About our Guests
Derek and Kari Beth Chitwood work together every day in a business Derek founded in 2009—Peach State Pride. It’s a clothing and merchandise company that represents the history, heritage and people of Georgia.
The Chitwoods live right outside Athens, Ga., where Peach State Pride is headquartered. We love the way they talk to and about each other. Let’s dive in and hear from two people who know how to work together and love together.
How did you guys meet?
Derek: We got married in spring of 2013. We grew up in the same county, different towns and we were in the same school system. We never actually met in high school; she was three years younger than me but I knew her older sister.
Kari Beth went on to Georgia Tech where she was a cheerleader. I would go to the games and I figured out who she was. When she was a senior, I reached out and we went on a date and have been together ever since.
How did you start your business?
Derek: I started the clothing brand that promotes the state of Georgia in 2009. At the time, I was working for a company that built playgrounds in South Carolina and I kept seeing the palm tree crescent moon—which is on their state flag and has a ton of history. It’s an abstract logo that unifies the state of South Carolina.
I was so proud of being from Georgia but we didn’t have anything like that. I went home and drew up a logo and started dreaming about it being the logo for the state of Georgia. My roommates suggested I make some t-shirts and hats so I did. One of my friends started carrying them at an Ace Hardware. And it took off. I had no business background, so I had to figure that out.
Kari Beth, what did you study in school?
Kari Beth: I was a management major and got a certificate in marketing. After I graduated, I went and worked for a company in Buckhead doing marketing. After a couple years I decided I didn’t want to work in business anymore, I wanted to be a teacher. So I quit my job and went back to grad school to teach. When I finished my masters we were getting married and opening our first store and we needed to hire someone with my skill set so that’s when I came on full time.
How did you help with the business while you were dating?
Kari Beth: I did as much as I could. I was the one he would bounce ideas off of and I would come home from work and help as much as I could. It was fun, but I definitely thought Derek was crazy—I didn’t fully get it.
Derek: Her personality is that she wants to help when there’s an issue. I was asking for help and she was willing to give help. Our skill sets are so different; I needed help and support in areas she was good at. From the beginning of our relationship, we complemented each other.
What are some of the biggest challenges of you guys working together as a couple?
Kari Beth: Turning work off is a challenge. We have our own way of doing it now, but we can really wear ourselves out when we work together all day and continue talking about issues at the end of the day. We go for a walk every evening with our dog to get our thoughts out and try to leave it at that.
We’re also really connected because of that. If I had a bad day, usually Derek did, too. We have disagreements sometimes, but at the end of the day, I see this as Derek’s business. If he wants to make a decision, I need to respect that. With that said, he fully understands and recognizes the things I’m good at—the operational things and structure of the business.
Why have you been able to work well together?
Kari Beth: So much comes down to pride. Derek is very self-aware and we try to be that way about ourselves and our business. Because Derek has adopted this attitude, he’s not threatened by my strengths. That can be tough for couples working together—when there is a power struggle. It’s putting the relationship first, whether with us or our employees.
Derek: The thing I always tell people about Kari Beth is that she always takes the high road. Because she’s willing to do that, I’m more willing to do that too. This is really all we’ve ever known. From the moment we got married, we have worked together every single day. Because of that, we’ve never known anything different. We also remind ourselves how lucky we really are.
Do you have any advice for couples that are working together and struggling?
Derek: A really practical thing to do is take a personality test. You can really hone in on understanding your spouse in a more tangible way.
Kari Beth: Our faith plays a huge role in our business. We start every day with a prayer and end every day with a prayer. When we’ve had to let someone go we’ve stopped to pray. Those small things don’t always feel powerful in the moment but I think God honors that.
Your one simple thing for this week
Always put your marriage first. Don’t let success or pride get in the way of that. We have cut off spots that allows us to turn off work and never let anger or arguments fester.
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