BABE #232: KATRIN CASEY - Founder, KC Evolve & Chemo Noir
Katrin is the founder of KC Evolve, through which she helps businesses tell their stories and refine their brands. She’s also the founder of Chemo Noir, a philanthropic organization hosting wine-centric events to help raise money and provide financial support to the people and families affected by cancer. Katrin has always been a lover of the hustle and diving head first into her work, but after being diagnosed with cancer (and thankfully kicking its ass) she has become all the more focused on viewing and achieving her goals and aspirations through a more holistic, intentional lens, and inspiring us to do the same.
Hometown: Long Valley, New Jersey
Current city: Jacksonville, Florida
Alma mater: University of North Carolina - Asheville
Degree: B.A., Psychology, Minor, Sociology/Pre-Law
Very first job: Barista (before baristas were cool) at the Green Bean Coffee House in Sawgrass Village
Current job(s): Founder, KC Evolve; Founder & Visionary, Chemo Noir
Babe you admire and why?
I have always admired my sister, Sarah (I know my other sister Bridget will totally agree with me, and she is amazing, too). Sarah is one of the most incredible people I have ever known, and I have the honor of calling her my sister. She is a phenomenal mom, daughter, sister, friend, fiancé and nurse. She is one of the most selfless, smart and genuinely caring people I have ever known. She taught me a lot about kindness and being true to yourself, and she lives every day with an altruistic and happy lens on life. She is a decorated night nurse and a true hustler with a huge heart. She’s just admirable on every level.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
I am a bold coffee drinker and love a delicious red wine.
What tools, books, or ideas help you in your day-to-day work?
I have always loved the Holstee Manifesto. It’s simple and inspirational, and hangs in the home office as a daily reminder.
Tell us about your hustle.
I love the hustle, and my job is to run my business at every level. KC Evolve is a marketing agency focused on branding. We believe your brand is the most precious asset of your company, and really encompasses everything. Your brand is that harmonious sweet spot that unites your business objectives, the internal and the external. It's the heartbeat of your company or initiative, and we activate and design brands to fuel your evolution. I’m not only the CEO but also the COO, CFO, CMO, project manager, business development manager, creative director, HR director, customer service manager, the billing department—the list goes on. After my personal battle with Cancer in 2014 I also founded Chemo Noir, a nonprofit with a mission to raise money to provide financial support to the families, friends and fighters in their battles.
What does your typical workday look like?
My day usually starts at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. and is fueled by a pot of coffee and post-workout endorphins. After putting in a few hours of work I’ll take a breakfast break and then usually head out to a 9:00 a.m. coffee meeting. I’m big on in-person meetings, so I use that time in the car for client calls, catching up with friends and family, setting up meetings or coordinating a Chemo Noir event. Weekday lunches are typically out with clients or new business opportunities. The home office is always GSD (get shit done) time. The afternoon is a mix of either in-person meetings, conference calls or heads-down time to work before heading out to an early happy hour meeting, which can either be for work, Chemo Noir or to meet up with friends. Some days I’m home by 5:00 p.m. and sometimes 9:00 p.m.
What’s your approach to work/life balance?
Honestly, before I had cancer I was a machine and would work full-steam, until often exhaustion. Sure, I got even more hustle in during that time, but it wasn’t healthy, and I refuse to work like that now. I take a “smarter, not harder” approach, but the hustle is always there. Now, even when I feel underwater, I make sure to always take meaningful breaks and try to take a full day off each week. It's tempting to work all week and weekend, because (fortunately for me) the work is there, but taking those mental and self-care breaks is invaluable and something every hustling babe needs to make time for, in order to find a healthy balance.
Have you always had a passion for storytelling and creating?
Yes. I have always been a rather balanced left- and right-brain gal. Throughout school I was in the gifted program, and I have always thought it was more for my creative side. I loved learning differently and being challenged to think outside of the box. I believe my creative style was nurtured more from my mom and NeeNee (grandma). My mother has always been creative, and my NeeNee was a dreamer and loved telling stories of her days in her dad’s art store, and her dancing, her romance and her fashion. Always whimsical and wonderful stories to be around as a kid. I also fell in love with the sport of soccer. I found it wildly creative. I took portfolio in school and always loved how art can visually tell a story. I have also always loved creative writing. It was all a release for me for a long time, and still is today. I think that’s why I pursued marketing as a career path soon after I graduated college. It really brought it all together for me. It was strategically creative, full of storytelling and creativity (and hustle), and also had that human connectivity. Every client has their own unique story to tell, and being able to help them express and tell it is very rewarding.
