She Boss with Kim Lewis

Megan: You guys I am so excited about today’s She boss episode. When I think of this woman sitting next to me, she legit is the epic to me of all things She boss and if I don’t know, this is Kim Caudle Lewis and she’s an amazing woman in our community and she has been making so much impact. I’ve known about you, I’ve admired you from afar. I’m definitely one of those nerdy women who are just like, “I wanna be like Kim when I grow up.” And I’ve known that you’ve done some amazing things but researching you, diving in, I’m having dreams about the ‘Power of Ten’. It’s mind blowing to me all of the things that you’ve done and one of the things that I love so much is that you’re so humble and you have a lot of humility in your approach to things, not that I didn’t think otherwise but seeing the progression and trend of that throughout our interviews and everything that you’ve done, it’s just been amazing so thank you so much for being here.

Kim: Thank you for the opportunity to come. You know when you think of yourself, you don’t think of yourself as a She boss like that but I’m glad you included me in the group.

Megan: Yes, absolutely and you know we were just talking kind of off-line a little bit, with every She boss interview, it’s like it just gets better and better and we are so excited about this one in particular for a variety of reasons. It’s one way to celebrate all the amazing things that you’ve done, the legacy that you and your family are leaving in North Alabama but also too, you’ve got some exciting things on the horizon.

Kim: Just a few, just a few

Megan: Just a few things that we are going to talk about so I think for a lot of people, they get to know you from afar, they see you on social media, they see you speak at events, they’ll see lately some commercials on tv and even on a billboard, pictures are fantastic by the way but let’s work backwards a little bit. I know a lot of people have heard your story but a lot of people also haven’t and a lot of people don’t know that you grew up in a farm here in North Alabama not far from where we call home right now. So take us back a little bit and walk us through a background on you.

Kim: So long long time ago, not that long but I actually grew up- I’m the youngest of 10 kids so I was blessed to grow up on a small family farm and we pretty much grew everything that we ate. That was Daddy’s way of doing- when you have 10 kids you have to figure out a way to supplement your income so Daddy did that from growing a garden, from everything from popcorn to peanuts. We had grape vines, peach trees and everything and thats just how we survived. Se we canned and put stuff up all summer long and in the winter time, that’s what we survived on so we are blessed. I tell people now that we didn’t realize that we were poor until you look at things now because we had everything that we thought we needed but then when the cows and pigs are not the norm of people having it at their house, you’ll be like, “Okay, that fresh meat was pretty good.” But it was just that humble beginning and that’s what made me who I am because now- we lived on the little farm, my uncle, my grandma, everybody lived right there together so it was a family unit and we all took care of each other. It was a community type thing. And anytime we had extra, Daddy would give to other folks in the community that were not part of our little area. So that’s how I grew up and that’s how I always knew to always, whatever we had we took care of our family but also people in the community.

Megan: Is that farm and that house still in the family today?

Kim: Yes

Megan: And it’s still operational?

Kim: The farm is not operational anymore and it wasn’t like a big farm. We had 48 of cattle-

Megan: That’s a lot to someone who doesn’t have any cattle in their yard.

Kim: It does but to us I mean you’ve got tons of [inaudible 00:06:57] that’s just what we did. It wasn’t one of those farms that there was mass production and all that. They were strictly for consumption.

Megan: So before we dive in to what got you here today, being a young girl, youngest of 10, growing up on a farm, what a cool experience that must have been?

Kim: It was.

Megan: I can only imagine how many of those day to day things you took for granted back then that helped really shape who you are today.

Kim: Definitely

Megan: As a mom, my husband and I joke, we just want to drop them off in the middle of a place and just figure and see how great they have it. Because a lot of kids don’t get that opportunity at times bur out of curiosity, what was your favorite task to do on the farm and what was the thing that you despised the most?

Kim: Favorite task was probably going out- and I love going into the blackberry bushes. People hate that but I love it.

Megan: Aren’t they thorny a little bit?

Kim: They are but that’s the best thing to get fresh blackberries and have blackberry pie for dinner or something like that. So that kind of stuff was fun, you know, picking the fruit. But the worst thing I hated was the days when they use to have to kill the chickens because my uncle was just- I don’t want to go into details but it was just one of those things where it was torture to me to see that kind of thing like that’s the kind of stuff that sticks with you but I enjoyed dinner that day.

Megan: Can you still remember the taste of fresh?

Kim: Yes

Megan: I bet it is a very different taste.

Kim: It is. Fresh eggs taste totally different from the ones today so it’s an adjustment. The fruit always seemed sweeter back then because it was fresh at home and it was actually dense. Those were the little things and the family get togethers that we used to have. On Saturdays, Daddy would say, “I’m gonna pack corn today” not just a little bit, he will literally fill the truckload of corn and everybody comes down and we are shucking corn literally all day long so I miss those kinds of times. It was a lot of work but it was still fun.

