Kristy Dickerson is a Southern-bred gal who was raised in Cumming, GA. Though her degree is in finance and her earliest work experience is in banking, it was her husband’s health scare in 2007 that led her out of Corporate America when she left her job to stay home and care for him. Now, 10 years later, Kristy and her now-healthy husband have three boys, and Kristy is successfully pursuing an entirely different career as an entrepreneur. Her business? STARTplanner, which produces custom life and business planners, and later this week the newest product in the STARTplanner family, Happily Hitched Planner, will be released! Read the inspiring story of how Kristy arrived at her perfect place … and as today’s FACE of Atlanta!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born and raised, and how did you land in Cumming, GA?
I was born and raised in Cumming. After moving for college and marrying my husband, we moved to his company’s headquarters in Cartersville, GA. He sold the company in 2012, and after having our second son, we decided to move back home to be close to family.
You’re the co-founder and CEO of STARTplanner. Tell us about the company and what led you to start it.
My degree is in finance and I met my husband while working at a bank. Well, in 2007, three months after my husband and I got married, he had a brain hemorrhage, DVT, seizures — it was honestly the darkest point in my life. He had a grand mal seizure one night while in bed that onset it all, and had we not been married, he probably wouldn’t have made it because he would have been at his home alone. Looking back, I was not equipped to go through something of this magnitude — I was depressed and on autopilot. I did what I needed to for that moment just to get me to the next moment. Long story short, I left the corporate world to take care of him.
We had our first son in 2008 and soon after I told my husband I wanted to be a photographer. I applied my business background and was a successful wedding photographer for seven years. Four years after starting my photography business, I started writing for magazines, speaking and teaching others in the creative industry how to run their businesses. I met a graphic designer while writing for a magazine, and I reached out to her about the idea of writing a book called Start Balancing. I wanted to teach and share all the tips and tricks that I had learned on productivity, budgeting, finding balance and really just finding success and happiness. She was like, “I love it! One day I want to create a planner.” It was a lightbulb moment — we combined our ideas and created STARTplanner.
How is a STARTplanner different from other planners?
Our approach to STARTplanner is different than any other planner on the market. We had tried them all, and none worked for our lives. We believe that in order to find balance and success, you have to work on all aspects of your life: Family/Home, Work/School, Adventure/Fun, Finances, Business, Relationship/Spiritual, Health/Fitness (and more!). We believe they all have to work in tandem to succeed. By combining Jenny’s beautiful modern design with my organization and business background, we created STARTplanner … and it has become so much more than a planner.
What is the biggest challenge in running your own business while raising a family?
Boundaries. We created STARTplanner in May of 2015, so we are still a newer company. For the first 18 months we ran the company out of my home office and a small warehouse facility. The biggest challenge has been leaving work at work and vice versa. I am really stoked for 2017, as we are moving our headquarters so our office and warehouse can be together.
What traits do you have that make you equipped to guide and inspire others to lead more balanced lives?
Did you think the answer was going to be a perfectly balanced life? Well, it is not. But, what I have figured out is how to be very productive and be efficient with my time. I am a visionary, and my strength, which I suppose can also be viewed as a weakness, is my ability to just go for it, to jump in and figure it out. My journey has never been easy and I think being open, honest and real about my challenges has naturally inspired others who are working to live their best lives and giving it their all.
Describe a typical day for us.
I wake up every day at 5 a.m. Early bird gets the worm, right? Typically, I am at the gym by 5:30 a.m. for a quick workout and back by 6:30 a.m. It is then the morning routine — getting me and the kids ready and off to school. I am typically at the office by 8 a.m. I do most of my creative work first because the morning is when I am at my peak. In the afternoons, I leave work by 4 p.m. I have three kids, so from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. is homework, dinner, baths, cleanup and family time. Then, kids are in bed and I have a little time with the hubby before I put myself in bed by 9 p.m.
Who’s been your biggest mentor?
I have had different mentors in all aspects of my life. I think it is important for growth to have people who can pour into you, and I think you should also be pouring into others. Here lately our biggest struggle has been growing pains for STARTplanner. Growing, hiring, finding office space, the works. Shaun Gordon, CEO of KISS Books, has been a great positive light for us as someone who has walked in our shoes. He has been a great encouragement and has advised us on how to be good leaders.
What’s big on your 2017 agenda (no pun intended) for STARTplanner?
Happily Hitched planner! Woot! We are launching a wedding planner on January 11, 2017. We are so excited! After months of research, finalizing design and making the content amazing, we are eager for this product to come out!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To ask. If you don’t understand something, don’t know how to do something, or just need help finding direction … ASK. People care and are invested in your success. Leaning on others is key to finding success.
When you’re not working, how do you spend any free time you have?
I love to workout and be active, spend time with the kids, and I also love spending time with friends and traveling. The best way for me to reset and get a fresh perspective is to travel and create new adventures. We are actually in the process of building a weekend home. We bought 50 acres and we plan to make a lot of memories outdoors with our kids, family and friends.
If you could travel anywhere in the world and money were no object, where would you go and why?
I would go to England, to Italy (the coast and countryside) and to Paris. I love being immersed into different cultures and soaking up the architecture, the history and the moment.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Coffee. Can I get a “holla”? I mean, I can’t live without my coffee.
Yoga pants. Working for myself and not having to meet consumers every day has me living out of my workout gear. I mean, in my opinion, it’s a shame that workout gear isn’t considered normal work-wear in society.
Last but not least is organic turkey jerky. Nope, not kidding … I love beef and turkey jerky, which a lot of people hate.
Thank you to the uber-talented CatMax Photography for today’s fantastic photos!