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My Interview with Celia Graterol

Celia Graterol is a kick. I can say that because I know her in real life, and it’s true that she is a very funny, wild & crazy woman. When I asked Celia for an interview, I was thinking about the two businesses she owns; her impressive education; the fact that English is her second language, yet she has done very well in this country as a gay woman entrepreneur… I’d forgotten that she was once a Catholic nun, and I didn’t think she’d mention how she met Sally, her partner…but it’s all here, so keep reading! 

Bio: Celia Graterol, MPH, Founder & Principal of Graterol Consulting Group, has been conducting cutting-edge, web-based evaluations and strategic planning for more than 10 years using the Graterol Logic Map™ methodology. Celia assists non-profit organizations and funders with program and organizational development. She  conducts single or multi-site, multi-cultural, community-based evaluations, assessments, and facilitates strategic planning efforts using web-based technology combined with traditional methodologies to engage stakeholders, facilitate learning, and bring clarity throughout the process. 

Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and after living for over 20 years in the Bay Area, Celia is bilingual English/Spanish and bi-cultural. Celia received her Computer Engineering BS degree in 1989 at the Simón Bolívar University, Caracas, Venezuela. In 2001 she received her MPH in Community Health Education at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California, with the Graduate Student Award for Distinguish Achievement. Celia resides in Marin County with her partner and wife Sally Kuhlman and her dog Poncho. She practices yoga several days a week and rides her mountain bike all over the trails in Marin where this exhilarating sport was born. 

Peggy: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

Celia: I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and lived there until I had my first child when I decided to emigrate because I did not want to raise my children in an unsafe country with such levels of political unrest. My home got broken in three times within the last year I lived there. I moved to the US, Marin County, 22 years ago and for the last 17 years I have lived in Tam Valley near the beautiful Headlands trails. Since I moved to Marin, I had two more wonderful children and got divorced when I fell in love with a sweet woman from Orange County who happened to be my former sister-in-law. But that is another story.

Peggy: Whoa…I guess that is another story! Maybe next time. OK, you have two different businesses. Please tell us about them.

Celia: My main business is Graterol Consulting Group. We assist non-profits and their funders with organizational development services including evaluation, strategic planning, and program design. 

My other business is Mountain Biking Marin. We offer mountain bike tours around the Bay Area and bike skills clinics for people who want to improve their riding. Most of our tour clients are visitors from Europe either here on business or vacation.

Peggy: Have you always been self-employed? Why do you think you ended up being an entrepreneur?

Celia: For most of my life I have been self-employed. I became an entrepreneur to have more choice in what I do. Working toward a fair system that offers equal opportunities to get ahead in life has been my passion for as long as I can remember. When I was 18, inspired by my interest in addressing social and health inequities, I became a nun to do social work in small villages in Venezuela. As an adult, my social justice values deepened when I immigrated to the US as I learned that being a “gay woman of color” means belonging to a second or even third class citizen group. Despite these challenges, I have had many successes. As I completed a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in Venezuela, when I immigrated, I brought with me useful skills. Here, I earned a Master’s degree in Public Health. Both degrees combined with my experience as an evaluator allow me to integrate web-based technology into my research. 

Peggy: What were you going to be when you grew up?

Celia: I wanted to be a famous singer, an Olympic champion, the president of a country or the CEO of a corporation. I am the founder and president of Graterol Consulting Group so I am pretty close to one of my dreams.

Peggy: You’re a woman, you’re a Latina, and you’re a lesbian…a minority times 3! Do you get discriminated against in business?  
Celia: Yes and no at the same time. It has been a challenge but it has also provided me opportunities to grow both professionally and personally. Learning another culture and language has been fascinating. I love how accepting the people are in Marin County and the Bay Area. One of the challenges is that I am always seen as different, even though I have lived my whole adult life here. Professionally, my accent is sometimes a barrier because people often make the assumption: if you don’t pronounce a word correctly you are not smart, despite the fact you speak two languages fluently. Also, the evaluation field is mostly dominated by Whites so it has been challenging for me to break in to this profession; I have to work harder to prove my credentials. However, being bi-lingual and bi-cultural have given me a foot in the door to obtain evaluation contracts concerning programs with minority populations because there is a belief that I can better relate to the communities involved thus be a better researcher. 
Peggy: What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

Celia: I am very proud of the evaluation methodology I developed, the LogicMap, used to integrate traditional research methods (site visit observations, surveys, focus groups, storytelling) with on-line tools (websites, photographs, databases, social media, bibliographic references). This methodology has built-in data collection and features for on-going program reporting and monitoring. The LogicMap facilitates affordable yet rigorous evaluations and effectively demonstrates program results on-line. This new evaluation tool increases learning opportunities for program officers, clients, and grantee staff about what works.

Peggy: Are you a morning or a night person? How much sleep do you get? 

Celia: I was a morning person during my nun days when I had to wake up really early for meditation and mass service so I was also able to be on time to my college classes. Waking up around 4 am every day for about 2 years made me a night person when I quit being a nun. And I continued being a night person for many years until my partner and wife Sally started working early hours. So now I go to sleep early and wake up early to be on the same schedule as her. It works out nicely because I drop her at the bus stop on my way to early morning yoga and meditation.  Talking about closing circles in life!!! I probably won’t become a nun again as I am a bit old for that, but I am going back to my spiritual practice. And instead of mass I do yoga.

I get 6-8 hours of sleep a night.

Peggy: Is there something you do every day that helps you stay grounded?

Celia: I practice yoga about 5 days a week and mountain biking about 3 times a week.

Peggy: How do you get out of a funk?

Celia: The fastest way for me to get out of a funk is to get out in nature and do a technical, scary, adrenaline rushing mountain bike ride. In other words, I am an adrenaline junkie. 

Peggy: Dark or milk chocolate? Do you have a favorite brand?

Celia: Dark chocolate truffle or dark chocolate with salt. I also love Toblerone milk chocolate and I have a weakness for milk chocolate Hershey kisses dipped in espresso.

Peggy: You have 3 adult children. How did you balance motherhood and business when your kids were younger?

Celia: I wouldn’t have been able to work, get my masters degree in Public Health, and take care of three kids, without Sally; Sally has been the most nurturing parent for my kids, always making sure they had everything they needed and never expecting anything in return. Not only was she, and still is, another mom for the kids but she also helped me to be a more present and better mom. 

Peggy: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?

Celia: I am very proud of my three wonderful children who are now all in college. My youngest one just left to NY and the other two left to LA. I am adjusting to the empty nest feeling. It is bittersweet. Thank you for interviewing me.

Peggy: Namaste, Celia. I am grateful for your time

Celia Graterol: ~ mountainbikingmarin.comFacebook ~ Twitter

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