ImagiNation with Derek Chitwood

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Derek Chitwood

Occupation: CEO, Co-Owner, Peach State Pride & Empire South

Favorite Productivity Tool / Most Recommended App: When it comes to my favorite productivity tool or most recommended app, the truth is that I don’t have one. I’m pretty old school.

Last Thing You Read: Alone: Britain, Churchill and Dunkirk: Defeat into Victory by Michael Korda

Website: peachstatepride.com & empiresouthclothing.com

Instagram handle: @derekchitwood + @peachstatepride

Tell us about your journey? When I graduated college with a History degree in 2007 I intended to pursue a Masters in Education at Clemson. I declared residency with my uncle in South Carolina so that I could receive in-state tuition, but had to be a resident for a year to qualify. I chose to take a year off and spend some time in Athens with friends. The economy wasn’t in good shape back in ‘07, so I was happy to get a job building playgrounds for a company. We traveled all over the South but worked mostly in South Carolina. During that time I began to notice just how prominent and powerful the palm tree and crescent moon was in that state. You saw it everywhere and on everything and it seemed to be a great unifier of all people in the Palmetto State. I’ve always been proud of Georgia: its culture, its history, its people. I grew up picking peaches each summer with my grandfather. He owned a small 3-acre orchard a couple of miles from my childhood home so I’ve always been ‘extra’ proud of being from the Peach State. Back in Athens one day I sat down and sketched out a peach logo that I envisioned becoming THE logo for our state. And while I had no intentions of it becoming a clothing line, it quickly became that after my roommates suggested that I make some tees and hats. Peach State Pride was born in February of 2009. I had no background in clothing or running a business, simply a creative mind and a big dream.

What's your favorite part of your day? When I reach a point when I’m not overwhelmed with emails. I’m typically able to reach that point throughout the day, and it really allows me to settle in, think, and be creative.

When do you feel most successful? Probably when an idea I’ve been envisioning and working towards becomes successful. I’m also a people person, so whenever I’m able to engage people.

What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained? I do a few different things. My wife, Kari Beth, and I work together. She’s incredible and we compliment each other well and really enjoy working alongside each other. Every evening we take our dog, Polly, for a walk around town, have one last discussion about work and then put it away. I also like to relax with a hot cup of tea and read history or do something with my hands: build furniture, model airplanes, picture frames, etc.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur? You know, there have been a thousand lessons-learned. The importance of delegation, setting clear expectations, clear lines on authority, and accurate accounting. I could go on and on. Experiences are invaluable but one thing that I finally did a few months back was take a personality test. It was so valuable to know my strengths and weaknesses. I had a rough idea of who I was, but to see the results in front of me made me realize that if I’m strong in an area, then I better be doing really well in that area. And if I’m really weak here, then let’s hire someone. Luckily, Kari Beth is the exact opposite of me so we balance each other out really well. I do wish that I had a more firm grasp of who I was from the beginning though.

How do you optimize your day? I optimize my day by waking up every morning, going for a jog with my dog, Polly, and drinking a cup of coffee while watching the morning news. I also like to take a break in the afternoon for a hot cup of coffee or tea because it puts me at ease and allows me to focus. Even though these actions seem small, I think it’s important to find the things in your routine that set you up for success both physically and mentally.

Who is the person/people who allowed you to imagine more? My parents have always allowed me and my brothers to pursue whatever paths we wanted. There just wasn’t a whole lot of pressure to be anything in particular, so I credit them for allowing me that freedom. However, my grandpa has always been my greatest inspiration. I learned so much from him through the years. He worked so hard at his occupation at a factory in Athens and in his small peach orchard in Franklin County, GA. For him, the orchard was always a passion and he took pride in creating amazing peaches. Along the way, he treated ALL people with respect. His life was contagious. He was also an entrepreneur and now that he’s gone I sometimes think about how he stepped out and made his dreams a reality. I identify with him so much.

What does imagining more mean to you and your story? I’m a big dreamer. In fact, I tell Kari Beth that I live in a fantasy world sometimes. Realistically, it would be impossible for me to pursue all of the ideas and dreams that I have. But man if I could, I’d make some pretty cool changes. I’m grateful that my wife keeps me grounded, but I can’t help but always be dreaming about the next pursuit, the next opportunity.

If you could do more of one thing every day what would it be? I’d probably have longer lunches. I love a good meal and enjoy spending quality time with people. Someone told me years ago that you can change the world with who you have lunch with.