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Women's History Month Spotlight: K.C. Grist Reflects on Lessons Learned

K.C. has spent most of her professional career in the nonprofit sector – working with national, state and local organizations. In 2010, She took a leap of faith and established her own consulting business with the goal of helping nonprofit organizations achieve their full potential. “I worked with organizations to develop strategies for advocacy, resource development and professional development. A decade later, I was doing a little research to develop some new clients and came across an ad for this position with American Red Cross. Something made me take a closer look, and over the next few days, there were many nudges that told me to pursue it. Here we are, two years later, and I’ve never been happier!”

Early in K.C.’s career, while working on a political campaign, she met a group of women who made an indelible impact on her life and career. “They took a very young, very green, and very traditional Southern young lady and showed me that it was ok to be strong, smart and independent. I’m sure these women had no idea the impact they were having on my life at the time, but since then, I’ve told each of them since then, that I would not be the woman I am today without their influence.”

We asked K.C. about other influential women in her life and she said “if there was a woman that I could interview today, it would be Hilary Clinton. I’ve had the opportunity to meet her husband (Former President Bill Clinton) on several occasions over the last three decades but have never had the opportunity to chat with her. Aside from her brilliance, I’d love to talk with her about the criticism she received when she stood by her husband in the face of betrayal and humiliation. I went through a similar experience when my husband was struggling with addiction, and our family came out on the other end stronger than ever. While I don’t think for one moment that she stood quietly by in that situation, I admire the fact that she did everything in her power to keep her family together.”

Throughout K.C.’s career, she says she has been fortunate to have had few challenges, but she vividly remembers one. “I was laid off from a small nonprofit because they couldn’t afford to pay me anymore. It was completely unexpected, and I had no idea what to do.” Anxious, she started reaching out to her contacts to ask for work - any small jobs that I could assist them with until I found something else”. After nearly one year, a trusted mentor encouraged K.C. to stop telling people she was looking for something else. “He pointed out that I’d been running a consulting firm for over a year, and that was far longer than many small businesses survive.” And it was then, that K.C. was inspired to start her consulting firm.

K.C. has learned a lot of lessons but she says that surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than you and paying attention are essential to success. “When someone pays you a compliment, accept it, and look for ways to pay it forward. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is not to take anything too seriously. If you mess up, just FIDO (Forget It and Drive On!)”

For young women who are just getting started, she urges for them to know what’s important – family and friends will be around much longer than any job. Put your family and friends first, always, but get your job done too. Do what you love and put in the work. But to her younger self, she says “what are you going to do with a degree in Applied Voice, seriously?!”

As Executive Director of the North Mississippi Chapter, K.C. has a plethora of responsibilities all while collaborating with donors, volunteers, staff and community partners. But her biggest responsibility is being a mother to sons, J.T. and Jimmy. “I didn’t marry until I was 36 years old – had my kids when I was 39 and 41. So, I waited a long time for my real dream. I love my job, but, NOTHING comes before them. I am thankful to work for an organization that understands that people have lives outside of work and staff and volunteers are encouraged to find that healthy balance.”

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