Congratulations to Kim Gebbia Chappell (’06), VP of marketing and communications at Bobbie, an organic infant formula company, on being named an honoree in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 Under 40 class.
After graduating from Grady College in 2006, Chappell started her career as a local news reporter in Wilmington, North Carolina, and went on to spend 10 years as a reporter and anchor, climbing up through four different markets before becoming the evening anchor and managing director for an ABC affiliate. During Chappell’s time as a journalist, she won two Emmys, a National Edward R. Murrow award and more than a dozen RTDNA and AP awards.
Chappell then moved to San Fransisco to become the first in-house public relations hire for an e-commerce startup called Weebly, where she eventually became head of communications. Chappell’s next stop was at the fintech company Square, where she led all brand and purpose communications, before landing her current role at Bobbie. At Bobbie, Chappell oversees three external agencies and a team of more than 20 marketers.
Outside of the office, Chappell is a proud mom of three children under five years old. In her community, Chappell is an active board member of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Fund, which helps support and raise funding and awareness for the NICU in Austin, Texas, an active member of Chief, a professional networking group for C-suite women, and more.
Below are responses Chappell provided about her experiences at UGA and working in the industry.
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?
Grady cemented a hustler, deadline-driven foundation in me that has carried me through every chapter of my career, from news to public relations to marketing. It has become my secret weapon, and it started the basement of Grady (with a VHS tape editing machine. I know, I’m old.) I learned that there is always time to get something done, and there is always a solution to the problem. When you work in a newsroom, the 5 p.m. deadline comes at you every day, and no matter if your interview falls through or the graphic didn’t get made, you have to find that 90-second story to fill the air. And somehow (I still don’t know how) I always made something happen. Your hustle, your grit, your sheer ability to keep a sprint pace are your secret weapons.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Stop renting expensive apartments and throwing away your terrible (early) news salary on rent, and just buy a place as soon as you can to build equity on a hard asset and start building wealth beyond paycheck to paycheck. Even if it’s just a one bedroom! I’d also add that as a woman in a newsroom (or any job) you can and should advocate for yourself – whether it’s a higher salary, a longer maternity leave, a promotion you know you deserve, or a safe and clean place to pump. Make your case and ask for what you want.
What skill(s) or advice should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?
Follow the money and the data (yes, even in news!) to help you grow your own career. Keep a note on your phone with every little daily win or accomplishment you have. You should be able to stare at something by the end of each work week. In your annual review with your manager or when you are pitching yourself for a new role or at a new job, be able to walk that person through the tangible impact of your work. Maybe it’s increased visits to the station site because of the story you wrote or the increased engagement and following on your social media that leads to loyal viewers, news tips or professional relationships. Be sure to write down how many award-winning or top-rated sweeps stories you wrote, shot and edited. It’s also the HR piece – how many times did you cover for a colleague or say yes to a morning or weekend shift without asking? If you have the data and the numbers that show your impact and your value to the business, they can’t argue with it! Also, this is for all the women reading this: if they make you an offer, ask for at least $10,000 more. They have a buffer built in for this, but it’s usually on the guys who have the gumption to ask for more. We’ve got to change that!
Is there a piece of advice from one of your Grady College professors that still guides you today?
Professor Michael Castengera, a legend within the Newsource walls, once reviewed my first package in front of the class (which I thought was Emmy-award winning!) and he told me it was “a failed attempt at mediocrity.” It stuck with me as a reminder that what you think is great is not always great. Be ready to take criticism from your managers and your peers, and instead of getting defensive or digging your heels in, remember to listen and learn. He went on to tell me why it was not a great story and how it could have been better. And you know what? He was right.
What does success mean to you?
Professional success is when I wake up with that fire in my belly, excited to create something new and make a tangible and positive impact on the company I show up for, the customer we are working to serve, and the team I get to lead. I’m convinced personal success with three kids and a demanding job is just about surviving with patience.
Are you currently working in your “dream job”? If not, what is your dream role?
I actually feel incredibly blessed that I am in my dream job as the VP of marketing for Bobbie, an mom-led organic infant formula company. It took me four newsrooms and two tech companies to get here, but it’s the most rewarding, stressful, challenging, joyful job I’ve ever had. And it also came at the same time I was in the throes of building my family with three kids under five. It’s funny how life can throw it all at you at once. We built the company from a basement start up in San Francisco to a landing $172 million in venture capital to launching into Target, recently acquiring a manufacturing facility and becoming the third largest full stack formula company in the U.S. in just three years. But it’s not the growth that makes it rewarding – or our backing from celebrities including Ashley Graham, Meghan Trainor, Tan France and Naomi Osaka. It’s the fact that, at the end of the day, I get to help moms and parents of all walks of life feed their babies with a healthy product. How you choose to feed your baby is an emotionally charged topic – it’s personal, stigmatized, politicized and riddled in shame and guilt. If I can help one working mom like me feel a little more supported, then I am in fact living my dream job!
I’m terrible at consuming podcasts, so I’m going to go with the one I started for Bobbie, “Milk Drunk.” (Moms check it out!)
One job-related tool you can’t live without:
My Stanley Cup, Ember Mug, Slack, InShot. (Couldn’t choose just one.)
Favorite restaurant in Athens:
The Last Resort. We still talk about the iconic gorgonzola dressing. (IYKYK)
Favorite place you’ve traveled:
The Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily (where my ancestors are from). We hiked Stromboli, an active volcano, in the middle of the night and watched hot lava spew out two stories high just feet away from us. It was incredible.
Item on your bucket list:
I want to be one of those moms who has stacks and stacks of beautiful photo albums of all of her kids and life memories for when I’m old instead of letting them just disappear on iPhones.