Q) Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born?
Ginger Curtis) San Jose, California. We moved to Texas when I was two, but still spent our entire summers in California with my grandparents.
Q) What was your childhood like growing up?
GC) Very difficult. My parents were recruited into a ministry after high school where they thought they would be helping people. It ended up being very controlling and abusive, almost cult-like. As kids, we were born into a world of abuse and neglect. My parents were able to break away after many years, but the long-lasting effects had some pretty devastating consequences for my parents as well as their children. My dad physically abused us until I was 10 years old. As a small child I lived in extreme fear of my father, but at the same time I still had an intense love for him. The longing for his love and approval was always something I desperately wanted and never stopped seeking.
Q) Do you have any siblings?
GC) Yes! I have six siblings. My parents had four girls and three boys, in that order! They are my best friends to this day.
Q) Was there a watershed moment during your childhood that created the driven, successful woman you are today?
GC) I was born having to fight for almost everything. Time, attention, love, even to become educated. While I was home schooled, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, which landed me in the 3rd grade three times. Eventually, my parents put me in public school so I could get some help. I spent the next years in elementary and middle school working to not only pass my current grade, but to get caught up to where I was supposed to be.
By the time I graduated high school I was graduating with my class. It was extraordinarily difficult; I would study and study and get just enough facts shoved into my brain to pass a test. Once the test was over, I couldn’t tell you how to do a basic math problem. I lived moment by moment to pass each test. In subjects outside of math and analytics, I made straight A’s. It was the first time in my life an adversity had been thrown at me where I had a choice in the matter. So I chose to put my full heart into my studies and was determined to pass!
No one else cared or noticed, my parents were in a marriage that was devastated by past pains and hurts, as well as current ones. They were also overwhelmed with trying to raise 7 kids, the youngest of which had severe special needs. I did it for me, I didn’t need accolades or recognition, I just needed to know that I could do it.
Q) I understand you were previously married?
GC) I met my fist husband when I was 19, and I was married at 21. He was witty and charming and I fell for him pretty quick. He was also 12 years older than me, so I felt confident he must be mature and have his life together. I was so very wrong. He seemed to live in a second reality where he could call things like he wanted to, not as they were. His life was a stream of lies. Our entire relationship was based on things that simply weren’t true. He lied about going to college, about where he worked, about past relationships, everything was a lie. He was trying to be somebody he was not. He would manipulate and twist every situation – to the point of me questioning myself at every turn. It was like living in a nightmare.
Q) Did you have children together?
GC) We were married for five years and had two children together, only a year apart in age. These years were among the most painful years of my life.
Q) What brought about the end of that marriage?
GC) Very soon after we were married I was abandoned in almost every way, aside from physically living in the same house. He had almost zero interest in being a husband or a father, yet there we were. He started sleeping in a separate bedroom, which led to me feeling utterly rejected by the man who was supposed to love and cherish me. In some ways it was familiar and reminded me of growing up with an emotionally absent father. I had pretty much decided I wasn’t worth very much, and I apparently couldn’t be loved. I still fought very hard for our marriage; I desperately did not want to be divorced. But as time went on, his affections fell elsewhere and I was left with a one yr old, a two-week old baby, and a very tough decision. I can’t even describe in words the heartache I felt, and the disappointment in myself that I couldn’t make a marriage work. I remember the feeling of anger and then the temptation to drink the poison of bitterness. But what bitterness really is, is drinking poison yourself and hoping for the other person to die.
To this day, I am incredibly thankful the Lord spared me from wallowing in a destructive misery. He started showing me a pattern in other people who had gone through divorce, and how vile and angry they were – to the point of near obsession. I told myself that I don’t want to be like that, I’m not going to let that be me. I was still plenty hurt and angry, but I didn’t let it sow a seed of hate in my heart. This would have a bigger impact later on than I could have ever imagined.
Q) Tell us about your current husband Eric, who you describe as the love of your life.
GC) Eric is my hero. He is loving, gracious and tender-hearted. He fell in love with a girl who didn’t fully know her worth and through his love he showed her she was worth it all. By the time I met Eric I knew exactly what I wanted but I didn’t know if I really deserved that. The Lord used Eric to bring so much redemption into my life, it was a happiness I had never known.
Q) How many children do you two have together?
GC) 2 little redheads! They are four and six. All together we have five children. My two girls from my previous marriage who are now 12 and 13 and my son Tyler, 17, who I adopted when I was a single mom. He was six years old when his mommy passed. His mom was my sister and my best friend.
