children – and Genevieve’s story. Genevieve is a professional speaker and consultant, inspiring people to listen to their heart-voice connection to achieve success. Her first book: Purpose, Passion and Pajamas: How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection and Lead with Meaning, was just released on August 4th. Genevieve has been interviewed on various media including OPRAH, TODAY, GMA, CNN, Fox & Friends, O Magazine and Forbes and is the recipient of many awards. Genevieve great to have you on the show. Are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?
Genevieve Piturro 1:49
I’m ready, Gresh.
Gresham Harkless 1:50
Let’s do it. So to kick everything off, I know I touched on it a little bit, I wanted to hear a little bit more about your CEO story. What led you to get started with all the awesome things you’re working on?
Genevieve Piturro 1:59
Well, you know, growing up the first four, and then a tie and family and I mean, Italian my father off the boat wanted us to get an education. That’s why he came to this country. You know, his father brought him here. And I also think, because there were two girls and two boys, he expected the girls to have a family you know, grandchildren. But education was always first. And for some reason I did not have that ticking clock to have children. But I did have that Mary Tyler Moore clock I wanted to be Mary China more. I wanted to be the woman, BP or president of some something in TV journalism. And everything she did, I just loved. I wanted to be single, I want to be successful. I wanted to live on my own in a big city. I watched her you know, late at night hiding, you know when I wasn’t supposed to be up. And I was on my way. So that’s where I was headed. I went to college as my dad wanted. But I got a job and I wanted a career. So, you know, I know that both my parents were a little unsure of what I was doing as the first of their four. But there was no question in my mind. So I did that. I started working in Manhattan became a workaholic, very quickly climbing the corporate ladder of the corporate of the television syndication business, which is basically runs. And I loved it. And it was a time when money was flowing in the 80s never been a time like that sense. Which is, which is a good thing looking back and you know, through my life now. But it was a really good life and I loved it. And what happened rush is that in my late 30s, being single living in the, you know, in Riverdale, right outside Manhattan having this really great job and fun life. I heard a voice in me one afternoon in my co op. And it was just me. And though I looked around, I heard it. I knew where it came from. And it came from my heart and it wasn’t a voice in my head. I have those two. But the voice said to me in a whisper. If this is the next 30 years of your life. Is it enough? And it was it was such a shock first to hear it. I sat down and instantly I knew the answer was no. I had missed something. There was something in in my heart that made me ask myself that question that was missing. And I realized I was alone. I would be alone. I was working so much. I was having fun, but it meant nothing. It wasn’t helping anyone. It was making people rich and successful. I had nice things, but it was empty in a second that came to me and I had I knew I had to make a change.
Gresham Harkless 5:01
That’s extremely powerful. And I mean, I think there’s so many people that probably are listening to this can definitely resonate with that and kind of going through, I guess the the day in day activities and operation and being driven towards reaching goals and aspirations that sometimes we kind of forget, or maybe are reminded might be a better way to say it of what we ultimately want to do. Not to say that what we’re doing isn’t necessarily that, but just maybe there needs to be a time to kind of pivot or make a shift.
Genevieve Piturro 5:32
Yeah, it came to me in that way. You know, and it’s never too late. But of course, I I thought, you know, people who had those aha moments or, or change their lives so dramatically, to do good work, you know, famous rich people or people from history, change the world. I didn’t think ordinary people could have that epiphany, or have that voice. And maybe we all do, we don’t listen to it. And maybe I’ve had it a million times before that day. And that was the day listen to it.
Gresham Harkless 6:02
Yeah, absolutely. So funny as you say that, because I always felt like I was a big believer that we sometimes we get small signs, and then they start to build up and get louder and decide to really shape. Exactly, exactly, especially for her to people like me, a lot of times, you have to get that to really know that you need to make that change. So, right. Yeah, absolutely. So I guess Tell me a little bit about what that change accomplished. What exactly position to and how you create that organization that provides so much value?
Genevieve Piturro 6:28
Sure. Well, I didn’t know what what to do in that moment. So I immediately knew a couple of things that what I was doing had no meaning. Other than financial really, and, and status, you know, because I wanted something I had colleagues and you know, everyone was on the same path. But I wanted to find something that made a difference. And when I realized, at 38, I didn’t have children. Obviously, I knew that didn’t just realize at that moment, but I realized it was probably a little late to start figuring that part out. I thought, How else can I get children in my life because I knew that was missing. And with nephews and nieces I loved and adored. I wanted more of that a little closer to me. And I thought I could read to children and shelters. Maybe I read the papers. We all do see the news reports of you know, what happens to some of these children were brought to shelters what happened to bring them there, and it was horrific. And pre 911 you could do what I did. I simply called the police. I asked them where do you bring the children that are harmed in the middle of the night that we read about? Where do they go, who takes care of them? And they gave me some names of shelters. I started calling around. And I literally said to anyone who answered Hi, I’m a nice lady, can I come and read to the kids at night after work? Again, before 911 you could do that. And I was well received as in how lovely sure Come on in. So they’re off, I went to my business suit with a bag full of children’s storybooks, off to shelters. And the first time I’ll never forget, I was obviously ridiculously overdressed and ridiculous costume compared to what was really what my reality was going to be within five minutes there. And there were places for me to sit because it was a pretty bare room in a shelter. That was I think it was hidden because I had to be escorted up and I was I was told this by police and some other people that a lot of them don’t even have a name on the door. You know there are emergency shelters for for women. Sometimes we’re running with a baby or children. So I was sitting I went up, there was a very bare room. There weren’t chairs that I could sit in. There were small little chairs. So I sat on the floor, my back in my business suit. And in comes a group of about a dozen kids with a staffer. And they were they were just so meek. There were about a dozen boys and girls. They were maybe five to eight years old. They