Be Inspired: Podcast featuring MYB, Inc. Founder and CEO Karen Caruso

The word “no” can take you pretty far in life. Need proof? Listen to the podcast from September’s Power of Partnering Marketplace Conference. Karen Caruso, founder and CEO of MYB, Inc., reveals on GWBC Radio how the word “no” pushed her to use her existing job skills to create her own business. Learn how the creation of MYB, Inc. has affected her life and others in a ripple of positivity.

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Podcast Transcription

INTRO: Broadcasting live from the beautiful Gwinnette Infinite Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia for the power of partnering marketplace conference. It’s time for GWBC radio. Now, here are your hosts

Host 1: Broadcasting live from Gwinnett Infinite Energy Center: Stone Payton and Lee Cantor here with you. Lee. You ready for this one buddy?

Host 2: I am.

Host 1: All right. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast founder and CEO with MYB, Mind Your Business. Miss Karen Caruso. How are ya?

Karen: Fabulous. Thank you.

Host 1: Now Karen, before we get too far into things, tell us about mind your business. How are you serving folks?

Karen: We are a criminal records check EEO investigative firm based in North Carolina and we provide background checks for the federal government and large corporations and small businesses globally.

Host 1: So how’d you get into this line of work?

Karen: Oh, that’s a great question. I was a stay at home mom…

Host 1: Is it a secret?

Karen: No, just, I may start crying. I was a stay at home mother with my daughter, that I mentioned earlier, that just graduated from college was my healthy happy 10-month-old baby in my arms. Every day at 4:00 PM, I would watch the Oprah Winfrey show and this particular week she had a guest speaker on that spoke about living your dream, creating your dream, becoming who you’re meant to be. And I don’t know about y’all, but I was raised on a farm in Eastern North Carolina, and that was not the message that I heard and that was a foreign concept. My mother used to say to me, Karen Marie, little girls are supposed to be seen and not heard. And as you’ve both experienced already, I have a problem with that. And this woman was on the Oprah Winfrey show, the next segment, the next day. And her child, his name was Kieran Dunn, had just been murdered by his nanny. Same age as my daughter that I was holding in my arms. And she was crying hysterically because one of the questions was, “Well, didn’t you do a background check on her?”. This woman was working for a large newspaper in Manhattan and she said, all she said, she tried but there were too many roadblocks that kept her from accomplishing that. And we’re going back to 1994, so it was a long time before the internet, you know, the internet highway was what it is now. But because I had done that professionally, in loss prevention in the retail field, I knew that if I walked into a police station or go to the County clerk’s office that information is public record information, and everybody in the United States has a right to that information.

Host 1: You knew the path to get there.

Karen: I did.

Host 1: But a layperson would have no idea, this would be too difficult or maybe have too many roadblocks ahead of them to figure out how to go about it. But because you had worked in that industry then you knew, kind of how to be the Sherpa that helps someone go through that.

Karen: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s what I did. I had my wonderful “aha” moment. And when my husband came home from work that evening, he walked in the front door and I was like a dog waiting. You know, I was so excited. I was excited. I know what I’m going to do. And, he said, “Why are you doing anything?” And I said, “Well, this woman, she was just on. I can make a difference. I know I can. And God forbid this ever happened to us because I was looking to go back to work and I would have to find childcare for my own child.” And he said, “No, you’re not gonna do that. “And I went Oh Lord, game on. Now I have to. Don’t tell me I can’t do something, that’ll make me want to do it even more. So I did my research, and every part-time job I ever had in my life prepared me for that moment to start my business. Um, June 6th, and that was 23 and a half years ago. And that passion has fueled me and kept me going all through these years.

Speaker 1: Because that was a thought that you had, a big ‘why’ at the heart of this. You knew that this stuff makes an impact it can really save lives and make a difference.

Karen: It does. Absolutely. Absolutely. If she had been able to run a background check on her care provider, she would have found that this woman had a rap sheet as long as their arm.

Host 1: In two seconds, she would never have hired her.

Karen: Never. And as a matter of fact, she just got out of prison for the 17-year sentence I believe that she received for that child’s murder. It’s unfathomable, and it happens every day. It’s as easy as clicking on something on the internet and looking something up. I guess in a broad stroke that would be okay, but we’re more about really giving you accurate up to date information so that you can make informed decisions whether you’re applying for a job with the federal government or if you’re looking to hire employees. It’s not about preventing people from being successful if they’ve had a mistake in the past, it’s about empowerment through knowledge.

Host 1: Right, It’s being aware. At least let me know and make the choice rather than you making the choice for me.

Karen: Right, exactly.

Host 1: So, now, what’s your perfect customer? Who is your perfect customer?

Karen: One that’s truly committed to finding out who they’re bringing into their organization and not just wanting to be able to check that box that they’ve done a background check. It’s their due diligence, but it’s the employer that really wants to know. And ironically enough, the federal agencies that I’ve been fortunate enough to start working with and doing background checks for is the perfect example of how to do a background check. And of course we all read in the news how not to do a background check, what not to miss, what not to look at, but that’s been awesome for me and, and just anyone. Everyone’s our perfect customer.

Host 1: So now, uh, what’s your involvement with GWPC?

Karen: Well, I became involved to become a women’s certified. I saw that growing my business in the federal space was a real Avenue opportunity for me, at least I thought it was, certifying as a woman-owned business. I felt like that would give me more traction in the procurement arena. That’s why I went ahead and got certified.

Host 1: Now you’ve seen that result?

Karen: I’ve had tremendous success in the federal procurement space. Sadly, not because I’m a woman-owned business. I don’t know if that’s sad or if that’s awesome for us because I mean, I’m competing with open competition. I’m competing against huge corporations and not just women-owned businesses. Small businesses, but not just women-owned businesses. I have not had one federal contract awarded to me on my woman’s owned status.

