Karen Gamba is the Co-Founder and CMO of the ExV Agency, a minority woman and LGBTQIA+ owned digital production company that focuses on short-term marketing strategies, online fundraising and socially impactful visibility initiatives for non-profits, Fortune 500 companies and small businesses.

Karen is also the co-founder and executive director of Women Building Women, a nonprofit organization that supports transgender women of color, women of color who have been previously incarcerated (returning citizens) and women professionals who work with at-risk male youth through professional mentorship, entrepreneurial leadership and educational programs, that allow these individuals access to promising career and business opportunities with built in networks of senior women executives.

She was nominated to be a woman who wows by Nina McCann – learn more about her.

Tell us about a woman you look up to and why.
I have an incredible amount of respect and admiration for Sharon Chuter of UOMA Beauty. Sharon is a Nigerian-born woman who started her beauty company with the mission of rewriting the rules of inclusivity and diversity. Her goal was to create products that are accessible to everyone, not just a sliver of the market. As an African woman myself, it inspires me to see other women who have immigrated and have persevered to make the world a better place through their businesses.

Do you have a mentor?
I am inspired by many women who have selflessly offered guidance and advice over the years. I feel privileged to have immigrated to the States to find such support and sisterhood from many women who I worked with once, but are good friends to me now. A shout out to Kimberly Lee Minor whose selfless empowerment of women through her philanthropy and work makes an impact every day, to Chloe Taylor Brown, who has traveled the world to uplift women who face challenging circumstances and to Digit Murphy, who is one of the most powerful forces I have ever met. Her dedication to inclusivity for women in sports inspires me to continue my mission, despite any obstacles, every day.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
“No matter what company you work for or what you do, create a personal brand for yourself so people always know who you are and what you stand for”. This advice came from one of my best friends and colleagues, Nina McCann, and it changed the way I run my business and my nonprofit.

How do you achieve work/life balance?
For years I got it wrong, thinking that grinding 24/7 was the answer. It took time, and a very unhealthy lifestyle that led me to the realization that I could only serve others when I was mentally and physically healthy myself. I wake up earlier every morning to get some meditation and exercise in before I start my day. As someone who is not an early bird, this was hard, but it does come easier over time and it is worth it to give back to your body and mind so you can tackle whatever comes your way.

What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?
It is important to surround yourself with the right people. In fact, I think this is important for any role. Make sure that you have created a network of people that support you and will tell you the hard truths when that conversation needs to happen. Clean up your LinkedIn as well. Make sure that your network is clean and filled with the type of professionals that reflect who you are and what you want to accomplish. My greatest success was finding the right business partner. Frank Carlisi, you made me realize what I am truly capable of!

Any advice to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you are in a role that doesn’t fulfill you, volunteer to help in roles in which you are interested. Ask managers and senior people in your company for advice and find a mentor (or mentors). People are generally open to sharing advice but you have to let your guard down and ask. More than anything, don’t be afraid of constructive criticism, finding out how to grow and exceed your own mental boundaries is the greatest gift of all.