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By: Kirsten Hansen
March is the month in which we celebrate Women’s History. This is something we hold close as a company, and we would like to acknowledge our wonderful business owner, Kristen Bearup. She is the reason Compassionate Care by Design exists and is an inspiration to all of us! We are so grateful to have her around. Below is an interview I conducted with her on March 3rd, 2021.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH CCBD? WHAT WAS YOUR GOAL WHEN STARTING YOUR BUSINESS?
In 2017 when there was talk about a licensed cannabis industry, I started looking into the possibilities of it all. I was previously involved in the vape industry and one of my long term goals that is near and dear to my heart is to help people. We got into the vape industry to help people quit smoking and the cannabis industry seemed like a great flow through to helping patients get the medicine they needed in a safe environment. It’s another industry where I would have a chance to help improve people’s lives in a way that was previously more difficult to get into from a legal perspective.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
We opened Compassionate Care by Design in December of 2018. Previous to that, we opened Kalamazoo Vapor Shop in 2010. I help run a contracting business called PMB Custom Homes and also am involved in both commercial and residential rental real estate. I inherited a company called Kalamazoo Electric Motor in 2000 and ran that for fifteen years.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU?
I typically get up early in the morning and send my fourteen-year-old off to school. I get into the office, catch up on emails, and then by 9 am my meetings start. I take part in different strategy groups and focus on day-to-day operations. We discuss improving the aspects of the business, managing workflow for myself and employees, and how to become overall a more successful and sustainable business.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST MOTIVATION?
The stability for my staff is a huge motivation for me. I am continuously looking for ways to improve the business to provide for the staff because the wellbeing and dependability for my workers is very essential to the way I run my business. It’s dependent on me to make those decisions for my staff to promote the longevity of the business. When I sold Kalamazoo Electric Motor, I sold it to employees to keep it in the family and keep the staff happy. My dad passed away in 2000 and the trustees of his estate were going to close the shop, letting all employees go. I knew that all of his workers were dedicated, hard-working people that didn’t deserve to be kicked out of their careers. At age twenty-two, I left college for a few years to get my arms wrapped around the business, before going back and completing my degree. The staff taught me everything I needed to know and I set a goal of running that business for five years. I ended up keeping it for fifteen. I have a love for the build and it’s exciting to be a part of it. I find myself constantly asking myself, what’s the next step?
In my personal life:
Stability for my family is the main motivation. Being able to do what we want and need looking into the future. Ideally, I want to be able to retire comfortably and be able to travel. Hopefully we have lots of years to play.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
To me, success is defined in so many different ways. Success is achieving both small, short term goals on a regular basis and always working towards larger, long-term goals. Consistently striving and adapting to what’s next and looking ahead to what makes sense in the big picture for my employees and family is key. I also look at the response from my mom. She is a person that I look up to tremendously. She is a mentor to me in business and life. She’s a huge inspiration and role model.
WHAT IMPACT HAS YOUR MOTHER HAD ON YOU OWNING A BUSINESS?
My parents divorced when I was ten, so for a long time, it was just me and mom. In her early forties, she went through a major career change and became self-employed as a financial advisor. I grew up watching her struggle to grow her business into a tremendous success. She was in the top tier of financial advisors in the country. It was incredible watching her work hard while juggling her kid, home life, and job all while being a single mother. Things really started to resonate with me after my father passed away. When I decided to drop out of college and take over my fathers business, she was standing by my side the whole time. We met once a week for the first three years at least to go over financial information, talking about problems, and how to create a successful and sustainable business. After two years, I went back to school. She helped me realize that getting a degree was important. She has always been a mentor and person that I go to. She guided us when opening Kalamazoo Vapor Shop and has always been there for moral support. When we first started, she would come into town and help us in whatever way possible. She wanted to be involved and it helped me so much. She’s always been there business or otherwise and I couldn’t ask for a better mentor or example.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ASPECT OF OWNING A BUSINESS?
For me, my favorite aspect is flexibility. My daughter is active in school and sports and I appreciate the fact that I can be flexible to be as involved as possible in her activities. Other than that, the fact that I can look around and know that I’m helping people better their lives, whether it be staff or customers. I like the fact that I can help people take stress out of their lives.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Being a mom is the answer to both. My daughter is adopted from Guatemala and I started the process before I was married. The adoption process was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. It was such a rollercoaster of emotions adopting from a foreign country. It was very difficult but obviously very rewarding. Motherhood continues to be difficult and rewarding. Now that she’s older we can have adult conversations. The older she gets, the more our relationship continues to evolve. Nothing would make me happier than my daughter looking up to me the way I look up to my mom. That would be the greatest gift that I could imagine.
ARE THERE ANY ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT WOMEN IN YOUR INDUSTRY THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO CHANGE? WHY?
Never in my professional career have I taken a “traditional” role of a woman in business. It was very apparent when I owned the motor shop that I was very out of place to both my staff and my customers. As far as being a woman in that business, there were not many at all. In the cannabis industry, the biggest challenge is breaking the stigma that not all women that consume cannabis are laid back, in fact many of us are very driven and hardworking. The healing that cannabis can bring to a person isn’t always related to a person’s lifestyle and labels can make it hard to get out of that box.
WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS?
My mom. I never needed anyone else because my mother was so strong. She taught me about the value of hard work while at the same time loving life.
DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE FOR OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO START A BUSINESS?
Be thoughtful, plan a lot, and do it. Just do it. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be held back by the views or opinions of others. Just jump with two feet but be smart about it. Take the steps that are comfortable for you, but don’t hold yourself back. You can do it. Anyone can do it.