Host 1: But being a certified woman-owned business, there’s a benefit to the organization that hires you though, isn’t it?

Karen: Well, they’re supposed to be, I mean, absolutely. But the last count, the last survey that they did in 2018, out of the $509 billion in federal dollars that were spent, 5%, only 5% spent on women-owned businesses. That number is really low. And it shouldn’t be because we represent one of the largest and fastest-growing business markets in the United States. So it’s unfathomable to me why that keeps happening. And it does happen to me. I experience it. And so the advocacy behind what I do is just as important. It’s spreading the word, talking to other businesses about the federal space and how to work it and what to do. And you know, there’s real science behind it. There really is. It’s like I’m playing monopoly or sports. There’s real science behind it.

Host 1: Now, just like you were able to navigate the background check environment, it sounds like you’ve been able to figure out the federal space.

Karen: Going back to my mother saying little girls I supposed to be seen and not heard. I just…

Host 1: That that strategy wouldn’t work now those waters would it?

Karen: No, no. And hearing someone tell me, “no” – that doesn’t work too well either. That just fuels me even more so.

Host 1: Any advice for the woman-owned business out there? If they’re thinking about navigating the federal government?

Karen: It was extremely helpful to me to partner with, or have a mentor in the space that was willing to work with me and talk to me and share with me all of these nuances about working in the federal space because it is so different than in the commercial space. Like we’re doing here today. It’s just learning the ropes and talking to people about it. And this organization does a very good job of that. I was just recruited for one of the committees on the voices committee to go out and recruit new businesses and teach them and show them the ropes about becoming certified and what that can do for you and your business.

Host 2: Now, how important is it in your business, you mentioned working with your daughter, that here you have a woman-owned business and now your role modeling how to be a woman business owner to your daughter and staff. Which is different than how you grew up?

Karen: Oh, absolutely. Right.

Host 2: So how has that impacted you personally?

Karen: I have two very strong-willed, knowledgeable, ready to go girls. We had a costume day for our spirit week at the office a few months ago. And my daughter Shelby coursed me into dressing up like Rosie the Riveter. I have to share that picture with you. It was hysterical.

Host 2: We’ll publish this episode with that picture.

Karen: They’re incredibly empowered, and they just know they don’t take no as an answer, as a rule either. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean that I can’t do as much as anyone else, as fast as anyone else, or as good as anyone else. We can. And that’s their attitude and a lot of the women that work for me. All of them. It’s our mantra in our office. It’s our core capability. It’s what we’re about. Everyone in my office, whether you choose to work with me and stay – I’ve had employees leave my employment and start their own businesses and that fills me with such joy. I can’t even, I’ve had such good fortune with that because it’s not about me. It’s about empowering other people. I took a North Carolina grant for bettering employment in North Carolina, I can’t remember exactly the grant, but I took that and expanded it to my staff and offered them to get the training and certification to become EEO investigators for the government. And that training is theirs to keep, it’s not mine. So you can either use this and stay working with our company or you can go out on your own and start your own business and become an entrepreneur and they have, it’s awesome. I love it.

Host 1: Is that part of what you get out of being involved with this group here today, the GWBC , is that collaboration in this sense of everybody’s helping each other grow?

Karen: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Just being in a room of likeminded people that all have the same goal and the same challenges per se. Absolutely.

Host 1: As opposed to other groups maybe that are more that have different motives.

Karen: Yeah, they have a different agenda. It’s not about increasing the percentage of federal dollars or state dollars are corporation dollars that are spent on women-owned businesses. It goes off the charts and can just be awarding contracts to small businesses, not just a woman-owned business.

Host 1: Now tell us about what’s going to happen a little later this afternoon.

Karen: I am pitching to the corporations that are here this afternoon, I’m not even sure how many there are, I think there’s 10 or 11 or 12, our services and our company to see if we would be a good fit with any of their corporations.

Host 1: And this is kind of gives you an opportunity to get in front of more people at one time, right? A really efficient use of your time.

Karen: Yes. Yes, absolutely.

Host 1: And that’s one of the benefits of the GWBC and this event, this power of partnering in the marketplace. That’s it. Inaction, right?

Karen: Yes. And if I may say, I would like to see this organization partner with small businesses. Where a company of my size can go in and do these pitches, not just for my business, but for their business. There was a dollar amount that they must meet, that the company had to have sales more than X amount to be in this room. And there’s a lot of businesses that aren’t in that financial category. And I think that would be a really good idea as well.

Host 1 :

Because then that could kind of give an opportunity to a smaller person to have the opportunity to be in front of these larger groups and learn.

Karen: And learn how to speak in front of these groups. It’s just speaking with you two. It can be nerve-wracking and it is nerve-wracking, but you just have to remember that you can do it just like Rosie the Riveter.

Host 1: So now if somebody wanted to learn more about your work, what’s the best way? Do you have a website?

Karen: We do

Host 1: And then what do you need more of? How can we help you?

Karen: Door openers participating in these types of events where other business owners that are just starting out. Like the two women that you interviewed a moment ago, just in that 10-minute exchange that we had was amazing. They’re looking for manufacturers or looking for funding. I’ve been in a business 23 years, and I’ve done a lot of what they’re looking for and trying to learn how to do. So being able to share that information with them in a non-competitive market, just holding this space and saying, “Hey, yeah, this is what I did. And just try it.” And give the encouragement that you get to not give up that you really can do whatever you want to do, just you have to believe in do it.

Host 1: Well, congratulations on all your success.

Karen: Thank you.

Host 1: And thank you so much for sharing your story today.

Karen: Thank you. I appreciate your time.

Host 1: All right. We’ll be back in a few with GWBC radio.

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