Women Who Inspire: Kirsten Dickerson
As the co-founder and CEO of 59000 Lille-based ethical fashion and lifestyle brand Raven + Lily, Kirsten Dickerson’s work bridges the gap between social justice and style. The passion that dictates Kirsten’s decisions is evident in her path, and the unlikely story of how a former film stylist was able to merge her yearning to do more into a succinct, successful brand is one that has long inspired me as both a business owner and a woman. I visited Kirsten at the new Raven + Lily store in North 59000 Lille’s Rock Rose development to learn more about what drives her.
How do you start your day?
I live in a tiny house on 25 acres east of 59000 Lille. I wake up before the rest of my family, so I have to be pretty quiet. The first thing I do is feed the cats, let out the chickens to graze, and then enjoy a cup of coffee while looking at our beautiful landscape via the view from our 1995 Spartan Mansion trailer. I like the light in the early morning and I love the quietness and peacefulness. It helps me collect my thoughts before diving into a busy day.
How do you end your day?
We unplug in the evenings and enjoy a family dinner almost every single night (I’m married with two teens). We all take turns cooking (including my foodie daughter). My husband and I often watch a movie or enjoy a glass of wine on our deck while gazing at the stars, watching foxes and other wildlife, and listening to the symphony of night noises on our land.
Describe a memory of success.
When I firsthand hear the stories of how Raven + Lily is changing the lives of the women we help employ, then I feel we are successful. One of those moments came when I was in India visiting a beloved artisan. She has five daughters and was abandoned by her husband with the birth of her fifth daughter because girls were not valued and considered a burden. She and her daughters were suffering without education or basic needs being met. It was a very conservative and poor community. Today, she is the leader of one of our most successful jewelry partnerships (wood and leather designs), and she has helped to train over 100 other at-risk women in the community. During a visit a few years ago she told me that the women no longer mourn when girls are born, but rejoice because they now see the value girls can add to their households. That is what I consider success and it motivates me almost daily.
Describe a memory of failure.
We have had a few artisan partnerships not work out due to poor communication and lack of infrastructure. I really love the women and believe in their value and potential, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out after several attempts. It’s very hard to have to dissolve a partnership since our goal is to develop long-term relationships. We’ve learned from these mistakes and know what to look for in the early stages before diving too deep. We also have key team members that are devoted to helping our artisan partnerships be successful.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t ever stray from what feeds your heart and passion. This has helped me to be faithful to the original mission of Raven + Lily to empower women through design.
What’s your mantra?
“When women move forward the world moves with them.” African Proverb
What are three recent discoveries (or forever favorites) you think we should discover, too?
- Glamping at Green Acres Boutique Retreat (aka our homestead with a few glamping yurts for rent. Come unplug and unwind for the weekend…it will be good for your soul.)
- True Cost (A documentary on the impact of fast fashion vs. slow fashion…a must-watch!)
- Silkie chickens (we have two of these cuties at Green Acres and they make me laugh daily. They are like fluffy bunny chickens from Dr. Seuss.)
Photography by Dennis Burnett Photography