Megan: Again, there are so many of those moments when your family comes together and you are all working towards a single goal which is just amazing.

Kim: We still do that.

Megan: I’m sure when your family gets together, there are lots of memories too about funny stories. Is there anything that sticks out to you in your memory from back at the farm or something that really sticks with you whether it was traumatic or hysterical?

Kim: We used to tell anybody that came date one of the sisters, we called it the Ocean Front Property because it was down by the river plus it was the cows and pigs and we used to eat outside, the barbecue so if you couldn’t withstand the Ocean Front  Property and eat barbecues; if you couldn’t smell everything and eat, you couldn’t be one of the-

Megan: It’s like if your stomach can’t handle it-

Kim: You can’t be part of the family.

Megan: That’s a great way to get some people out there.

Kim: I mean we would literally joke about that. We would talk about that, just last week- we take our annual sister trip and go a couple days and have some time away and we would literally talk about that last week like, “such and such didn’t make it, they couldn’t stand the Ocean Front Property”.

Megan: Right off the bat, they get a chance to show their cards and see if they can hang with someone. I think that’s a great thing to put people through. I love that. I’m going to take that idea. I don’t know about Ocean Front but something comparable. I love that.

So talk a little about- so growing up, the youngest of 10, go off to college, what does your path look like and what got you to where you are today?

Kim: It was an interesting path and I say that from the fact of being that we lived down in Triana, we could hear the rockets and everything going on on the arsenal and you could hear things that were happening but I never knew what was going on behind the gate and stuff. So you always wondered, you know we have space things going on, NASA is doing great things over there but we weren’t actually part of that. So that part of the community, I didn’t really know even there was a big stable here, what I did know was healthcare and things of that nature so I actually went off to school in UNA thinking I wanted to be a nurse. I got to my clinicals and started there and realized, “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” So I threaded back and came back home and started taking classes at Calhoun. I got a computer science degree so I took the things I learnt from the healthcare side and the IT side and formed PROJECTXYZ and was doing healthcare consulting.

Megan: I love to hear the start of that because it has transformed and has evolved. It feels like every so often it just changes a little bit. Congratulations to you because this is 20 years in business right?

Kim: It is

Megan: Holy cow, we just had our fourth birthday and we are like, “Yay”. But each milestone is one that is- as an entrepreneur you must do a lot of reflection, I would imagine, which gives you so much appreciation too. So you started off in that, did things just sort of evolve over time as far as the diversity?

Kim: They have, you know the industry and the community changed throughout the years. Yes, we started in healthcare and IT but we are in a government town and I truly wanted to figure out what was going on behind the gate.

Larry and I got married and all his background has been in government contracting too. So we just slowly merged the two together to figure out how we could take the healthcare, IT skills we had and IT is pretty much the same across the board and migrate some of that to doing government work. So the first government contract we had was actually an IT infrastructure. So it was taking the skill sets we already had because we were both IT people and taking them over and we were the first true employees doing billable work and then slowly start picking up people here and there as we won contracts. So as you win contracts and the industry changes, then you have to adapt, adjust and change with it.

Megan: How long ago was that that you first got your first government contract?

Kim: For the first five years, it was just me doing healthcare and IT and then in 2007, Larry came in and I think our first one probably came in around 2008.

Megan: And I would imagine that the landscape for government contracting has completely changed since when you guys got involved in it. We were fortunate enough to take part in the Small Business Development Councils, PTAC Matchmaker and as an entrepreneur who’s primarily on the commercial side, it’s like, “Okay do we want to go down this path?” And there are a lot of unknown variables there, just CMMC in itself, scary beasts, I don’t want to touch it. What would be your guidance to a woman who wants to have a small business and go after government contracting, would you say, “Go for it” or would you be like, “woah woah woah”?

Kim: I’ll definitely say, go for it. There are tons of opportunities out there, I mean, the government has set aside for women owned businesses. There’s stuff for them but it isn’t as simple as it used to be because there are so many more certifications that you have to have. There are so many more rules and regulations in place that make it a little bit harder. And then there’s a lot of contract bundling; a lot of the contracts that individual companies used to have are now being bundled into larger contracts and some of the bigger problems, you know you have to be a sub to some of those. So we were blessed; a lot of our contracts are Prime. But a lot of people nowadays aren’t able to get those and we do have some sub contracts too. But a lot of those smaller companies now have to be a sub with some of the bigger guys instead of being able to prime on themselves. So the industry and the work has changed. So that’s what makes it a little bit interesting to get into but it’s still doable if you have the work ethic.

Megan: Lots of great opportunities so it’s worth it right?

