On top of making the world a more beautiful place for her clients, Arkansas-based business owner Kimberly Lacy is also working hard to make it a better one — for everyone.

Since launching her interior design and renovations business, International Flair Design, in 2008, Lacy has taken on projects big and small, working with both individual homeowners and major companies like Williams-Sonoma, The Pottery Barn and Sherwin-Williams.

But Lacy also collaborates with the likes of Ronald McDonald House Charities and GoodWill Industries of Arkansas. In her work with these and other charities, she often uses her design prowess to turn homes of necessity into spaces that are comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

“If you change people’s personal environments, you bring them inspiration and aspiration,” Lacy says.

And during her spare time — what little she has — Lacy volunteers with organizations such as Designing Hope and the Junior League of Little Rock. She also takes time to visit with and speak to incarcerated youth in her area.

“I live life striving to be the solution to problems that others may face,” she said, when we recently featured her as part of our 1,000 Stories project. “I am a problem solver and an analytical thinker, and I always strive to approach a difficult situation knowing that there are numerous solutions to one problem.”

Motivation From Hardships

Lacy’s desire to give back through her design work stems from several formative and difficult experiences during her youth.

When she was a child, her home burned to the ground, and her little brother suffered burns that covered over 90 percent of his body. The experience, while harrowing, showed her that she could overcome adversity, and that there is power in a supportive community.

“I’ve always had a sense of giving back. My parents are pastors — it’s always been inside of me. But my first experience seeing it in other people was after my house burned down,” she recalls. “The ground was hot, and we had no clothes — nothing. Even though my parents had a homeowner’s insurance policy, it was really community outpouring that helped us through.”

Years later, her sister weathered an abusive relationship, which inspired her to renovate homes for other women who suffered the same fate. And her first pregnancy, which happened while she was still a teen, was a difficult experience as well. ”It was tough, overcoming stereotypes, overcompensating because we had [our oldest child] out of wedlock,” she says.

The shame she felt during that pivotal time in her life pushed Lacy to keep quiet about it — until one especially fateful prison visit. While there, she decided to share her story with another teen mother who, as Lacy recalled it, seemed to have given up on life. After seeing the hope her story gave to that young woman, she now shares it often, to show that one can overcome any setback and succeed.

Being Better for All — Especially her Family

The personal connections to her philanthropic efforts are important, but represent only part of what urges Lacy onward professionally. “I love every aspect of what I do,” Lacy told us. “This morning, I’ve been up since 4 a.m. working on sketches and blueprints, and reviewing contract work. But I’m not tired — I get to wake up and do what I love.”

More than anything, though, it’s her children who fuel her drive to work harder, to be better, and to give more. Now in their early 20s and late teens,  Lacy raised her children alongside her high school sweetheart and husband of almost 20 years.

“I try to live by example, to model what I’d like to see my kids do,” she says. “My parents were such great examples for me, so now I’m giving 100 percent for my kids. It’s my most challenging job.”