Arkansas Native Now Styling Veteran Careers in California

by Jennifer Joyner ([email protected]) 151 views 

Kimberly Polite spends her days teaching others, especially veterans and transitioning military personnel, how to build successful careers.

Her best student, though, might just be herself.

Polite has transformed her career since she was recognized as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s 2004 Forty Under 40 class.

Polite was director of events for the Rogers Expo Center back then. Now, she lives in southern California and has owned her own consulting business for the better part of a decade.

Throughout her career as an employee, which also included a stint as assistant director of facilities at the University of Kansas and five years as assistant director of special events at the University of Arkansas, Polite said she wished there was a resource that taught the ins and outs of building a career or business — “what they don’t tell you” in school and traditional job training.

“When you get a business degree, they teach you about business concepts. You learn about marketing, economics, trends, consumers. You learn about strategic planning and intent, but nobody teaches you how to build a career or a business that’s centered on the gifts and talents that you have to offer,” she said. “That’s why I decided to start a business.”

Before long, she recognized that military veterans, in particular, could benefit from her brand of career consulting services, and, as a former member of the U.S. Army National Guard, Polite was uniquely qualified to coach them.

“As you’re building your career, there’s different things that you start to put together,” she said.

She started the consulting company in 2006 in Arkansas, but when she decided to focus on veterans, a move to California — one of three states with a retired military population of more than 1 million — made sense.

Polite also has family on the West Coast, and the former UA cheerleader and homecoming queen wanted to try something different, having grown up in Arkansas and having always lived in the South or the Midwest.

During the last few years, her brand expanded to business styling, after Polite identified a need for style help among her clientele.

“As a woman in the military, your uniform’s put together for you. Then, all of a sudden, you have to style yourself for the business world. You have to dress appropriately,” she said.

Polite now has a style blog and online store, Ruby Irma’s Style Boutique, named for her late mother, who died in 2008. The store sells beauty products, jewelry, handbags and other accessories.

Owning her company gives Polite creative control to tweak the business model, but it has not come without challenges.

“Going into business is certainly not for the faint of heart,” she said. “It kind of shows you who you are. … You have to get up every day and make something happen. Because if you don’t make it happen, it’s not going to just land on top of you.”

One way Polite is proactive in her career is through her own education.

She holds a master’s degree in administration and organizational development from the UA and is now working toward her doctorate in business administration and entrepreneurship online at Walden University.

She is passionate about teaching other entrepreneurs what she’s learned through her education and her own experience.

For example, she said ups and downs are inevitable in both small and large businesses, and keeping things on an even keel is essential at any level.

“A mentor once told me, you’re going to have victories and you’re going to have failures, but the key is to not linger too long in either plane,” she said. “You have to keep moving and keep pressing forward, that if you keep putting something in the pipeline, it will eventually come out on the other side.

“What keeps me going is that I decided I’m going to be around,” she said. “I’ve decided that I’m going to weather the storm. I’ve decided that, as long as I am healthy and able to do what I need to do, I’m just going to keep going. It doesn’t matter. I deal with the victories; I deal with the failures, and I keep going.”