Kim: Yeah

Megan: Thank you.

Kim: I don’t want to discourage anybody from doing it but anything that’s worth having is worth working for.

Megan: You do have to do a little bit of extra work.

Kim: Yes

Kim: So speaking of extra work, so let’s talk a little bit about your journey and starting PROJECT XYZ because obviously I have read a lot about how this was sort of a side hustle, you’re working nights, you’re working weekends, supplemental income, being a single mom, you’ve recently gone through a divorce. So talk a little bit about that journey. I would love to hear, again, I don’t want to sound cliché, but there were a ton of challenges that you faced in a variety of different ways. So just talk a little bit about what encouraged you and influenced you to go down that path. We’ll talk about this in a minute but reading through the ‘Power of 10’ you had a lot of amazing, influential people around you cheering you on. And as a business owner who has done that in our own team, it is all about the people you’ve got around you. So, talk a little bit about some of those challenges that you faced when starting the business. When did you know it was time for you to just take the leap. We talked about this earlier, but if it doesn’t make you throw up just a little bit it might be too safe especially when you’re going down this path. So talk a little bit about that journey.

Kim: When I actually started PROJECT XYZ, I think I mentioned before, I was a single mom. So it was one of those things where I wanted to make sure I could provide for my daughter and it was kind of hard at first because I didn’t know if I wanted to leave a full time job and go for that because if you work in healthcare IT, you are secure, you’re at a hospital, things are going great but it wasn’t sustaining enough. It wasn’t making enough money for me to take care of me and my child and I always wanted to leave a legacy for her too. And at the time, it was just me and my oldest daughter and I just said, “You know what? I am just gonna, I’m gonna try it.” So I literally sat down and said, “Lord, if this is what you want me to do, I’m gonna step on faith and do this. If you just give me the right sign.” And literally within two weeks, I got a call from a hospital that said, “Hey, we need you full time. We don’t want to just consult with you on nights and weekends. And if you’re willing to do this, you know, we’re going to need you full time.”Megan: So that was your sign.

Kim: That was my sign. So I just stepped out on faith and that’s how it all got started. And it was scary at first because I had tons of things that I thought were going to stop me because being a single mom, I didn’t have anybody to help watch the baby, I didn’t have the resources. I didn’t think so and then I told my siblings I was ready to do this, and they were like, “Hey, we’re gonna help out.”

Megan: That’s great

Kim: So my sister helped keep her during the weeks when I would have to do the traveling and it truly was a blessing because I had all my family there to help me get through that point and to see where it is now from where it had started, it’s just amazing. And they are all there with me along the way.

Megan: I love that. They were being your biggest cheerleaders from the sidelines all the time, which I just love. I mean, you can’t do it all by yourself. So how old was your daughter when you started off with PROJECT XYZ?

Kim: Let’s see Sandy was probably about seven or eight.

Megan: Wow to witness the good, the bad, the ugly, all of that. Wow. So we have this in common, Madison was 11. She’s a little bit older but she was the one who’s like, “Just go do this thing. You can do it.” And kids are so naïve. They’re like, “Oh, why not?”

Kim: She literally said that, she’s like, “Mom, I’ll be okay.”

Megan: “I’ll take care of myself.”

Kim: She wouldn’t say that but yes it’s just one of those things but she basically told me, “don’t worry about me, I’m with my aunt”, my sister and she was saying, “she’ll take care of me, it’ll be okay so go ahead”. But it still makes you- because you have that mom guilt of being gone.

Megan: For sure, you can never get that time back.

Kim: Exactly and there’s a lot of things you missed at school there were big milestones in their lives and you are thinking, “Was it worth it?” But now you’re seeing you are able to benefit from all that labor and work and she gets to benefit from it too. You can see the difference but now it makes you feel better but at the time it was hard.

Megan: That’s hard. So if you could put yourself in her shoes, how do you think she would describe that time of your life? And that type of her childhood being seven, eight or nine, seeing mom step out and take this leap? How do you think she would describe it?

Kim: We’ve actually talked about that and she said it was kind of cool because anytime something would break in the school, computer wise or whatever, she goes, “Just call my mom and she would fix it.” And there were times when literally I had to do that. So she always saw me as this super guru or that kind of stuff.

Megan: Like a Superwoman.

Kim: So she thought it was fun. Now, my youngest daughter will probably be like, “Mom, please don’t come in here.” It’s just totally different.

Megan: So uncool to hang out with your mom.

Kim: Exactly, the oldest was a total other thing, but it’s just funny how they have that different perspective on how things work.

Megan: Oh my gosh, yes. So what is her story today? What is she doing?

