“Love your kids, love your family, love your friends.”
This is the heartfelt advice Kathy Stickler gives to anyone who will listen, and it’s the reason she started her business six years ago.
In 1989, Stickler’s 10-year-old daughter, Krista Anne, underwent surgery for cancer and received more than 30 radiation treatments. In the midst of motherly anguish, Stickler made a promise that would become her life’s work. “I made a vow to God that my children would not be as ignorant as I was about health issues,” says Stickler. She began educating herself about herbal and other natural remedies.
Then in 2000, Stickler’s son, Kyle, was injected with a fluorescein dye for a routine retinal exam; he experienced an anaphylactic reaction. Kyle was in a coma for three years before passing away in 2003. While caring for her son, Stickler researched herbal treatments that would heal his bed sores and found natural remedies that could help treat the side effects of certain pharmaceuticals.
“When my son passed away, I said to myself: ‘You will either advance from your adversity, or you will shrivel up and die.’”
Starting a business wasn’t so much a choice for Stickler, as it was a responsibility to other mothers — and a way to heal, she explains.
In 2007, Stickler opened Healthy Traditions, a business in a cozy Black Mountain cottage where she sells natural remedies and provides alternative treatments. Initially, Stickler shared the space with "Krista Anne's" — her now-grown and healthy daughter's clothing boutique. But as both businesses developed, Krista Anne moved her business to downtown Black Mountain, and Stickler expanded her inventory and services.
Today, in addition to offering herbs, supplements, vitamins, an aroma-therapy bar and a detox foot spa, Stickler rents some space to a certified biofeedback specialist and two certified lymphatic specialists. She also offers iridology consultations and hosts classes about health conditions ranging from Type 2 diabetes to estrogen overload. Stickler is also certified by the National Association of Certified Natural Health Professionals.
While she does not diagnose or prescribe, Stickler can help customers make more informed decisions about natural options for treating and preventing illness. “The bottom line for me is education,” she explains. “If people know how to take care of themselves and their children, they’re not as helpless as they think they are.”
As she has watched her friends retire — “Not this mama! I’m just ready for a new chapter!” — Stickler realized that she needed to find a way to run her business in a more sustainable way.
“I have been married to this job for years now," she says, "doing everything myself with no one to cover for me. My goal is to take off a week and go on vacation somewhere with my husband. I want to find a freedom for what’s really important.”
To help achieve these goals, this spring Stickler signed up for Business Boot Camp, a six-month Mountain BizWorks program that helps entrepreneurs strengthen an existing business. Based on what she learned, Stickler has made big changes. She hired a project manager and bookkeeper, which enabled her to quit taking work home at night. She started attending Toastmasters sessions as a way to tackle her fear of speaking in front of groups.
Perhaps most importantly, she started approaching Healthy Traditions in a way that serves her customers, her personal well-being, and the memory of her family's trials.
“This business was a mommy passion for me; I would feel bad for people who were hurting, so I would do more for them at my expense, and it was hurting me. But now I know that I have to put value on what I’ve been through and the integrity of my business,” says Stickler. “I can have goals and make a living and still love and help people.”
While she has been through more than most, and has put countless hours of work into her business, Stickler insists that she is “not a strong person” and doesn’t have all the answers. Rather, she credits her strong Christian faith for guiding her. “My first real goal is to love the Lord with all my heart,” she says. “As long as I have him, I can face anything that comes my way.”
Learn more about Healthy Traditions at healthytraditions.net, or visit at 106 S. Ridgeway Ave. in Black Mountain.
Mountain BizWorks is hosting a free “sneak peek” session on Thursday, Sept. 19, for entrepreneurs to learn about the next session of Business Boot Camp. Learn more and RSVP at mountainbizworks.org/bootcamp.
— Anna Raddatz is development and communications coordinator at Mountain BizWorks, which helps small businesses start, grow and create jobs through loans, classes and coaching. For more information, call 253-2834 or visit mountainbizworks.org.