Four years ago my mother Kathy and I started our “K.I.S.S. My Books” bookkeeping firm as an alternative to climbing the corporate ladder. We began the journey as K & V Enterprises seeing a need serving our clients in the role of Business Manager. We loved the idea of assisting small businesses who couldn’t afford a fulltime CEO/CFO. While I was working on my undergrad degree, I worked with a tax professional and came to understand from the inside out how bookkeeping and income tax issues connect with each other. I quickly learned how to manage a company’s books in order to effectively prepare their tax return for their specific entity.
Before long we realized it was time to niche. By helping our clients manage their bookkeeping we were a natural resource for all their business management needs. In June 2016 we incorporated and K.I.S.S. My Books was born. Keeping It Super Simple has become a foundation of our business plan, creating super simple solutions for small businesses. We continually monitor our actions while working with a client to make certain we are not over-thinking their situation.
My beautiful mother “moved on” this past June but remains part of me and K.I.S.S. as a Guardian Angel. She’s always with me, when I miss my business partner and mom, I take a breath and feel her presence and know exactly what to do.
In May 2020, I will graduate with my Master’s degree in Business Administration from Western Governor’s University and look forward to continuing to build on the legacy she and I founded. Five years from now I see us having sales and bookkeeping teams working in multiple cities. I want to continue to build and grow the corporation we envisioned together like adding more small business support and business coaching over the next few years.
"If kids could learn in high school what some of us don't learn until we get to our 30s, if ever, the knowledge and insight could change the path they are following for the rest of their lives"
My ultimate dream would be to hand off the day-to-day operations of the business and invest my time and resources into the youth and community. I would love to develop a Personal Finance Program for high schools that could be taught during class time or as an afterschool program. If kids could learn in high school what some of us don’t learn until we get to our 30s, 40’s, if ever, the knowledge & insight could change the path they are following for the rest of their lives.
I was raised in Spencer, West Virginia. I had a great childhood and, in retrospect, am grateful that we were poor. Mom was an intelligent hardworking woman who could have made enough money to purchase a nice home, fine clothes, and expensive vacations, but drove a school bus so she could be home with us. I will eternally be grateful she chose to give us time instead of stuff.
Financial challenges were a part of my upbringing that made me strong. Each year I would horde my allowance, so I could afford to purchase birthday and holiday gifts. I enjoyed having a savings and being able to use it to make other people happy.
Our childhood travels were summers on the beaches at Outer Banks, North Carolina and Beaufort, South Carolina. I’ve always had an adventurous spirit and wanted to see the world. I’ve also always been a goal setter. When I was in the sixth grade, I called the Air Force recruiter to enlist. He told me to call back when I was older.
I enlisted in High School instead. During my junior year, my best friend Tammy Norman and I took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, which the military uses to determine qualification for enlistment. We both did well enough that recruiters came looking for us.
We were drawn to the Buddy Program the Navy offered, which guaranteed Tammy and I would be able to train and share our first assignment together. However, we really wanted to go into the Air Force. The Navy might have let me see the world, but the Air Force had a reputation of treating women the best.
The Air Force recruiter admitted that there was no buddy system. When asked our chances of shipping out together, he replied, “Slim to none”. We signed up for the Air Force Delayed Enlistment Program anyway and indeed shipped out on the same day and were able to train together after all.
One of the major motivational factors in choosing the Air Force was that all jobs lead easily to civilian careers. I became a 70210, code for Information Management Specialist (aka admin troop). I enjoyed my enlistment and was on my way to being Admin to the Base General but for personal reasons chose to move into civilian life. After four honorable years of service, I was discharged in 1996 and began my career climbing the administrative ladder.
I would have had a nice career in the Air Force but moving to California and eventually starting my own business with my mother has been far more satisfying.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
In 1998 I moved to California, and bought a house in Discovery Bay. I enjoyed my new lifestyle and became close friends with my neighbors. I got a position as an office administrator working for a Walnut Creek company called The Covello Group, which specialized in construction management and dispute resolution services. One of our projects was Brentwood’s new Waste Water Treatment Plant.
Seven years later I sold the Discovery Bay home, took an impressive amount of equity with me back to West Virginia, and invested the capital gains in purchasing rental units and flipping houses. I wanted to start my own business so enrolled in basic business and accounting courses at West Virginia University, Parkersburg.
My mother and I were close in heart and mind, those who knew us well said we were “twin souls.” We were so much alike; I might have been her clone. We shared everything including most of our interests. In 2007, we were Reiki Attuned, which is a simple but effective process for passing healing from person-to-person. Since then, hardly a day goes when I’m not grateful for the many uses that I find for Reiki in my daily life. I feel that connection is a large part of why I can feel her so strongly now.
“In 2014 we experienced a different sort of transition when we woke up at 2:00 in the morning to find the house in flames.”
In 2009, Mom was laid off from her position as an administrative assistant at a Star News in Ravenswood, West Virginia. Both of us were in a state of transition, so I told her that I wanted to go back to school and finish my BA degree. Mom said, “I’ve been thinking about going to school too.”
We enrolled full time. While attending class we put the business principles we were learning into practice by becoming certified in Zumba Fitness and starting our own business we named, “Zumba with Kathy and Vicki.” Mom and I had fun working and dancing together. Our joyous spirit was infectious; people enjoyed the energy and pleasure we brought to exercise.
People would ask about our program, “Are you the fun one? Because we heard there’s one in town that’s FUN!”. We developed routines that were happy and effective. Before long, our patrons were transforming before our eyes. Watching them come out of their shell and find out exercise can be fun was rewarding; and dancing on stage with mom every night…priceless! We encouraged mothers to bring their kids and women to bring their mothers. Kathy always took me to her exercise classes growing up and we loved inspiring mothers and daughters to dance with us.
We graduated in 2012. I received a baccalaureate degree in Business Administration with a Financial Management focus. Mom earned an associate degree with a Management and Marketing focus. In 2014 we experienced a different sort of transition when we woke up at 2:00 in the morning to find the house in flames. We lost everything but our lives. However, I was at peace because I had everything I needed to rebuild at mom’s and everything else was just stuff.
I didn’t mourn the loss of my home as much as might be expected because I was planning to move back to California in two weeks, find a position and climb the corporate ladder. When I began interviewing, I discovered that my experience was working against me because everywhere I went they told me that I was over-qualified. Some of the hiring managers suggested that I start my own business.
I called Mom and made my pitch. She had just received her baccalaureate degree, so we were ready for anything and the K&V seed that sprouted K.I.S.S. My Books was planted.
Photos by Casey Quist