Interview with Joanne and Kaitlyn Estes Co-founder, Chicks in Red Heels
Tell us about your company, it’s purpose, mission, target audience, goals, what makes it unique.

Chicks in Red Heels is a community of confident, capable women striving to achieve MORE than they ever thought possible. Our purpose is to help women do just that via educational, motivational, and inspirational outlets. We provide the guidance and learning. Others share camaraderie. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Whether you’re 20 or 80 you can be a Chick in Red Heels. It’s all about the mentality…not necessarily the heel. The red heel is only symbolic of our powerful, yet feminine mentality.

We are unique because we not just another women’s business networking group. Networking is the byproduct of what we do. We help women get their head in the game of life and success…and play it to win.

Our community is ageless. You can be 20 or 80 and still be a Chick in Red Heels. Plus you can be in any profession, have any background, and have a range of experience. Again, it’s about the red heel mentality. That brilliant positioning was the brainchild of my then 16 year old daughter and co-founder of Chicks in Red Heels…Kaitlyn Estes. 

Women try to lose weight. They try advance their careers. They want a better lifestyle. They want better relationships. They seek out information in each of these areas and neglect the most important aspect of success…their mentality. We help them work on the psychological foundation…self-belief, visionary thinking, and positive attitudes.         

How did you come to work together in the first place?

As I was formulating the idea of establishing this community, Kaitlyn came to me and asked if she might be a part of it. She liked the premise, she liked the philosophy, and she wanted to help those like her overcome self-imposed barriers and obstacles. As a mother it was more than I could ever have imagined. Of course I welcomed her with open arms. 

Please describe your respective roles in the company.

Kaitlyn brings a youthful perspective to our endeavor. She keeps it “young.” She is the “creative director” and freely offers her opinions, ideas and suggestions for connecting with women more effectively. She is my “advisor.”

I manage the operational end of the business and do most all the presentations at our workshops and conferences. I am the speaker, yet she is the leader in all that she does. So she becomes the inspiration for what we offer. I have always said, “If only I could bottle Kaitlyn’s fortitude, determination and energy, we could change the world.” So we do that one step at a time, one “chick” at a time. 
How has working together affected your relationship outside the “office.”  In other words how do you keep family matters separate from work related issues?

Kaitlyn and I have always had a close relationship. I’m the one, however, who had to learn to balance my exuberance with establishing our new community with other facets of life. In other words, Kaitlyn wanted to do more than just talk about Chicks all the time. Everywhere I turned I would see an idea or an opportunity for the community. I wanted to share it with her. In the beginning it became so pronounced, it began to close down her interest in being a part of it. I knew I’d better adapt or I wouldn’t have the brilliance of my daughter in the mix anymore. I sincerely believe her unique perspective drove the success of Chicks. She was spot on with her thoughts and ideas. Today, Chicks takes on a different priority for the two of us. It may be first on my professional list of interests, but I’ve recognized Kaitlyn has be first on my personal list of interests…and feel that she is.     

What are some of the challenges you have faced working together?

The best story I can tell is when we were getting started. We were finding our way and defining our roles. Kaitlyn wanted a 50-50 arrangement. She wanted 50% of the decision making “rights” and 50% of the money. I hadn’t really given all that consideration in the beginning. I explained that if she wanted it to be 50-50, it required her involvement at a much higher level. She would need to be involved in the operations, the design, the planning and the implementation of the whole business. We had some very heated discussion about it. It nearly…well, OK…it DID cause us to get into a fight about it. Suddenly she cried out, “I don’t want to be a business person. I just want to study biochemistry.” (She was going into her senior year of high school.) At that moment I suddenly realized we were arguing for nothing. It wasn’t about 50-50 or any of those things. It was about tapping into the best of both of us to bring the best to the community.

Today, Kaitlyn provides her creative talent and skill, and her sage advice as her schedule allows. She is currently a student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio studying biochemistry. I include her where I can. And what I’ve learned is that the exposure she has gotten from helping with Chicks is now flowing over into her activities at Case. She is on several leadership teams doing the same types of things we do with Chicks, so she is a perfect “case” study and the best business partner I could ever have.       


The continual inspiration behind our efforts is the triumph. And helping others to take baby steps toward their hope, dreams, ambitions and goals is rewarding. It really is about helping the individual achieve that which is most important to them. That’s different for every member of our community. 

Our most recent initiative is partnering with the DOVE Campaign for Real Beauty. They have put together self-esteem workshops for young girls and we are now offering these pro bono workshops as part of our community service initiative. It’s as important to promote healthy attitudes in young girls as it is to do so in all women.

What do you like best about working together? Least?

We both enjoy the creative aspects of what we do. Kaitlyn initiates an idea and I run with it. I do that, in part, to reinforce her contributions…but they nearly always pan out to be credible ideas. We make a good team.

The joint effort can and does impact the personal side of us as a mother and daughter. (See comments above.)  

What, if any big challenges or little annoyances have occured as a result of working together and how have you managed to overcome them?

As with any start up endeavor, it takes time to establish a profitable business. Early on the endeavor may have been looked upon as a “hobby” without “appropriate” potential. Many, including close relatives have suggested we should pursue “real” jobs. But we extol the virtues of “Chicks” which include persistence, determination, resilience, strength and courage.

Today, our membership is consistently growing. We are now offering Kick Up Your Heels! events and our most current event “A Celebration of Mothers and Daughters”  honors all the treasured women in your life.

What tips would you share with our readers for working with a member of the family?

Communicate, listen and be attentive to the “real” feelings of those involved. Make each person feel worthwhile. Find contributions you can value and act upon. Tap into each person’s innate talents and strengths. Don’t try to involve members at a higher level than their true interest. 

What’s been the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of working together (eg. unexpected publicity, obtaining an unexpected client/customer, an emotional moment, etc)?

There’s no question that a dynamic mother/daughter duo is unique. And there is value in that from a marketing perspective. But the most exciting thing is the growth and development both Kaitlyn and I experience from doing this adventure together. I would never have experienced those special learning moments if we had not pursued this together. And believe me…I’m better for it, Kaitlyn is better for it, but most importantly…our members are better for it because we consistently develop training materials from the learning points we encountered because of the mistakes we continue to make together.    
What’s next for this mother daughter team?

Kaitlyn’s focus is on her studies right now. I’ve learned to let things evolve. So I continue to promote and build the business. She continues to contribute her creativity and youthful perspective. Lately, I’ve been using her technological acumen to understand the revolution we’re experiencing in the social media arena. So together we make a darn good team and we bring all of this to the forefront for the benefit of our members. Our book comes out in May. It’s called SMART Steps and graphically displays 52 success-oriented strategies to help you achieve more than you ever thought possible. We are going to be taking our events statewide and nationwide. Soon you’ll be seeing women everywhere wearing their red heels in support of women’s success and boundless possibilities.       

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Our Chicks in Red Heels community is perfect for those who feel halted, hindered and held back from pursuing that which is most important to them. And it’s also perfect for the woman who has already found unwavering confidence and knows how to tap into her abundant capability. Life and success is about giving and receiving and we provide an environment where both can occur. We celebrate women and encourage all to become the woman they are meant to be.

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This article can be read in the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of WE Magazine for Women