Q) Was it challenging blending the families?
GC) Not at all, which is a story you rarely hear. In the years I was single, I worked very hard to create an environment of security and love. I didn’t fall into the mentality that I was at a disadvantage because I was single and raising kids. Was I? Well sure! But I would not allow that to dictate how we lived and the decisions I made for my family. Just because something may be true of a situation doesn’t mean that it has to define your perspective, and for me, that was key. My perspective was that I had three beautiful children, and I was no longer in a marriage that devastated my life in every way. I looked at where I had been, where I was, and where I was going, and I knew there was hope for the future. I believe that it was this attitude of choosing to be positive, that laid the foundation for my kids to be able to give and receive love in a very healthy way.
By the time I met Eric, the kids viewed him as someone kind who had a lot of love to give freely to their little hearts. They started to adopt the mentality that each new change or challenge we faced was an opportunity, not something to be fearful of. As for Eric, he was instantly a great father. So kind, so patient and gentle…I was in awe. He told me he was going to start praying for my ex husband to know the Lord. As my jaw dropped, I remember thinking, “well that’s generous of you”. He was all too aware of the hurts and pain I had come from in that marriage, but he also knew this man was the father of my two little girls. He not only wanted to honor that, but he genuinely wanted him to have a strong and healthy relationship with his daughters. He started praying for my ex and has never stopped. Fast forward to today and we have a wonderful relationship with my ex husband and his wife, it’s nothing shy of a miracle!
Q) One of your daughters had cancer?
GC) Shortly after Eric and I got married we were pregnant! When had our little girl, Avery Love Curtis, and we were overjoyed!! At 5 months old we started noticing what appeared to be bruises all over her body. We took her to the doctor and then a dermatologist who did blood work.
From the time I got the phone call that she had cancer, to the time she started chemo, less then 48 hours had passed. It didn’t seem possible; we were in shock and scared for the life of our daughter. 50% of her blood cells were riddled with leukemia.
Q) How did her diagnosis impact the rest of the family?
GC) The night before Avery’s first bone marrow biopsy, Eric and I slipped away to be alone on the back porch. We sat to catch our breath before the news we would get that would confirm her diagnosis. While sitting there together we had a conversation that would lay the foundation for everything we were about to walk through as a family. We prayed and poured our hearts out to the Lord looking for answers. We asked one question: Will our little girl live? In that moment we never received a yes or a no in regards to Avery’s future, we simply heard “will you trust me?”
That evening, Eric and I made a conscious decision that we were going to stand on our faith no matter what the outcome. We agreed together that despite any loss we could ever face, God was three things: He was good, He was faithful, and He was our hope and salvation. No matter how much we loved this precious baby girl we knew we couldn’t put our hope and faith in her or in an outcome. We had to leave it with the Lord. We had to decide where we stood, for better or for worse. Our big kids never saw us lose it, or completely panic, they saw us take each moment in stride. This gave them the courage to ask hard questions, because they knew they didn’t have to protect our emotions, we could handle it. Everything we did, we did as a family. We never hid the truth from our kids, or painted a rosy picture for them that simply wasn’t true.
Q) What treatments did she receive?
GC) Five very difficult rounds of chemo therapy at Cook Childrens in Fort Worth, and a transplant at St Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Q) How is she today?
GC) A little miracle! She is a healthy, happy, and normal kid!
Q) Incredibly, you were diagnosed two years later with breast cancer. Did you go in for a routine mammogram or did you suspect something was not right with you physically?
GC) I had cancer while I was pregnant with my youngest son and we didn’t know it. The pregnancy hormones sped up the growth of the cancer. When he was 7 months old, I found a lump the size of a golf ball. It was terrifying; I knew in my heart something was wrong. After a mammogram and biopsy, it was confirmed to be cancer.
Q) Did you have additional insight into cancer treatment, experiencing it yourself after your daughter’s treatment?
GC) It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced; watching my baby suffer while she fought for her life, and then tasting the same effects of cancer and chemo just as she did. It broke my mama heart in half when I experienced first-hand some of the pain she had to endure. I’ll never forget the first day I started chemo. I was already pale, aching, and and sick to my stomach from just one infusion. I looked at my husband and said, “I’m done. I’m not doing this, just so you know”. I have never felt so weak and helpless in all my life. I honestly didn’t think I had the strength to keep going. It sacred me, and I didn’t recognize this woman who suddenly wasn’t strong anymore. I was ashamed at how weak I felt and how quickly I wanted to give up. It was through this process that the Lord taught me to lean on not my strength, but His. I didn’t have to be strong anymore, I just needed to lean on Him…and that I did. It wasn’t always pretty. In fact, it was pretty ugly some days. I became undone, but all the while He was working to restore and bring new life to more than just my physical body. He gave me an even greater perspective and deeper joy for the riches of his love, which not even death can separate.
