In Conversation with Genevieve Piturro of Pajama Program
Describe your business in a few words?
I am an author, speaker, consultant and founder of the national nonprofit Pajama Program. After 20 years of growing Pajama Program to 63 chapters throughout the US, I am now dedicated to helping others harness the power of the human connection and tap into their heart-voice to achieve success in both their personal and professional lives. I do this through a series of masterclasses, public speaking and as an author.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
A little girl in a group home asked me a profound question and that led me to question my purpose. I asked myself, “If this is the next 30 years of my life, is it enough?” I answered “No” and took the leap!
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I was a marketing TV executive with a background in PR and radio. My marketing and communications skills did come in useful running a nonprofit and they still are instrumental as I learned to execute virtual masterclasses and promote my book during COVID.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
No! I wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore and live the corporate lifestyle but when that little girl in a group home asked me a profound question, it stopped me in my tracks and I knew there was something else I had to do. There was a need that I had to fill and that passion and purpose is what turned me into a social entrepreneur.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I shared my story with others and that naturally created other “ambassadors” who wanted to support my mission. I was able to attract volunteers, donors and eventually a board of directors that helped me grow Pajama Program into what it is today. Never underestimate the power of a story.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I was always envious of those who were successful right out of the gate, the lucky ones who hit it big at the start. I tried to copy them because I thought they had the secret formula I wanted. I gave away my power and my originality, not realizing I was never going to make it that way – their way. The day in 2007 when the stock market hit bottom, so many who depended on that money, lost everything because they thought they could always count on those few supporters. And that day I was so grateful for my slow and steady growth, relying more on my ideas and ideas of those around me to keep us going in good times and bad.
As I built my marketing career, then Pajama Program and now my own Author/Speaker platform, I benefit from the lesson I learned in 2007: Slow and steady builds a stronger brand.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Running Pajama Program for almost 20 years and knowing that over 7 million pairs of new pajamas and new books have reached children in need, publishing my first book Purpose, Passion & Pajamas How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection and Lead with Meaning and being on Oprah!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Launching a book during COVID has had its challenges but I have found that the key messages of the book about finding the confidence needed to make a change in pursuit of your purpose is relevant to what people are experiencing now. So many people have had to pivot business strategies, find new careers and battle internal struggles about what their purpose is. People are finding comfort and inspiration in the heart-of-the-matter lessons featured in each chapter so the overall impact has been positive.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I would love to work more with the education sector and present Purpose, Passion & Pajamas How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection and Lead with Meaning to colleges and universities as a curriculum companion for the humanities and business sectors. I think incorporating the power of the human connection as part of our fundamental education can only be beneficial to society.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Meditation. My husband teaches it and when we met, I laughed when he said he could teach me and that it would help me. I had some false starts but he was right!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Yes I do! Make time for exercise, friends, meditation and book clubs! When you are working, make that time count to be as decisive and efficient as possible.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I watch the same few movies a million times. When I found out that doing that keeps our brains relaxed because we know exactly what’s going to happen and how it ends, I realized that’s exactly what it did for me. Watching anything for the first time – even a love story – keeps me wondering what will happen next and how it will end, and I’m not relaxed!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
I get dressed for work – at least a nice blouse so I don’t fall into pajama mode in my brain! (and of course I LOVE pajamas!)
I make a TO DO list every morning with my priorities for the day.
I do the hardest things on my list first.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Empowerment, smarts and boldness in the shape of a woman!