Kim: She’s actually working. Her degree is in marketing but she’s not working in marketing. She went through this whole thing of getting certified to do Medical Billing. So my oldest right now got her degree in marketing and realized that she didn’t want to do that full time. So she went back and got a degree in Medical Billing, which we’ve ended up in the same thing. So now she’s working in a doctor’s office and doing that so she found her path too after she realized that sometimes some stuff don’t work out. And that was, I think one of the things she said, “Mom, I saw you change several times and do certain things.” So it was great to see her do the same thing and find her passion too.

Megan: And feel as though you have the ability and freedom to do that.

Kim: Yes

Megan: I went to college. I didn’t study marketing, I mean I changed my major four different times. I joke around like, “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.” That’s actually a great segue because a lot of people may not realize the depth and diversity around PROJECT XYZ and all of the different things that you guys do; you own a restaurant, you own a TV station, you are in manufacturing, government contracting, all of these things. So we could go into all of them in detail. We don’t need to do that but from your perspective, with PROJECT XYZ, what has you really excited, maybe what’s coming down the pipeline or project you guys are working on maybe in the next year or so? 

Kim: It’s all been exciting because as the company has evolved and grown, that’s what we’ve been able to do under so many different industries because opportunities present itself we never said, “Hey, we want to open up a restaurant”, but someone came with to us with an opportunity and said, “hey, you know, there’s a chance to do one in the shoals” and we’re always trying to get back to the community and figure out ways to do it. So that’s how we ended up there. The manufacturing facility was actually about to close down. And the city, I think it’s the Shoals Economic Development Council actually came to us and said, “Hey, is there a way that you guys can step in and save these 137 jobs?” So we actually did our due diligence on the facility and said, “Hey, this is actually doable.” So that’s how we ended up in manufacturing. So it wasn’t one of those things where we were saying, “hey, we want to do this and do that.” It’s just opportunities that presented themselves to us. And same thing with a TV station, the people that currently owned it at that time said, “Hey, we were ready to sell” and it was a husband and wife team and they said that this will be the perfect time to get our voice out there so that was the reason we made that purchase.

Megan: Oh I love that so you put good things out and good things come back to you. So I mean, I think, in addition to being the epitome of a She boss, you’re also the epitome of servant leader. I think that’s one of the things that maybe not a lot of people have, at least for those that don’t know you as closely as we do, but you’ve given back and have been involved in our community for so long. Holy cow. The amount of awards and recognitions, I’m like, I need another piece of paper to type all these out.” I mean, but I think you put your money where your mouth is and you don’t just say that you are trying to create jobs and save jobs and give back and make these impacts within education. I mean, you’re out there doing it and have been doing it for a really long time. So you’re the real deal. There’s no doubt about that.

Kim: Thank you

Megan: So I have a couple of questions for you. So how has motherhood equipped you for entrepreneurship?

Kim: Because there’s always challenges but it’s also just made me more conscious of it. Because you realize when you’re doing entrepreneurship and you bring other people into your organization, you’re responsible for them too just like you’re responsible for your kids. So I think that motherly feeling takes over to all my employees because they’re all part of the family, everybody on this project team XYZ is part of the PROJECT XYZ family so as a family, it is just how it all works together.

Megan: Yes I love that. You never know, motherhood can bring out a lot of things but I think patience is a good thing too, being sympathetic towards other people. What would you say are one to two things that people are surprised to learn about you?

Kim: I think one of them was the fact that I am the youngest of 10 because most people don’t know that. They see me now and definitely didn’t know I grew up on a farm. So it’s just one of those things when people see the Kim now and not know the Kim that was before. So I think those were two big things that I just don’t think people know about me.

Megan: I mean, that’s a big influence that has helped shape who you are today. Like we said earlier, I know my sisters and my brother definitely contributed to who I am today, good and bad and all in between. But I love that though. That’s actually a great segue. So you did write the ‘Power of 10’ which is an amazing book that really talks about a key life lesson that kind of has a dotted line to leadership, but also so many other attributes and taking a lesson from each of your siblings and I loved- I can’t remember if it was Sylvia, who just always, like, where’s her filter, or whatever?

Kim: It is Sylvia.

Megan: And I loved it though because it was a really great read too so I really enjoyed this. So there are a couple of things that made me think about just asking you some questions. You talk about how- this will be primarily for the women but how we all have our power suit, that one thing that we put on that makes us feel top notch, what would be yours? What’s your go to that you’re like, ‘hell yeah’?

Kim: Mine is not necessarily a suit all the time, mine are my shoes.

Megan: Oh yes

Kim: You know you have on your shoes you look and you can have them in any suit but if you put on those perfect red shoes, you’re good.

Megan: I love it.

Kim: So I mean it’s just that little thing and everybody has that little something that makes you feel like you’re invincible. And it’s usually our little secret weapon that gives us that little boost of confidence because everybody needs that every now and then.

