We had the good fortune of connecting with Katie Pickerel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katie, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
RUTH is a brand that is built from the rubble of so many collective moments gone wrong. Its creation is derived from moments of forgiveness, grace, compassion, family, support, and the refusal to let adversity win. It was in those moments that I learned what it meant to truly persevere.
I can’t tell you how many anxieties and stresses came from walking away from a 7 year career in education that I was so comfortable in, stepping out into the unknown and starting a business in the middle of a global pandemic. Nothing over the last few years has been without doubt or struggle or stress. I would be lying if I said it was easy and that I didn’t ride the small business owner rollercoaster of knowing when to throw in the towel or keep going.
But the simplest answer to the question of knowing whether to keep going or give up comes down to pure and utter blind faith. Faith is having confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see. Without foundational confidence in both my abilities and the process, what I’ve created wouldn’t be possible to sustain.
No one quits their 9 to 5 and opens a small business on the idea that you gain MORE free time, more balance or more security. In fact, it’s the opposite. I work more now than I ever did before, which those who know me know it’s hard to believe because I absolutely loved my job in education. I work extremely hard to find my work-life balance and admittedly, I fail at it frequently. And I am now solely responsible for the living I make, which in so many ways, is terrifying.
And yet, I’ve never been happier. I will know that this whole thing is over when I no longer feel joy–when I no longer am so in love with what I do that the rush I feel when I’m creating outweighs the stresses by miles. I will know it’s time to step away when I no longer have faith, hope, confidence or love for the things that have made this experience so incredible.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
After attending Baylor University for film and digital media, I was given an incredible opportunity to work as Positive Behavior Support in a middle school in Pueblo. I was there for 6 years and ran marketing, social media, photography and video production, to name a very few of my job titles. But the job title I fell most in love with was telling people’s stories and the power of building relationships.
When I found myself in a place where I was ready to step away from education, I knew that my next step had to include those things: telling people’s stories and building relationships. I wanted a space where I could meet people where they are and love them there. I wanted to create a place that I could showcase all of my interests, create for the greater good and serve others in the process.
Sitting in a booth at ThunderZone restaurant on a random Tuesday in September 2019, Nicole VanDeMark and I went through names to figure out the perfect one for my business. We sat there for hours scribbling on napkins, coming up with ideas and plans so that once I had completed the school year, I could be fully confident in the decision to walk away from education. This is how RUTH was born.
RUTH is derived from the Book of Ruth in the bible. There is a verse in the Book of Ruth. 1:16, it says “Where you go, I’ll go. Where you stay, I’ll stay.” Ruth was the picture of love and loyalty, perseverance and heart. She was often looked at as a damsel in distress after finding herself in deep adversities, but still managed to find her way through it, stand on her two feet and give everything she had to those she was loyal to by simply loving others first. When I thought of who and how I wanted my business to be run, those were the core foundations of what I wanted my company to be built on: love, perseverance, loyalty, a servant heart. A few years prior to 2019, I had made shirts for Nicole and I for a color run, cancer awareness event we had at the middle school. They were made with beautiful mandala elephants that faced each other and on the back of the shirts, I put Ruth 1:16. One half of the verse on Nicole’s shirt, the other half on mine. Nicole was my mentor, a huge piece of my support system, so including her in the naming of my business was important. To be able to have that small piece of her with me every day, even though we were moving in different directions of life was vital to me.
So here it was: RUTH Productions. RP. My niece’s name is Reese Parker. I call her RP, and with honoring both Nicole and Reese in the naming of my company, RUTH Productions initials would also be RP, highlighting two of the most influential women in my life.
My last year in education was 2019-2020. At the end of February of 2020, I had this idea to create a shirt campaign that benefits the local YWCA and advocates for victims of domestic violence. Before I knew it, there were TV and newspaper stories and the project took off like wildfire. In March of 2020, the world shut down. And it was in those moments of uncertainty where I wanted to help my community in some way. My family is friends with quite a bit of restaurant owners who were extremely worried about their livelihood. In the midst of being put online as a school, I opted to spend the time making 1 minute promotional videos at no cost to the restaurants, letting the community know that these local restaurants were open for business and still operating via take out.
February into March and April of 2020 really propelled the business. By May of 2020, I had made two videos for two local high schools, highlighting their “drive by graduation ceremonies.” Those two videos, along with the business videos, really impacted the growth of RUTH in a positive way. That same month, two of my best friends, Joey Andenucio and Casey Mastreno of Thrifty Gents, were looking for a space to open a storefront. A thorough search lead us to our current location, where in August of 2020, RUTH & Thrifty Gents officially opened in the Midtown Shopping Center.
