What a great group we have. @rd , our professional experience, exit from corporate, and view on entreprenuers is very similar. Thank you for being such an eloquent voice for so many of us.
I'll write this story much as I told it to Matt Ryan while we were at the October Summit. His reaction to the James and Kathi's story left quite an impression. Thank you Matt.
The business story started about 22 years ago. Kathi and I were both leaving corporate/government jobs. Like many, we'd just had enough and were stubborn enough to believe we could work for ourselves. One quickly failed business led to the start of another that turned into Pepper's Parties, an "Educationally Entertaining" small party system for in-home shows for women.
From the beginning we were a bit different from others. With Kathi having her M.S. in counseling psychology her passion is truly helping people and particularly keeping couples in healthy relationships. My favorite job was teaching college at LSU-Shreveport. I was shocked and humbled several years ago when my department chairman at the time honored my short time there by placing a brick in my name into the inaugural entries of the LSU-S Circle of Excellence. So between the two of us there is the "Educationally Entertaining" moniker.
We did pretty well with the party system, added online sales/shipping, and steadily grew our repeat business. After about 10 years of doing this, we finally had a bit of a payoff by being able to schedule off enough time to work a "hobby-job" as pit techs with the IndyCar series. So, that's been a side interest and passion for both of us! Our first IndyCar race ever was in Japan. We became the first husband/wife to work together "over the wall." Of course, that happens to be because Kathi was the first woman to do it! Wow, I am blessed to be with such an amazing business partner and woman!
Six years ago we opened a retail store. Kathi had traveled and traveled. Many, many late nights. At least the store wouldn't require as much travel. When we opened we were retail morons, but just dove in. Our party following gave us the boost we needed to get started, but going from small party system to retail boutique store is quite a jump. To say we've learned some lessons the hard way is an understatement!
At this point in the story, only because of the nature of what we sell is there not much difference than any other small entrepreneurial venture. Then comes April 22, 2016. We were officiating an IndyCar race and introducing some very close friends to the race experience around the garage. During the day Kathi complained of a headache. After leaving the track we met our friends and went to dinner. Without going into detail, I caught Kathi on her way to the floor as a 2 minute long seizure began. She woke up, we got her to the ER. The cause, basal artery aneurysm. As we were truly assessing the nature and impact of what had just happened Kathi says, "I guess I won't be working the 100th running of the Indy 500." What a thought to have after just be given such difficult news! So, it became somewhat of a joke between us.
It took a few days, but Kathi's 1st surgery was May 5th (the day after her birthday) and she another on the 6th. We were truly blessed to have 2 of the very best surgeons in the country care for Kathi while at the University of Alabama Birmingham Neurosurgery Clinic. The surgeries were successful and Kathi is a walking miracle! And do you know what she asked before we left the hospital? Yep, "Do I get to work the Indy 500?"
While the doctors couldn't clear her to work the race by any means, they gave us a set of rules, guidelines, and instructions for her to attend. On race day she's in her pit tech uniform, I get my firesuit on, and we get to "do the race together." She watched from inside the garage area while I was in the pits. One of our greatest life victories was getting to hug on pit lane as I walked off the track and she came on to it.
As we were leaving the track about 4 hours later I got a call. The voice on the other end told me my daughter had just joined the angels. The months following that I tend to keep very private, but I'm fortunate to have had @rachelm 's kind ear and support during that time.
Of course, events like we've had change us and that brings us forward. In the last 2 years Kathi and I have truly embraced the new direction we've been given. Since fully regaining her health Kathi became the Events Coordinator for a local women's business group and was given an award as "most inspiring business woman in the pine belt." She's also extended community service by becoming a very active board member at the Spectrum Center, our local LGBT support center. To embrace the fun side of life she's joined a dance group called Hattiesburlesque (not real burlesque, just a sexy choreography to a great live band!) Our retail boutique store just won the 2018 Best Boutique from one of our industry's top trade shows. I jumped into the GoDaddy Community to begin to establish a base to start some sort of online teaching. That's how I got here.
And that brings us to today. @rd, when you mention the word "journey" in our meeting the other day, my eyes popped! Kathi and I have decided that our business path is actually telling our story, sharing our experiences, and reaching out to help through what we've learned. Since we made a decision back in October of 2017, we've been preparing a program called Relationships Through the Ages. Its literally telling and sharing the Kathi Pepper and JM Pepper story for the last 22 years.
We are planning a full launch late March or early April. Please don't judge the sites kathipepper.com and jmpepper.com on where they are today. However, at this point I think the spirit is somewhat conveyed. Kathi and I are truly looking forward to the challenge. For all of you in the Community who have contributed to my education and motivation to launch these projects, thank you.
Wow @JMPepper, just WOW! I was just replying to someone how great people in this Community were and you are one of them. Thank you for sharing and I was just talking you up to someone today (maybe more on the later)? ...and you give me much too much credit, I am humbled.
roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head
Thanks for sharing such a deeply personal and inspiring story with all of us!! You and Kathi are an amazing couple who learn and share with each other every day. You're so knowledgeable about many aspects of life and are good people. Looking forward to hearing from you more about your many experiences!
Wow - what an amazing story! You and Kathi are the epitome of a husband/wife team. I am partners with my husband in our business ventures and I can truly say I want to get to where you both are in this journey.