Megan: Yes, they do. They absolutely do. So what are a few routines that you cannot live without? Whether it be you wake up in the morning, I know I’ve some people meditate, they instantly have a glass of water just to kind of refresh like what are some routines that allow you to keep your days in order because I could only imagine, we were trying to schedule this time I’m like, “We will work around you.” Because I think you have a doppelganger but also you’re so heavily involved in the community here, you’re still running a business, you’re still CEO, you’re still a mom. So what are some of those routines that you just can’t live without like if you didn’t do that, it’ll sort of throw your week off?

Kim: I have to have a little time. A lot of people like to read, mine are my audible books. I actually like to listen to books. So literally at about nine o’clock, I don’t really go in the bedroom, and I’ll put my audible book on and just kind of tune out everybody and literally they’ll come in the room and say, “Oh, she’s got her headphones on. She’s not going to hear us anyway.” So it’s just that I have to have a little me time and I try to do that and that’s my wind down time before I go to bed. And then whether it’s motivational or sometimes it’s just total trash read because you’ve got to have those too.

Megan: You’ve got to have those. We were wondering before you got here like, “Do we think she into like trashy soaps or reality TV?” What’s guilty pleasure? Mary wanted to know what your guilty pleasure was.

Kim: It is probably a trashy book. Everybody’s gotta have some.

Megan: Exactly and there are lots out there to choose from. I absolutely agree. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about your run for Senate because this is a big deal. This is a really big deal. I was telling my daughter over the weekend about you coming in today and I briefly mentioned this too before but she’s like, “She’s a woman running in the state of Alabama, come on mom what do you think’s gonna happen?” And I’m like, “She’s gonna make a change is what she’s going to make because a change is needed.” And if you were to secure this win, you’d be the first woman of color in this particular seat, which is amazing. So talk a little bit about ‘Why now?’ ‘Why you?’ ‘Why is this change needed?’ This would hopefully flip this seat from Republican to Democrat, if you were to win so talk a little but about what that means.

Kim: It’s symbolic from the simple fact that it’s time for a change in this area. I mean, the gentleman that I’m actually running against has been truly a career politician. He’s been in that role on and off for 40 something years and we always talk about change and wanting change well, the only way you can get that is to change who you have representing you. And I think I’ve done a great job in the community and making sure I’m out in the community getting involved in lots of organizations and making sure I understand what’s happening. And I think that plays a big difference than being in Montgomery all the time.

Megan: Pretending like you actually know what’s actually going.

Kim: Exactly and being here and actually getting involved and getting engaged, not just with Montgomery politicians but with local people to understand what’s going on and I think I’ve done a great job with that. So that was one of the reasons why I was like, I’ve done a lot from being the chairman of the chamber, from being involved in several of the organizations from Huntsville utilities to Cummings Research Park and all those different groups to understand the heart of what’s going on, being PTA mom. So now, it’s time for me to take those skills I’ve learned in all those different areas to help represent us better in Montgomery. I mean, like we were saying, there are hardly any women hardly in our state senate. There’s only five women in our state Senate. And there are a lot of decisions that are being made for our laws that we don’t have a say in so it’s time to have that representation down in Montgomery to do that.

Megan: I agree, yes have a bolder, larger, more impactful voice for women’s rights as a whole.

Kim: Yes, definitely.

Megan. And so, with all due respect, I don’t think a man in that position can truly understand the impacts of what that looks like. So, we definitely need more diversity there. There’s no doubt about that. So I know that education is a huge part of your focus as well, as well as infrastructure and expanding Medicaid. So one thing that a lot of people may not realize is that the district lines for this seat have changed big time.

Kim: They did.

Megan: And so for those that aren’t aware of that, and really what that means kind of share with us a little bit about that.

Kim: When they did the census for the 2020, they actually realized the population shift had changed so they actually read through the lines down in Montgomery. And with that happening, the new city district two now, it goes from 565 on the south side and picks up the new town Madison area, goes over to County Line Road and then it goes over into Limestone County up to East Limestone road because it used to go all the way to Athens but it doesn’t go that far anymore. It stops the East Limestone road because of the Toney School road on the north side, comes around the Pulaski Pike and then picks up on Jordan Lane 53 back down to 565. So it’s got a huge footprint and very different needs from each one of those areas because you’ve got rural Madison County that’s up in the harvest Monrovia area, then you’ve got Research Park and then you’ve got the Madison City area, and then you’ve got Oakwood, UAH and Calhoun schools in there. So there are so many different things in there. And I think I have a unique perspective because I’ve been involved in all those different areas to kind of help understand those areas and make sure that representation is there. And the demographic has also changed because it used to have a lot of the rural part of Limestone County and now it’s picking up a lot of the north side of Huntsville and it’s picking up different areas that weren’t involved in it before. So I think that the demographic shift needs means even more so than it needs to be new representation.

