Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature Stacy Elsbury Thomas. Photography for the series is by award-winning Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.

Stacy, please provide us a short bio and your current title.

After briefly considering worthy professions in education, medicine and psychology, I decided to follow my heart to the dark, fun side, where I belong. Advertising was good to me – I was a strategist – introducing me to some of the most inspiring, creative folks I’ve ever known, and tempering my then self-inflated perception of my own creative chops. Among so many thinkers who do it differently on the daily, it’s almost impossible not to feel creatively inferior, but also to be inspired to push, challenge and question, until you find yourself in delightfully dangerous and new territory. Following that path led me to reconsider my role as a communicator, and ultimately to focus on the piece that fueled my creative fire: research. If you’re rolling your eyes and scratching your head as to how research could be a creative well, you haven’t met anything-but-ordinary Good Run Research & Recreation (GRRR) in Richmond. I’m proud to work there, and when they aren’t calling me other names, they call me founder and CEO.

Are you involved in any other organizations?

Of course! I’m the worst Girl Scout leader on the planet, if organization and badges are measuring sticks of success, but Brownie Troop 1150 has a lot of fun, makes the best, biggest messes, and is occasionally asked to leave the library until we can relocate our library voices, which are often lost. I’m also involved with my church community, with Shood, a non-profit that connects RVA’s running community with those who need their gently used shoes, and with Wellcome MD, a non-traditional wellness practice committed to making us all healthier, happier versions of ourselves via advanced, customized medicine. Our mission at GRRR is to do as much GOOD in the community and the world as we can, by being very, very good at what we do. So every chance we get to say “yes” to a GOOD cause, we do. We support Communities in Schools, the Alzheimer’s Association, the SPCA, Feedmore, and a whole bunch of other local and national organizations.

What are the things you are most proud of?

What comes immediately to mind are my kids, my family, and my friends—many of whom I get to see almost every day at work. But it’s a trick question because to say I’m proud of them implies I had some role in how awesome they are, which I did not. So more accurately, they are what I’m most grateful for. If I have to answer the question though, I guess I’d say I’m proud of nurturing those relationships, and taking time to understand, appreciate, teach my kids what gratitude means, and why it’s everything.

Who are your personal role models?

Easy. My sister, who modeled unconditional love for me from the moment I came crashing and uninvited into her world. My Dad, who taught me that true generosity comes with an immeasurable ROI. My Mom, who modeled the lesson that is GRRR’s core belief: we are all better versions of ourselves when we are having fun—there’s a Reason for the Recreation, we say, and that lesson came from Mom. And finally, from Pap-Pap, who believed in misfits and encouraged me to break as many rules as possible.

Did they offer professional advice that helped you in your career?

Absolutely. Mom and Dad told me that the secret to professional success is to find the thing that that’s easy and fun for you   but hard for other people. I didn’t understand what that meant until I found it, but when I did, I listened and ditched my plans to be a doctor. The most formative advice came from my Pap-Pap though, and I still remember him calling out this guidance as I boarded the yellow elementary school bus in the morning:  “Give ‘em a hard day’s work, Stace!” I think I did, and while it sometimes got me in trouble, the ride was always worth the fall.

What professional advice do you have for others?

I steal and repackage my parents’ advice to me all the time—I really DO think we’re somehow programmed to think work has to feel like work. In fact, it doesn’t, and arguably shouldn’t. I can think of a million jobs that I could do or learn to do, but that would also be very difficult and unfun for me. I also know that there are people who would find those same jobs easy and fun. So what I tell people is to let go of the notion that work has to hurt. It doesn’t, and if it does, it’s probably time to get off that ride and fine one that makes you want to put your hands up on the big hill.

What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?

Mostly mixes from my friends and leftovers from birthday mixes of yesteryear. Oh, plus some classical training for my kids, consisting mostly of 90’s rap. Wait, can I change my answer on what I’m most proud of? ‘Cause it might be that my kids are proficiently versed in Biggie and Beasties.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

The one at my kitchen table. It’s a little wooden farmhouse table, with seats for three for the regulars at this restaurant, but with plenty of room to spare and extra seats for anyone who’s willing to stay. I love to garden and I love to cook, so my happy place is setting that table, walking barefoot into the garden to grab whatever is ripe, and Top Chefing a mystery masterpiece based on what’s fresh, that night. Everyone smiling and eating would be the icing on that fantasy, but to be honest, this happens fairly infrequently because as a rule, my kids reject anything edible that exists in nature – though I fully expect they’ll understand how magical natural edibles can be in college.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

Yeah, but then I’d have to kill you.


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