quietly came in they saw me sitting on the floor, they sat on the floor with me. I opened the bag and took out a book. I was so I was a fish out of water. They were so quiet. I I don’t know what I was thinking I was just so ignorant. I thought I’d make a party. It was not a party atmosphere. So I started to read the stories and it was very quiet. And I was very quiet and I showed the pictures like teacher does. So this happened week after week, different places I’d go to some might return always different children. And one night I got up and I followed where the staff were taking these children to go to sleep in the other room. And I peered in and it broke my heart It was all it had in there were two or three or four couches or food. tongs or cots, single, single beds like a child’s bed. And if there were no more than the number of beds of children, then they would be coupled up two or three under surface. Some of them were hugging. Some of them were crying, nothing to change into. The staff were lovely, but it wasn’t the bedtime I had. And I immediately went back and I was flooded with memories. Going back to when my mom had bedtime for us for kids. It was so much fun. We put our pajamas on and we protested with a lot of whatever john was on. He bring us a snack with one more snacks, we’d giggle she’d meet us the stories or she make up stories. We had worn pajamas or we got to pick which ones we wanted to wear. She snuggled with us purpose in his Dyson, you know, love you three dreams. And off we went back, you know, right to sleep into dreams. never afraid, always just took for granted. She’d be there in the morning and everything would be okay, even if you had a bad day. Now, all of that just came racing into my into my brain. And that’s what I remembered. As, as they were leading me out the door I turned on, I said, Do you think I could bring some pajamas next week? I don’t know why I said that. It just sort of fell out of my mouth. And the woman said, Oh, that would be so nice. No one’s ever thought of that. We try to do the best we can. But that would be so nice. So all week. You know, I didn’t think about my job. All I could think about were those kids and how many pajamas and how many kids? No one can tell me who’d be there. And I went shopping nearly every night looking for sales, buying every size every every shape I could, so that not one child would be left out?
Gresham Harkless 11:47
Could you take us through exactly like what you’re doing with the organization and what you feel kind of sets that organization apart. It makes it unique and secret sauce, so to speak.
Genevieve Piturro 11:53
I think early on, because I didn’t tell many people, because I really was I didn’t know how it would be received. You know, I couldn’t imagine telling my colleagues Actually, I did try. Tell a friend of mine. And she laughed at me. And that set me back emotionally from telling anybody else. I went to my parents and my dad was a little skeptical but came around my mother understood. You know, she’s she’s a wonderful mother. She’s a loving mother. She got it. And she figured all the other stuff about making a living would come at this at the time, you know, sometimes not sometimes doesn’t say sometimes always. When you’re on your path. The universe is your partner, right? Yeah, you’re nodding. So you get it.
Gresham Harkless 12:36
Genevieve Piturro 12:37
And I met a man who was the right man. And he was the right man. Because when I told him what I was thinking about doing, he said, Go for it. He didn’t say What about your money? What about our money? What about this? What? So anyway, from that moment on, I had somebody whose support meant everything to me. My mom’s, though I had two cheerleading squad members, I say, and that is that is so necessary for anyone starting anything to have those people rallying for you, because there’ll be plenty of naysayers. So because it was so small, and it was just me. And then my husband helped me and my mom was cheering me on, I had to pick something small. So I thought, bedtime, that was a terrific what I saw pajamas and books, as all I can manage. And for 20 years, next year, per child, probably 20 years, I did this for two or three years before getting our 501 c three, because I didn’t even know what that was. That’s a whole other story.
Gresham Harkless 13:28
I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app or book or a habit that you have, or something that makes you more effective and efficient.
Genevieve Piturro 13:38
Oh, I meditate every morning, I would say that first. I lead with, I try to if I have a hard time with something, or someone, I try to imagine that there might be something going on that’s below the surface. So before taking it personally, I try to be gentler. And maybe that’s something that’s come out of the last six months for me, I’d like to say I’ve always been that way. But I have been so conscious of it now. Because so many things are not personal that I think we take as being personal. And I think if we take a breath and and say there might be something really difficult for this person in the moment, and I happen to be the one that’s standing here with that person.
Gresham Harkless 14:28
Exactly, exactly. So now when it asked me for what I call a CEO, nugget, so this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something if you were to happen to a time machine, you would tell your younger business. self.
Genevieve Piturro 14:40
Listen to your heart voice. Listen to it. It’s talking and if you don’t hear it, ask it to speak up.
Gresham Harkless 14:47
Awesome. And so now when they asked me my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO, and we’re all gonna have different quote unquote CEOs on the show, so generally what does being a CEO mean to you?
Genevieve Piturro 14:56
I would say the first thing that comes to mind is an acronym I would say passion, equity. And that’s a good Oh, I would say we all need a little pizzazz. So maybe a little ole.
Gresham Harkless 15:08
Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I feel like that whole leg goes right in line with passion. And you know, all those things we need a little bit or a lot of bit of Olay in our lives. So I love that acronym. And that definition that prospective, because it just kind of encompasses everything that you talked about, and that we should always stand in for. So truly appreciate that. And I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic so to speak, just to see if there’s anything additional you want. Let our readers and listeners know and of course how best they can get a copy of the book and hear about all the awesome things you’re working on.
Genevieve Piturro 15:39
Everything is on my website genevievepiturro.com. Of course pajamaprogram.org is where you can find all things pajama program and my book audiobook and Kindle ebook will be on Amazon. So that’s where you can find everything and everyone.
Gresham Harkless 15:57
Awesome, awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much interview what we’ll do is we’ll have the links and information in the show notes as well too. So everybody can click through and and get a copy of the book and find out about all the awesome things. I thank you so much for that and I thank you so much for what you do and I hope you have a great rest of the day.
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