Beards Behind the Brand: Ronald Kilts
Today we are excited to introduce a brand new content series called Beards Behind the Brand! Our goal with this new series is to feature empowering stories from our community to encourage and inspire each other to be the best we can be.
It's all about doing better every single day, and these stories unite us in that mission. To kick off the campaign, we couldn't think of a better person than Ronald Kilts. From humble beginnings overseas to multiple tragic life-changing events, Ronald's story is equally as inspiring as his righteous beard.
Famed writer Alexandre Dumas once said, “There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is merely the comparison of one state to the other. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss.”
There is, perhaps, no better way to describe the life of Ronald Hornsby-MacDaniel.
From an early age, Ron knew he wanted to break his family’s cycle of poverty and lack of education. His father was stationed in Germany, so Ron grew up overseas before joining the U.S. military. Serving our country led him all over the world, including Desert Storm. His post-military career ran the gamut from corporate vice president to Executive Director of The New York Times. His true calling, though, was being the founder of a chain of barbershops and salons in Virginia.
Indeed, Ron seemed to be living the dream. But in what seemed like an instant, everything changed.
Five years ago, Ron lost his multi-million dollar business during a painful divorce. In addition to being financially broke, Ron was forced to put his best friend of 30 years (and Chief Financial Officer for 20) in prison after discovering he had been embezzling funds.
Ron was left with no money. No marriage. No security.
Unfortunately, the heartache didn’t end there.
“One week after signing my divorce, and selling my assets to settle debtors and the IRS, my 27-year-old daughter died in my arms,” Ron said with sincere emotion. “I had raised her since she was seven-years-old from my first marriage. She was diagnosed on a Monday morning with acute myeloid leukemia. By Thursday, just three days later, she took her last breath as I was gently stroking her face.”
At that point, Ron had two very distinct choices: kill himself or build a new life. Both, at the time, were legitimate possibilities.
But Ron chose the harder, more difficult path. The path that required humility, strength and resolve...
“I had a few people left in my life that cared about me, so I thought taking my own life would be selfish,” he added. “There were times I seriously contemplated it. But I decided I wanted to live.”
If that isn’t courage personified, we’re not sure what is.
Like so many of us, Ron has navigated through the peaks and valleys of life: betrayal, broken hearts, ups, downs, wins and losses. In fact, on the surface, his experiences seem insurmountable.
For Ron, however, it’s just part of life.
“I have preached for a long time that we are all equal,” he said. “We will all go through the same shit and the same trials in life. It’s ‘when’ they happen, not ‘if.’ It’s how you deal with those issues and events that makes your life what it is and what it will become.”
Fast-forward a few years. Ron moved to Canada, opened a tiny barbershop and retail store, began a new marriage and completely reshaped his life for the better.
Does he know where his life will go from here? Hell no.
He’s not worried, though; that’s part of the adventure.
“All of us will go through something terrible in life,” Ron said with assertiveness. “But it’s how you respond that defines you. You’re a lot stronger than you think you are. If you think life is unfair, it’s not. It’s just life. We are all the same on this journey. In my 51 years of life, I’ve realized that we have our own paths, but in the end, we experience the same emotions and breakthroughs.”
That is to say, ultimately what sets us apart is our ability to shed a few tears and continue along that journey. Ron believes, with the right approach, things always get better; hurt and loss get easier with the passage of time.
Those that oppose change or fight it always lose out in the long run.
“Tragedy and loss usually opens up ‘time and space’ for you to reexamine your purpose or what makes you happy - and can push you to realize these opportunities through sheer willpower and even desperation to survive,” Ron added.
Today Ron is the captain of a non-profit brotherhood called the Bearded Villains for the Montreal chapter. After spending many, many years trying other beard products, Ron identified with the Live Bearded mission for one main reason: We are more than our products.
“After watching and speaking with the Live Bearded team at great length, I saw the company exemplified a true life of positivity and good will,” he said. “Live Bearded utilizes their products to carry the message of being good men and helping others. It was a revelation to find a company that was actually trying to make a difference in society and culture through not just through words, but actions. It ran parallel with my life in the Bearded Villains and my own purpose.
“I knew I had to be a carrier of this message alongside Live Bearded.”
At Live Bearded we believe Brotherhood goes beyond the beard. We believe it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be. Through sharing stories of the men in the Live Bearded Brotherhood, we're continually learning and growing from each other. If you are interested in being considered for a Beards Behind the Brand story, send us an email!