Single Mom Redefines Women on Fire: An Interview with Krista Whitley

Henry Ford once said, "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal."

Krista Whitley lives by those words.

Last year has been nothing short of inspirational. During that time, she has overcome challenges that would have foiled many others. In April 2014 over less than three weeks, Krista found herself divorced after she discovered that her husband was having an inappropriate relationship. Suddenly a single mother to her two young girls and in the midst of a war with her former business partners, she faced each of these challenges with a smile and the enthusiasm she has become known for.

She operates at a dizzying velocity. The sought-after social media strategist and champion for female entrepreneurs is celebrating a triumphant year. Her body of work is diverse and spans reality television producing to advising brands large and small about how to use social media to grow their business. The self-proclaimed "small town girl who walks fast, talks fast, and thinks fast" is currently buzzing about the latest trends in social media.

PS: A year ago your life looked a lot different. Tell me what you did to overcome the challenges you faced.

KW: A year ago I was eighty pounds heavier, in a marriage that I had convinced myself I was happy in, and struggling day to day to keep up the facade that I was really happy. It was a struggle. In the midst of the chaos of the divorce and my business falling apart, losing friends, and finding myself, I found my way to the gym. Quickly I decided that I could invest time in therapy or sweating out my emotions, so I decided to give myself the gift of that one hour away from work, away from my children, away from the world to focus on myself. Along the way I discovered who I am.

PS: Your blog, Keepin' Up With Krista, has become an important way for women to reach each other. Tell me more about its genesis.

KW: I decided to blog after my first company that had won a bunch of fast growth awards failed. A bunch of haters didn't hold back with what they thought of me online, so I decided to call the blog "The Mean Girls" as a way to empower women to overcome the haters in their lives. My entire life has been about living without fear and moving forward no matter what obstacles are in your way. Yes, I've had some epic failures, but I've also had some amazing once in a lifetime experiences that no one can ever take away from me. I've been on three reality TV shows! For a girl from a rural small town in Central Washington, the idea of ever being on television, let alone three different TV shows, was a childhood dream come true. I have won a bunch of fast growth entrepreneur awards, but I learned so much more from the failures than the award ceremonies ever taught me. Success is a terrible teacher. I am driven to share the real life stories of women who are leading from all walks of life. The authentic female experience, with all the emotion on display, is there to inspire women who are going through similar circumstances today and girls who are growing up and looking for role models. Throughout my journey I have met female leaders who inspired me with their stories and encouraged me to collaborate at every opportunity. I am in the midst of writing a book about the first year after divorce with a good friend who was divorced in the same month I was. Women have so much more in common than we have different, no matter what our circumstances. As the mother of two little girls myself, I felt it was my obligation to give women everywhere a voice. Our guest bloggers have ranged from a social activist in Seattle to a minister in North Carolina. If you are a woman with an authentic story to share, I am here to help you tell it.

PS: When you're not helping women via your blog, you wear another hat. You are the Chief Digital and Social Media Strategist for Smith Durant, a marketing firm based in Las Vegas. Tell me about some of the latest trends in social media that get you excited.

KW: This is such an exciting time for businesses! As a small town girl, I really feel that social media has just digitized the small town business experience. If anything, we haven't really moved forward with how we do business today. Instead, we have come full circle and are using social media to open the doors to building the same relationships that have always built businesses. My favorite trend for 2015 is live streaming technology. The ability for a leader to live stream their thoughts and engage in real time with their audience is powerful. If you're an author you can answer questions from readers or live stream your appearance at a book club. As a florist you can live stream the creation of beautiful arrangements for a wedding and answer questions from brides. The power of connecting and engaging with our audience in real time, right in our homes and businesses is immeasurable.

PS: You have advised huge Fortune 500 brands and small businesses. I know that one of the entrepreneurs you are proudest to have worked with is Bella, your daughter. Tell me a little bit about her story.

KW: Our family lived in the Ogden, located in the heart of the Downtown Project in downtown Las Vegas for almost three years and my girls both attended 9th Bridge School. The founders of the Burning Man festival came to work with the kids on an art mosaic one week and Bella came home saying "Mommy I want to be an artist." As someone who barely draws functional stick figures, I didn't know the first thing about how to make her dream come true. Later that week I took her to the community's First Friday festival and she pointed at the artist booths, saying "I want one." I wish she had asked for a pony! So, off I went to apply for an artist booth and to the local art store to figure out the difference between oil and acrylic paint. She created a collection of over 40 pieces and that first night she decided that her business model would be for people to pay what they thought they were worth. I sat there, watching and praying that someone would see fit to give this 5 year old kindergartner $1. People loved it and they loved her. She sold out in two hours and continued to sell out for six months as the youngest artist at the festival. Today, she has a website and takes commission requests. She is a first grade artist building an empire. I couldn't be prouder.