By Barbara Lanz-Mateo, Managing Editor of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal

As the great-granddaughter of a man who once drove the stagecoach in the valley and the great-niece of Less Moorman, who founded Valley Pump and Supply, Kerry Lee Dickey’s roots in the Santa Ynez Valley run as deep as the oak roots on the valley’s brown, rolling hills.

“I love this valley and it is home to me,” she says. “It reminds me of Provence with a bit of Montana thrown in.”

Dickey is the CEO and founder of Santa Barbara Country Weddings and Events. She lives in Santa Ynez with her husband, Jerry Thompson, and 3-year-old daughter, Grace.

In what can only be described as irony, she eloped, and is “still made fun of to this day” because of the impulsiveness of it.

As a working woman, mom and wife, she, like most women these days, juggles all her roles with as much grace as possible.

“If I were incredibly organized personally, I would have the laundry and dishes all done every day, religiously,” she says. “I do tend to let that go.

I can’t do it all, but I think the choices I’ve made for prioritizing what I choose to organize are solid: First, family. Then clients and work. Next, the house. And fourth, me … uh … OK, I could bump up 4 a bit, I admit.”

SYVJ: What is your business background?

LD: I hold a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and have 15 years of event planning, including more than 500 weddings, 1,000 combined private and corporate events and traveling and training with industry leaders has lent itself to a solid events business background.

SYVJ: What is the best business advice you have been given?

LD: That is such a romantic notion, to have someone mentor you with solid “words” of advice, but that wasn’t my particular journey.

What I did receive, however, was something by far more valuable, and that was learning by example.

I watched my grandfather who owned several local businesses, was a Rotarian, police commissioner and who was active with his church, as well as my mom and dad in their business endeavors. They lived the concept of integrity and extremely hard work.

Most important, they showed me how to work with people.

SYVJ: How do you feel about running a business in this economic climate?

LD: It definitely keeps one on one’s toes! Genuine entrepreneurs see everything as opportunity.

SYVJ: What is the biggest challenge your business faces today?

LD: I have about three divisions to my business: international events speaking engagements, training hospitality professionals from all over the world and planning events. My biggest challenge is staying fresh and never getting complacent.

SYVJ: What is the simplest thing you’ve never learned to do?

LD: Allow silence in a conversation. Let it breathe. Don’t be afraid of it.

SYVJ: What sets your business apart from your competitors’?

LD: I have been told that I am the only professional event consultant who has all the following: a third-generation local who does speaking engagements, trains and certifies other hospitality wedding professionals internationally, invented several novel industry concepts, including the mobile wedding planning experience (trademarked) and who also serves on retainer to two celebrity clients on an on-going basis.

SYVJ: Who is the smartest person you know?

LD: Ken Harwood, who is invaluable to me personally, professionally and one of the wisest and most professional gentlemen I have had the honor of knowing.

SYVJ: Where do you see your business one year from now?

LD: Evolving. Progressing.

SYVJ: Finally, what is on your to-do list?

LD: Short term: grocery shopping, preparation for teaching Jazzercise class tonight, stocking stuffer purchasing. Long term: to be satisfied, centered and always feel a sense of abundance.

this article originally appeared in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal