Growing up in Chattanooga, Kim Edwards’ life seemed to be all tied up with a pretty bow.
George and Barbara Edwards raised their children with the traditional family values and, while upholding their faith. Kim’s oldest brother Rich is now a teacher and a coach in North Carolina while her middle brother Bobby is an attorney in Chattanooga. Kim’s dreams of being a ballroom dancer or a Rockette in NYC didn’t quite present itself as an opportunity, but the hardships she would face would bring her back home to what really meant the most.
“Because I was the oldest girl, I always had to believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy for my younger brothers so I thought life was a fairytale and that I really could grow up and be Cinderella. Mom had taken me to the play of Cinderella and also to the movie. I was always Cinderella for Halloween and mom would make my costume."
Barbara had wanted her daughter to overcome her shyness and to be able to make friends more easily so she encouraged Kim to enter local pageants.
“I grew up watching the Braves with my dad and brothers. I was more of a tomboy and not really into the pageant thing, but my mom threw me into it because I wouldn’t talk to anybody. My first pageant was when I was 15 – ‘The Fairest of the Fair’,” Kim says.
“I think it was at the fairgrounds; things have changed so much since then. It was back when the Jaycees and the Chamber did the fair,” she says. Kim won that pageant all while having laryngitis.
There was not as much support or training in the pageant industry while Kim was growing up as there is now in Chattanooga. “I enjoyed being on stage as long as I didn’t have to speak,” Kim admits.
“I was the ‘Sandra Bullock’ of pageants. I can dance but when I am not dancing, I am clumsy. I would fall on the steps and …the air. I am kind of a klutz. I was in it to make friends and have fun – I wasn’t in it to win,” she admits.
Kim pursued the title for Miss Chattanooga twice and did not win. “Most girls do not get the title on their first try – they learn as they go. I then won Chattanooga Jr. Miss so that I could try again for Miss Chattanooga. I was ‘Miss Scenic City’,” Kim laughs.
“They would just make up a title to appoint you. There didn’t seem to be a lot of attraction for the pageants like there is today. I think most girls were into softball,” Kim attests.
Feeling overwhelmed and having stage fright, Kim was still able to snag the Miss Chattanooga title in 1983. “I got to go back to the Tivoli every year as a ‘has been’ and say what year I won,” she jokes. “That is always a lot of fun.”
Kim had attended college at UT but became homesick living in Knoxville. She came back and worked in her father’s orthodontist office for a few years before meeting her husband, a Chattanooga Lookouts baseball player and moving to Cleveland, Ohio where she would begin a family of her own.
Trying to create the same happy home life in which she was raised proved hard for Kim as she soon found herself in an unhappy marriage that caused her a lot of anxiety and turmoil. Kim had moved around with her husband’s baseball career to the San Francisco Giants and then to the Texas Rangers. Her parents would advise Kim on what to try that might get her life back on track while she was in the chaotic relationship.
Eventually, after counseling had failed, Kim’s husband suggested divorce. Kim had to make a choice to file for the divorce and get her life back. With her three children, she did her best as a single mom.
And then, Kim was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She moved back to Chattanooga with her children to have the support of her family while she recovered – which Kim was not certain “if” she would survive.
The wisdom that Kim had gained, the love and the support of her family and friends helped Kim pull through her dreadful disease that took her two years to fully overcome.
Now she is working as a paralegal in her brother’s law firm and recently found an extra means of income as well as a way to challenge her and achieve new goals. There are also the perks of traveling.
“I am still on a high from last night’s meeting and have insomnia from it!” Kim jokes. “I am so excited about it; I signed two people up last night. It is an invitation only travel club. We are the “Costco of travel”. We buy travel in bulk and are able to take $69 cruises on major cruise lines. And, to have $199 all inclusive lodging at five star resorts around the world. We are in 22 different countries, we have over 60,000 resort properties – which are resorts and condo homes and not hotels,” Kim states.
She adds, “Time shares are not working. We have made an agreement with time share companies in which we rent their timeshares for a certain price but they are not allowed to approach our clients about timeshares or give them brochures. We are not related to timeshares; we are a discount travel company where you can either travel or you can be a representative and work the business side of it. It is a networking company with the same concept of Pampered Chef and Amway,” Kim explains.
“We do no advertising on television; we are strictly by word of mouth and you have to be invited to a meeting. It is not about high pressured sales. We are a private company and you have to go with a member. There is no contract and you can take it to whatever level you want or leave it anytime you want,” Kim maintains.
Working in her brother’s law firm, Kim had him check it out before becoming involved and found it was a reputable company.
“I wanted to travel; I knew I could do this for the discount and possibly get paid if I chose it as a career. I can will it to my parents when I am gone and continue getting royalty checks. For me, looking at the future, and seeing how there isn’t going to be any Social Security, I just decided that I don’t want to work 40 years for 40 hours a week and only taking home 40% of what I make. I thought this was a win-win situation,” Kim says.
“The meetings we have is like going to church - it is encouraging, positive, and with no negativity – we help each other,” Kim insists.
In November, Kim will be going on a cruise to Cozumel. “It works for me because I can travel and have a second income being a single mom. My only goal when I first went into this was to make $200-$500 extra a month - just to cover monthly bills. I was tired of juggling my money. I have my own website that the company set up. Our company cars are BMW’s - that is another goal. We can go on these fabulous trips; you can either go on the trip or sell it – or both,” Kim says.
After beginning this venture just five months ago, Kim has already reached her goals and is starting to reap the rewards. “I was saving my money, while moving my son to college, but now I am looking forward to the first trip! We are treated like a VIP. There are parties, room credit, spa packages …we just get to have fun – and that’s the only rule, to have fun. It makes me wonder, ‘Why isn’t everybody doing it?’”
After going through a difficult marriage, divorce and her battle with cancer, Kim is just happy to be here.
“My parents are a Godsend - I would be nowhere without them. I am very blessed; I don’t take anything for granted. My life now is an answer to prayer all the way around. Cancer was a blessing because I was a type A, high-strung person and a little negative - until I got cancer. It changed me,” Kim says.
“Now I go with the flow, nothing gets under my skin. I relax and I enjoy people and do not worry so much about the routine or what is not important. I learned how to value friendships and relationships and family. In my marriage, I wasn’t valued in the relationship so that is part of why I didn’t get close to people back then.
“I spent half of my life trying to get as far away from my parents as I could. I wasn’t shown how to achieve independence or that it was necessary. They just loved me and tried to do everything for me. After running from all that, now I am right next door and the 20 years I was gone, I learned what was truly important,” Kim vows.
“I have come full circle - everything happens for a reason.”