Co-CEO of The Lumistella Company and University of West Georgia alumna Christa Aebersold Pitts ’97 knows there is no such thing as an overnight success.
Although Pitts co-created what is arguably the most popular holiday tradition in modern times – “The Elf on the Shelf” – she has never forgotten the hard work that went into building the Atlanta-based business. The global IP company is now home to nearly 100 employees and growing.
“My parents always said, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’” Pitts recalled. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the opportunity to have gone to UWG. I was well prepared for the endeavor of entrepreneurship.”
To help support the next generation of trendsetters and innovators, Pitts has created the Christa Aebersold Endowment for Student Entrepreneurial Education. The gift is tied to UWG Richards College of Business’ Stone Center for Family Business, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“My twin sister is also a UWG graduate, as well as a co-owner and co-founder in our family business. Using our maiden name reflects both of us and the legacy of a family that I hope remains at UWG long after I’m gone,” Pitts said. “I’m also excited that this will be in a place where students can learn about entrepreneurship and family business. Bob Stone is a fantastic person and has an amazing family. I’m honored to work with them to set up the next generation of students for success.”
Pitts credits her time at UWG for the skillsets she has mastered today. A mass communications major, she was extremely involved on campus while enrolled.
“I spent a lot of time immersing myself in everything UWG had to offer,” Pitts shared. “I have always appreciated the sense of place and sense of self I found there.”
After graduation, Pitts moved to Philadelphia to work as an on-air personality for QVC, actively applying the speech and communication skills she honed as an undergraduate at UWG. She then decided to move back to Atlanta and – together with her mother, Carol, and sister, Chanda – introduce their personal family tradition to the masses.
Pitts has remained an active presence at UWG. She has served as keynote speaker for the Richards College of Business’ BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise series, serves as a trustee for the UWG Foundation board and chairs the board’s resource development committee, and, most recently, was auctioneer at the record-breaking 2022 Presidential Black Tie Gala.
“We are so grateful to Christa for her leadership and generosity to elevate and enhance our student experience at UWG,” said Dr. Meredith Brunen, UWG’s vice president for university advancement and CEO of UWG’s foundations. She is a remarkable businesswoman, and her investment in tangible, relevant, real-world opportunities will help stimulate innovation and foster a budding entrepreneurial spirit among our students.”
After starting her business and nurturing it from a fledgling startup into an internationally recognized house of brands that includes children’s toys, traditions, entertainment and experiences, Pitts said it was important to her to give back.
“I had no money when it was time for school, and there were very generous people who helped me receive an education,” she shared. “It was important to me, especially now that entrepreneurship is such a huge part of people’s career paths.”
Viewed as the most significant driver of economic development, the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration reports there are roughly 720,000 incorporated businesses in Georgia – 97.5 percent of which are categorized as employing 500 or fewer people. The state is ranked third for highest entrepreneurial activity in the country and fourth in the nation for the highest growth of micro-businesses.
In addition to supporting the enhancement of curricular programs and creating co-curricular opportunities, Pitts’ endowment will also enable students to participate in business pitch competitions at the local, state and national levels – think collegiate versions of “Shark Tank.”
“It’s one thing to have a great idea and another thing to do something with it,” Pitts explained. “My endowment is specifically meant for students who have those ideas and want to figure out what to do with them, putting them on a path to success. You can do a lot on your own, and you can do a lot with gut instinct, but there are also skills that are necessary, things that you learn by doing, not by something that you’ve read.”
It’s with the help of donors like Pitts that students will graduate from UWG ready to enter the job market and are better prepared for success in their own entrepreneurial pursuits.
“There’s a lot of nuance in owning and running a business,” she concluded. “Everything from finance to marketing to understanding material providers and suppliers. Then you have to figure out the people part, which is obviously the most important. UWG is a fantastic place for students to learn those skills, and I’m hoping to help inspire others to seek their dreams.”
For more information about how you can make an impact by supporting UWG through an endowment, scholarship or annual giving, please visit UWG’s Give West page.