Megan: Yes definitely so that was a big thing that I personally didn’t realize and I’m a citizen of- I’m in your district so I know I need to get assigned. But when people don’t realize that, I think so. I mean, you’ve done a great job with that education component but it was one thing that I think a lot of people do, if you’re not really paying attention, you may not be aware of that.

Kim: I agree

Megan: And this is that same old same old like we cannot complain about things not being done if we’re not voting for the right people who can put that change in action and put that change into place.

Kim: We talk about education, we’re saying, when we look at what Alabama is currently doing, Alabama has been 40 something within education for a very long time. And to make those changes, we need new people to have new ideas. Like I said, the gentleman that’s been there and 40 something years, if he’s truly trying to make education better. Why hasn’t it changed in that timeframe? So we’ve just got to have impactful people that want to see change and see stuff happen to get down there. 

Megan: So I have a question for you: when you think about things from a local perspective, so your district and a state perspective, and then a national perspective, if you were Queen for a day what would those changes look like, realistic changes? Like what could we do locally if those boundaries, some of those limiting parameters that are just the reality that you run into, like Queen for a day if you could cast your line local, this will be fixed right off the bat, statewide and then national.

Kim: I think locally, right off the bat, there are still a lot of schools that are underserved as far as the resources, teachers, as far as what the kids actually have in the schools. I think that would be something that we could- Queen for a day, I’ll make sure that all those schools had the resources that they need to be productive. I would also make sure that we had pre K in all of our schools because I think that’s where we are missing a lot of kids right now because of the fact that they’re not getting the basic stuff they need to start school when they get to kindergarten. So that would be something I’d wave a magic wand and that would also be something for the statewide too because that’s something that we find out that a lot of kids by the age of three and four are not developed by a certain point that just makes them that much further behind as they get further up. So we want to make sure we have those things in place.

Megan: And coupled with the lack of resources from a teacher perspective, that student to teacher ratio, that child only further gets pushed behind because it’s just too hard to manage. And typically, I would imagine that that lack of confidence doesn’t allow them to speak up when they really need to.

Kim: Or they don’t even know, a lot of them don’t even realize that they’re that far behind because they haven’t been challenged to exceed further than that too. So I think it’s twofold that we want to have teachers that are going to challenge the kids and give them a little bit further than they had before and not just do enough to get them to that certain point. So I think it’s having given them what they need to make sure they can teach the kids and then giving the kids the encouragement to keep going too.

Megan: Yes, definitely okay. So from a state perspective, how can the state of Alabama improve, Queen for a day take care of-

Kim: Queen for day, take care of infrastructure things needs to be our main. Everybody’s fussy about what’s happening on 65 every time we go anywhere down. Megans: Buc-ee’s is coming, so calm down.

Kim: That’s true, it is coming. I know that. I’m not sure when they said it was going open.

Megan: Have you ever been in one of those? 

Kim: No, I haven’t but I’ve heard.

Megan: We happen to stop twice on the way to Atlanta during the fall break on the way there and on the way back and it is mind blowing. It is a destination. You know how they say IKEA, you could have a date night at IKEA. I have a date night at Buc-ee’s. I’m telling you.

Kim: I’ll hold you to that.

Megan: Not that I would take my husband there for a date, but it’s just things that they have there. It’s fascinating. It’s huge. You could live there. I mean, it’s crazy, you’ll see. 

Kim: I’m looking forward to it. So I think that is going to be a big economic driver for that area as a whole just to draw people out like you said it’s a destination place it’s probably more people in so it’ll be fun there. 

Megan: So infrastructure for the state

Kim: Infrastructure for the state and then right now also is health care issues throughout the whole state. Right now about 75% of our hospitals are operating in the red. So how can they truly be given the best care to patients when they don’t have the resources to be able to do it.

Megan: Now is that as a result of the pandemic and what that’s done too or like a nursing shortage or is that-

Kim: It’s a combination of things. The lack of funding, a lot of the hospitals just can’t fund not only staff but even the resources and stuff that they need to function properly. So there is a lot of things like that that we don’t feel as much in North Alabama. But if you look at rural Alabama as a whole, that is something that’s a really big problem that we’ve got to figure out a way to address.

Megan: Gosh Okay, and then what about nationally, what would be nationally?

Kim: That’s a big one.

Megan: I know, like how can you pick just one?

