Katie Lee, a native of Madisonville, Tennessee, is proof that the skills learned in 4-H Club as a youth carry over into adulthood and can help a member fulfill his or her dreams. A participant of the clothing project, Lee is now runs a successful blog, Pearls and Twirls, and is the co-owner of My Kind of Lovely, a popular boutique and one-stop shop for clothing and gifts.
Lee joined 4-H as a fourth grader at Madisonville Intermediate School and continued to participate in the Monroe County program until she graduated high school. During her freshman year of college at the University of Tennessee, Lee worked in the state 4-H office in Knoxville.
As a 4-H’er, Lee participated in the clothing and citizenship projects, as well as showing both sheep and cattle. Additionally, she served on the 4-H State Council, attended both State and National 4-H Congress and won the Vol State Award. She attributes her participation in 4-H with cultivating her interest in clothing and helping her create her own success.
“Participating in the clothing project at such a young age gave me the confidence I never would have really learned about otherwise. I probably wouldn’t have realized the importance of clothing – how clothing is made, where it comes from, and the details in each piece of clothing,” explained Lee. “I think the project gave me a real appreciation for the industry as a whole.”
Participating in 4-H wasn’t always easy though. Lee learned the importance of having a strong work ethic, especially for students raising livestock, and having confidence in everything you do. Public speaking was a particularly difficult activity for Lee, but her parents made her push through and participate in public speaking events. Today, Lee hosts a monthly news segment on a local station in Knoxville.
After graduating from college, Lee accepted her first job and helped the company create and maintain a blog, which ultimately sparked her interest in creating her own site, providing her with a creative outlet outside of her day-to-day work.
Lee later moved on to an e-commerce retail company, and again, felt a little bored and unfulfilled. She joined forces with her business partner and best friend Caroline Gillem.
The duo decided to start a side business where women could grab a great outfit, pick out the perfect present and leave feeling good about themselves – thus, My Kind of Lovely was born.
Lee and Gillem hosted a wildly successful first trunk show, where they almost completely sold out of their initial inventory. More had to be overnighted for the next trunk show. A couple of months later, Lee and Gillem opened up a pop-up shop in Madisonville that just celebrated its third anniversary. In August, My Kind of Lovely opened a second shop on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville.
Lee’s achievements in her professional endeavors date back to her time in 4-H and her ability to push herself out of her comfort zone. She encourages current 4-H’ers to do the same.
“Participate in as much as you possibly can, even if that pushes you out of your comfort zone,” Lee said. “There were many times in my 4-H career where I was very intimidated, pushed way out of my comfort zone and often times things I did not want to do – hello, public speaking!”
Lee continues to work hard and define her own rules for success.