Meet our founders

SPACIOUS is a movement of people who want deeper relationships, bigger hearts, and communities where people are known, loved and belong. Our team is growing. Here’s the scoop on our Founder and Co-Founder:


Cary Umhau

Founder and Creative Director

SPACIOUS is the logical and quirky outcome of a dream I’ve had for years – of creating space for people to flourish and to have fun while deeply engaging others, especially those unlike them. The vision emerged out of my own life story as I long wondered if I’d ever escape the little box I’d crawled into to make sense of life and to protect myself from challenges to a narrowly constructed worldview. Eventually I climbed out of that box and entered life with a vengeance, ready to make up for lost time. Escaping my straitjacket, I knew I was on a path to freedom and mystery that others would also relish. When an unlikely friendship with Joey Katona (below) developed, that brought a needed dash of “otherness” to my life, and SPACIOUS was created.

I’m the SPACIOUS  vision-shaper, and I communicate that vision in many ways. I also create most of our events (often in conjunction with or stemming from others’ great ideas), and I consult with organizations that want our unique brand of people-celebrating and facilitation to enhance the way they do business and the way their employees connect with each other.

I grew up in Atlanta, went to Davidson College in North Carolina, married right away, and ended up in Washington, D.C. in 1985. Doing all the usual “build a life” things, I volunteered, picked up a Masters degree from Georgetown University, and mostly raised my three children with my husband, Andrew. Woven throughout those years was freelance writing for foundations and businesses and in newspapers, magazines and online. I spoke and taught on topics from family traditions to ranch vacations to the Bible. Along the way I had a bout with breast cancer, ran a marathon, sold hundreds of items on eBay, and traveled a bit of the world.

I spent a long time trying to grow up and move beyond what were admittedly “first world” problems, but the process was messy and slow. When I emerged feeling spacious (a journey chronicled in a spiritual memoir I’m now finishing, Burning down the Fireproof Hotel), I became practically delirious about encouraging others not to stay stuck themselves.

I’m a gray-haired grandmother; my children are young adults now; I’ve been married for 30+ years. I’m a Jesus follower. For a long time I followed him because it was part of my culture and because I was a rule-following compliant, but now I just can’t resist the love. I credit God with my rescue into a spacious life, and I find adventure and power in my stumbling discipleship.

The intersection of the holy and the mundane is where I’m most comfortable. I like Dave Brubeck music, graffiti, road trips in my MINI Cooper, Dr. Seuss, tomato sandwiches, zinnias, old-school tap dancing, flea markets and thrift stores, multitasking, Tater Tots, Roz Chast cartoons, and new ideas. I’m probably addicted to adrenaline.

I’m pinching myself that I get to wake up every day and be spacious and do SPACIOUS, the culmination of a lot of dreams and exactly what I’d most like to be doing.

Joey Katona

Joey is our Co-Founder and Cultural Catalyst and was instrumental in the early launch of SPACIOUS. Still serving as a consultant, enthusiast and connector but no longer involved day to day, Joey was critical to SPACIOUS’ initial success.

Here’s his take on SPACIOUS:

SPACIOUS is the flourishing of a dream I’ve long had…but couldn’t quite visualize. That is, until befriending Cary in the summer of 2010. SPACIOUS originally came to life through a friendship that began online and grew in person. She wrote a blog post about me and a scholarship I founded in 2006 to put a Muslim Palestinian friend through college. I commented to thank her; she emailed to follow-up; we had lunch a month later when I moved to Washington, D.C. after college, and an extraordinary friendship was somehow born.

My interactions with Cary are nearly always on fire. She enables me to present my best self, a more articulate and wittier version of the regular me. Our bond is exhilarating. There is something truly special about engaging with someone so different. We have little need to judge or compete with one another but rather a mutual respect and understanding. We’re honored to spend quality time together. And SPACIOUS grew out of our unorthodox friendship, with a 28-year age difference and great respect for each other.

I grew up in Los Angeles, went to the University of Virginia, spent two years as a litigation paralegal at a preeminent D.C. law firm, and nowadays I’m the Project Manager for the Empathy Initiative at the world’s leading social entrepreneurship organization, Ashoka. I also sit on the Board of Directors of Offender Aid and Restoration, a restorative justice nonprofit, and am pursuing a Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.

I’m the son of Eastern European immigrants, brother to two stunning older sisters, and a moderately observant Jew. I’ve traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Southern Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Throughout my young life, I have looked for ways to empower communities and to spend time and share stories with good people. I’ve facilitated racial dialogues on college campuses, led service trips to New Orleans, recruited teachers to at-risk schools, and coached several urban soccer teams.

I enjoy creating rich opportunities to unite different worlds and build intercultural understanding. I love creating space for interaction among people who would not otherwise meet, and I have a personal knack for moving beyond cursory hellos and unmet expectations. One reason SPACIOUS exists is to promote the development of unorthodox yet successful connections such as Cary’s and mine among a wildly diverse cross-section of individuals.

SPACIOUS is a platform through which I can curate connections and encourage people to enrich their lives and engage with folks outside their comfort zones. I love finding great resources, putting action to vision, and generally stirring things up.

I love asking questions; I prefer substance over style; and I can oftentimes be found around the capital — geeking out at a funk, rock, or electronic concert. And most importantly I’ve recently married Rebecca Hook.