Kim: There are just so many things nationally because there’s so much wrong nationally with a lot of things, whether it’s-

Megan: Division of opinions, I think that would be like if we could just eliminate everybody being so-

Kim: I just want people to communicate, right? I think that’s half of the problem with our nation right now is the lack of communication and lack of willingness to communicate. I think most of us have more in common than we realize. If we just take two minutes to talk to somebody instead of automatically judging them right before they even get a word out of their mouth just because of a political party or the way they look or just from some preconceived notion before they even start talking. So I think it’s just something that we just need to communicate better. I just don’t think we do a very good job of that.

Megan: So it’s interesting that you say that I read this in your- and this was one of the one of the lines that I highlighted in your book, because you talk about communication and you talk about how a lot of people go into a conversation constantly strategizing on what the ‘what’s next’ or they go into it with an agenda and they don’t go in as an active listener and really understand nor take the time and appreciation for somebody’s perspective and experiences because your experience growing up was very different from my experience growing up so we are naturally going to disagree on certain things but if we can at least allow an opportunity to understand where you are coming from, where I’m coming from, the nature of that conversation will have a completely different outcome.

Kim: I agree because it’s definitely fine to agree to disagree and to have the conversation to get to that point but I just don’t think people do a lot of that. And it’s sad because I think a lot of problems could be solved or at least come to some type of resolution where they both can agree upon it if they just communicated and that’s not happening.

Megan: Yes I agree, Communication 101 that’s so true. So I have a couple unique questions to ask you. So what is an experience that you would like to relive?

Kim: Probably the birth of my girls, I mean it’s overwhelming at the time because you are so scared. I want to experience not having the anxiety and the worry that goes along with it.

Megan: Is everything going to be okay?

Kim: Yes, to be able to experience that without all that anxiety, all that in there just because I want to see the process of enjoying them, their first cry because there’s so much going on.

Megan: As a new mom, it’s hard to appreciate those things because you’re just in the thick of it, just trying to keep them alive at all. Not to give a little more but that was one of the things I was not prepared for, the birth of my first daughter. And I’ve shared this with the team, but how many times when they’re really little, you think about all the ways that can die?

Kim: Yes

Megan: And I’m like, “This is what motherhood is about really where I’m constantly stressed out about-“

Kim: Do I do this right? Do I do that right? 

Megan: You’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop then you have your second or third children, you’re like, “Yeah, you’re fine.” You can totally say you know, it’s like everything just changes.

Kim: Well mine were 15 years apart so it was like doing it all over again.

Megan: Oh yeah you forgot, you’re like, “I forgot how dependent you all are.” You forget about that. So I know you probably have a lot of these in your life and I could only imagine that several of them are in here as well. But who is your role model and why? Who do you look up to?

Kim: There are a lot of them. I mean, because some people always said they had that one mentor. I think I had tons of mentors and different people I could learn things from, not just one person. It was just a group of people and it depends on what I was looking for and needing at that time. And I honestly think there are certain people that are put in my path during those times to help me through that certain situation. So if you’re going through something work related or something that seems like there’s always a mentor, I could call that if I had a work issue, if you’re going through something personal, there’s always somebody I could call to help me sort through that kind of thing. So I truly believe in that knit of people that are always around you because we can’t do it alone. And if you have that group of people around you, you can trust and they’re going to give you honest opinions, the good, the bad and the ugly, it makes a big difference.

Megan: Yes, it really does. I like that. You also mentioned that in the ‘Power of 10’ about having people in your corner who will be honest with you and you don’t want people in your corner who are going to agree with what you want them to say.

Kim: You don’t need a bunch of yes ma’am.

Megan: You don’t need those people, you need people who are going to shoot you down and say, “Actually, it doesn’t make sense why or that outfit doesn’t look good. Let’s go ahead and fix that before you walk out the door.”

Kim: And they always want you to say that. They always want you to be at your best and if you have that group of people that always want you to be at your best then they’re always going to look out for you. 

Megan: Yes, completely agree. I have a question for you. What is an unpopular opinion that you hold? Anything is unpopular that you find yourself having to justify or validate and it could be as simple as you’re in love with fruit pizza and people just can’t understand why you would put those things together or it could be something else just about but an opinion that maybe people are a little bit taken aback by.

Kim: I don’t know. That’s a good one, Megan.

Megan: Did I just stomp Kim?

Kim: You did. Unpopular opinion, I can tell you what my family picks at me the most about it’s weird, but I have- I’m not going to do it either but I have a very unique laugh. When I start laughing a lot, my niece always tells me that sound like Popeye when I laugh. So it’s just one of those things that I know and no, I’m not going to do it. But it’s something that I try to control but when I get really tickled and giggle it comes out.

Megan: I love that and I bet that happens with family.

Kim: It does.

Megan: They probably love it. They’re like, “Ah, there she is.”

Kim: But I’m going to have to think on that one, a really unpopular opinion. I have don’t know how to say no. My family thinks that’s unpopular, my children and my husband because I always want to help and do for everybody. And they’re like, “Can’t you just say no, sometime?”