Since August of 2020, I have spent every single day finding new ways to fall in love with my crafts. When I say RUTH offers just about everything creative, a lot of times, when I’m meeting with clients, the question is first “What do YOU need and I will make it happen?” RUTH offers photography, videography, graphic design, DJ, marketing, social media, custom apparel and accessories, music production and so much more. RUTH is a full service creative company that not many people realize is driven by one person. I am extremely lucky and grateful to have such an incredible support system. But RUTH itself is just me, Katie. I don’t have any other employees.
In the last two years, I’ve secured a few marketing and social media accounts, which I still run today. I am passionate about sports, sports marketing and helping the youth of Pueblo find their way to a college education. Within RUTH, I have created an entity called UNCOMMON: Steel City, which helps local high school in their quest for college recruitment, as well as helps college athletes navigate Name Image Likeness in the NCAA.
The road to RUTH was not paved with a smooth surface, but the rewards from the perseverance has brought more joy than I can explain. Today, RUTH is well-known for it’s social media graphics, apparel line, videos, photography and so much more.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Pueblo is such a beautiful and unique place. If I had to plan a time, I would hope it would be summer or fall.
A great attraction is Runyon field. Catching a game at Runyon in the summer is a staple. In the fall, catching one of the big high school rivalry games is huge too. 10,000 fans for a high school game is unheard of in most places. Pueblo is such an incredible sports town.
For meals, I would have to say…somewhere on the Riverwalk for lunches. 1129, Brues Alehouse, Papa Jose’s, Golddust, Angelos, Little Bite of Heaven, DC’s on B Street, B Street Cafe. The Riverwalk and Union Ave has some of the best spots. Just up the road on Main, you can hit Bingo Burger, Dee Tacko, The Shamrock, Nachos. Dinner spots like La Forchetta or TwentyOne Steak, Blue Ocean or Tsunami Sushi.
Outside of downtown, the food is equally incredible. Taking them to get a Pass Key special is a must. Mexican food, absolutely. Cactus Flower, Jorge’s, Mi Ranchito. All amazing mexican food. My favorite hidden gem is Tacos Navarro. Victor Navarro is a family friend, and their food is incredible.
Food is a staple in Pueblo. Incredible options.
For shopping, a day at Seabells or The Collective is always a great local option.
For sweet treats and coffee, there’s Gypsy Java, The Sacred Bean, GrindHaus. You cannot forget Taffy’s. Talk about a staple of Pueblo.
For night life, Ruby’s in the Mesa Junction, Wine Down by The River, Prime Time, The Green Light.
Pueblo is so unique with so many ways. We have the kayak park, the lake, City Park. If you’re a golfer, we have those options, we have a college that you can attend sporting events at. The options in Pueblo are plentiful.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am not sure there is enough space for me to adequately thank everyone in my life who have seen me to this phase of my life.
I would be remiss to not thank my parents Scott and Tess, first and foremost. They have been married for 40 years this year and have been more than I deserve in this life. They’ve taught me the meaning of loving without condition; of loyalty and loving humans despite their flaws. My parents have been two of the most unwaveringly supportive humans in my life and I am simply grateful. It’s never been perfect. Sometimes it was incredibly hard. But as I’ve grown and matured, I’ve truly begun to appreciate the two people who worked their whole lives to assure my brother and I never wanted for a single thing.
In terms of mentorship, life came full circle for me in a lot of ways when I met my mentor Nicole VanDeMark 8.5 years ago. Nicole is described as so many things to so many people. Cancer Survivor, Fighter, Advocate, Counselor. But to me, she is so much more. She has taught me grace and perseverance. She’s showed me how to stand on my own and believed in me every single step of the way, selflessly, without thought, always standing in my corner. Like my parents, I would not be here today without her. As much as she doesn’t want the credit for my success, she is a very monumental part of it.
My circle is full of humans with hearts for loving others, serving others and giving back. They are family who always has been here for me, friends who I consider family; people I would give anything for. I don’t know that I could list everyone out without feeling like I forgot someone, but I truly hope they know who they are and how deep my gratitude for them runs.
Zachary Allen/Pueblo Chieftain (Me with heatpress) /RUTH Productions (All others)