Q) How is your health now?
GC) After 18 months of chemo, I made it! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. The doctors watch me very closely and always will, but I am incredibly grateful to be here cancer free.
Q) You are a woman of great faith. How did these two health scares impact your faith, if any?
GC) These events only deepened my faith, and allowed me to take what I believe and walk it out in a very tangible way. For me, I had to focus on purpose in the moment of crisis. I knew without a doubt that the pain and suffering I was enduring was not going to be wasted. Every part of that experience has made me a better person. It has allowed me to help others and be more intentional about what I do on this earth. Now I share the powerful truths that changed my life, and I am able to encourage others as well. To be able to help encourage someone else through my story gives me my reason why. When you’ve suffered you can can do two things, become more ‘self focused’ or become ‘others focused’.
Q) Let’s talk about your company, Urbanology Designs. Have you always been in love with design work?
GC) When I was child, most things in my life were chaotic and out of control. However, I was given my own room when I was 10, and I made it my own little world. I wanted it to be a refuge, a place where I could retreat to, where all was safe and well, a shelter from the storm. I kept things very organized and in place. I loved having throw pillows on my bed, neatly fluffing them in the mornings, and making them just so. This was when I first realized my love for beautiful spaces. I believe I had a gift even at a young age, but this wouldn’t really become developed till many years later in my life. I also learned to take risks by watching my mom. She wasn’t afraid to take risks when it came to her home: from wall paper to paint and window treatments, she was always experimenting with something new. In my mind, it seemed normal to use your home as a life-sized laboratory, always experimenting to see what works. She was a do-it-yourself kind of woman. If she had an idea, she thought, why not?! Thanks mom!
Q) You have won numerous awards from top industry associations. What is the secret to your business success?
GC) The secret to my business success has been recognizing and embracing my strengths. I have a husband that allows me to function at my peak as an activator and achiever, capitalizing on my ‘get it done, and get it done fast’ strengths.
When an idea comes to me and I need to immediately act, I have the freedom to let the creative juices flow even if it feels a bit scary. The only difference between successful people and non-successful people is that successful people are willing to do the things others won’t: face fears and take risks.
Almost every good thing I have ever done has had some sort of risk I had to recognize and overcome. Sometimes the risk was in my head, in the form of a doubt or worst case what if scenario. Once I started to push pasts the ‘what if’s’, I started asking myself, ‘well why not?’
Q) You participated in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program in Dallas, TX. Tell us more about that.
GC) It was AMAZING! I love being an entrepreneur, and I learned a lot by watching my dad run multiple businesses. I’ve always wanted to do more than run a design firm – I wanted to run a really savvy business! I mean if I’m going to go for it, why not go for it!? When I heard about 10KSB, I knew I had to give it a shot. It sounded like an incredible program, but I soon learned that I didn’t know the half of it! It was truly life changing for me, as a business owner. It sharpened every tool I had as an entrepreneur and gave me new tools I had never possessed.
Q) What were the top three takeaways you got from the program?
GC) The incredible relationships and connections – HUGE; becoming a better leader; and learning how vital processes are to any business. Almost every single day I use something I learned in that program.
Q) What is your greatest strength as a leader?
GC) I am able to make decisions and take action. I also have a laser beam focus for recognizing authenticity and genuineness in others. It’s one of the first characteristics I look for in someone else. This strength has helped me to create teams and surround myself with really amazing people. I’m not looking for perfect, I’m looking for authentic.
Q) Who is your personal hero?
GC) My husband without a doubt. He is the kindest, most gracious person I have ever known. Along with being incredibly hard-working, he is also selfless and loving. I have never known a greater man then this guy!
Q) Who is your professional hero?
GC) Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-Fil-A. Uncompromising and unafraid to defy status quo, Truett Cathy created one of the most successful businesses in history.
Q) If you had not gone into the career you are in now, what would you have done?
GC) Merchandising! It doesn’t sound sexy, but have you ever walked past an Anthropologie window and your jaw dropped!??
Q) What is your definition of success?
GC) Success is the hidden strength and power that lives in all of us, we simply have to choose to activate it.
Q) Please share your favorite quote.
GC) “Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to make decisions and take action in the face of fear.” -Nelson Mandela