Megan: Yes, there’s a lot to be said about the power of No. I mean, it’s a very powerful thing.

Kim: I’m learning. I haven’t quite figured it out all the way.

Megan: We are getting there, that’s good. Okay I have one last question.

Kim: I have to come back to that one.

Megan: No it’s okay

Kim: We are going to figure that one out.

Megan: I knew when I was doing some research, I’m like, “That’s an interesting question.” but I’m curious, especially having a public platform, where when you’re out in the community and just be curious if there are things that you stand true to and again, it could be- so, my husband’s family is from Australia, and with them, they brought Vegemite. And so my step son eats Vegemite, and I cannot even make the sandwich because I like dry heaved, I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled or tasted Vegemite.

Kim: I haven’t

Megan: For those that know, know it’s not very good so that would be an unpopular opinion, I’m like, “Never, I’m never making this. I just can’t handle it.” I don’t get it either but so what about a guilty pleasure of yours? Is it staying up late? Is it eating ice cream? Is it watching trashy tv? Is it getting lost in the TikTok hole? What is your guilty pleasure?

Kim: If I had time I probably would one. I do like to get the watermelons and I would sit there and cut it in half and just eat.

Megan: Do you put salt on your watermelon rinds at all?

Kim: No, it’s just- and my husband fusses at me because he’ll be like, “You’re going to eat the whole half of that watermelon? I’m like, “Leave me alone, this is my time.” But as a kid we grew watermelons so it was just a thing you literally went and got a watermelon, and it’s not a big watermelon, it’s usually one of the small ones and you just cut in it half and you just went outside and you just enjoyed your watermelon. That’s just how I learned to eat it but he wants it cut up. No, I just get the spoon and eat.

Megan: I’m sure my stepson would do that if I left him. He’ll do the same thing so you guys have that in common for sure. Okay and last question I have for you before we let you go is- this is from Dawn I thought this was a great question, what would be your theme song? Like if you’re getting pumped out ready to get start your day, what would be a song that you put on?

Kim: And it plays almost every morning, Carrie Underwood’s ‘Champion’.

Megan: Oh good one

Kim: It is because it’s one of those that’s got the right beat. So when you’re brushing your teeth and you’re getting dressed, it literally l plays in my bathroom almost every morning, and it’s that little boost to get you going. It’s funny you asked that because most people would be like, ‘Carrie Underwood of all things?’ But I listen to Lizzo’s song you know the one-

Megan: Oh yes so my youngest is like, “I’ma need a cinnamon roll” and I’m like it’s not- that’s what everyone thinks that song is., which I just love.

Kim: Just a cinnamon roll

Megan: Everybody needs cinnamon rolls, but you also need a sentimental man or woman.

Kim: To pump you up and she’s fumbling in pretty good rotation.

Megan: Yes, Lizzo’s awesome and Carrie Underwood, I’ve never seen her in concert but I’ve heard she is amazing.

Kim: I haven’t seen her concert either but that would be a good one.

Megan: I heard she is awesome. So thank you so much for carving out time today. I know you have a super busy schedule especially right now; you always have a busy schedule but I really do appreciate your time. This has been something we’ve all had a lot of fun gearing up for and just very excited about and again, you are the epitome of She Boss so we are so fortunate to have you be part of this and also to fellow WEDC members, which I’m excited about. What an amazing organization, that’s giving back so I’ve mentioned this to our team but WEDC- Women’s Economic Development Council is an organization that from afar i have just admired for so long, and every woman that I know who’s part of it, I’m like, “She’s awesome and she’s awesome.” And then you get involved with the organization, you’re like, “Okay, this is the club. This is the club I want to be a part of.” 

Kim: And I even took it a step actually, I’m on the foundation board and actually chaired the woman honoring woman event that we just had a couple of months ago or a month or so.

Megan: What an amazing event

Kim: It’s so impactful and what’s happening to young ladies in this community just by being involved in that organization.

Megan: So the women honor women as a fundraising event where they help local women with college scholarships and help them with outfits for the interview and interview tips and tons of mentoring and all sorts of great things to help women, which is amazing.

Kim: Like we said, we are changing the world, one woman at a time.

Megan: I love it and it’s making generational changes and generational impacts, it’s not just that one individual but she may be a mom, she may be a sister. She may be someone who’s studying to become a teacher and understand the importance of mentorship. So those are impacts that last well beyond that initial thing. We agree we’re big fans of women honoring women and the WEDC foundation and Jennifer Linton who was my sponsor getting into WEDC. So, they’re just amazing but thank you again so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. Here’s a high five to you winning. Yes we are excited about that.

Kim: Yes

Megan: Thank you guys so much for joining us.