How do you balance KC and Chemo Noir? What tools do you use to help you stay organized?
That is ... a work in progress for me, for a couple of reasons. One, KC and Chemo Noir are both growing. Both two years in the making, and doubling year over year. Going into year three I knew I needed to add an all-star to the mix. I have now, and I can already feel the positive impact. Two, some of my challenge with balance is that I like to be very high-touch with both KC and Chemo Noir. Some tools I use are Harvest (it’s a time tracking tool, but also helps me on the PM side, too). I also use Asana to manage projects, but that is in the early stage of adoption and execution. And honestly, I’m a little old-school and write (with a paper and pen) a lot. I have KC journals stacked with notes and lists. I have always learned best when I write and pay attention, so that has been a continued practice for me, even in the world of iPads and Evernote. I would be remiss if I didn’t credit my Macbook and iPhone for all of their help everyday too. Thanks, Steve!
What makes a campaign impactful to you?
A campaign’s impact to me is what’s the heartbeat of it. If a campaign has a feeling, it’s always more successful. People buy and connect on emotion, so in this world of overload, being able to stand out with a feeling is a win. Every branding project or campaign begins with some discovery. That’s where the magic and “a-ha” moments often happen, and it’s a key part of my process. It’s the human side. I can’t give away all of the secret sauce, but being able to put together an objective, brand personality, look and feel, message and the hook into a campaign is the art of it all. Taking a lot and crafting it into a clear and simple message with feeling—those campaigns tend to have the most impact. I think the most valuable piece of information you need before embarking on a campaign, is the end goal. Meaning, what is that one thing that measures success for you as a result of this campaign? Sometimes campaigns can be awareness-driven, they can be socially motivated, engagement-forward or simply come down to dollars or numbers.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
My academic experiences ultimately taught me to teach myself. I have always been resourceful and curious, and would use those smarter when I couldn’t figure it out. (And not to date myself, but we didn’t have Google when I was in school.) I also believe we learn something great from every experience we have; the good, the bad and the ugly. Taking those lessons and continuing to grow just helps make me better every day.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
I would absolutely have to say, starting Chemo Noir. I have always been a private person with my personal life, even though I’m more of an extrovert. But starting Chemo Noir shoved me right out of that comfort zone. It was the most painful and vulnerable chapter of my life, and I was fully exposed. Launching this passion project has been one of the most rewarding milestones within my career because it has helped me grow and discover a lot of truths about myself, and I cry every time I send a check out the door to help another fighter. In addition to that, I have loved watching the relationships that have been created and are flourishing within Chemo Noir. It has been one of the most special parts of running this initiative. The community and the tribe evolving here is really incredible, and I fully attribute that to our successes to date.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I would actually say, positively. I grew up around great work ethic and I have always been wired to want more. Not in a manner of greed, but more so knowing I could achieve more. I have rarely been professionally oppressed, but when I have, I did something about it or moved on. You can always change, and this world affords us a lot of liberties. I thrive on being both a leader and a team player, and I have tried to write my own script to continue to experience that in life.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
I would say it has ebbed and flowed for me. When I ran Greenhouse Studio, it was me and five (very talented and wonderful) guys. But now I run KC Evolve with one other rockstar female. I find that marketing tends to be a little more female-heavy these days (as opposed to the “Mad Men” days). I personally look at the industry overall as a desire to just work with passionate visionaries and talent. I would say it’s evolved to be a little more balanced, and I will also say I am very proud about being a female entrepreneur. The confidence and empowerment of the woman entrepreneurs in our world today has definitely been an exciting and inspiring evolution.
What’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
Cancer. No question. I was deep in the throes of a failed merger after building one of the most amazing companies and teams in my career, and I was embarking on trying to recreate it all over again—bigger and better—and boom! Cancer. It changed me, my work, my abilities to work, but also helped plot one of my biggest comebacks. My key asset in my cancer journey was attitude. I knew it was one of the few things I could control in all of that surreality, and it continues to be a driver for me today. Attitude can help you believe anything, and focusing on having some positivity made the light at the end of the tunnel a fortunate reality for me.
What’s your first piece of advice that comes to mind for other women facing battles with their health?
Fight. Always fight.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Just do it. That’s the former athlete dork in me, but it’s true. You can really do anything. It’s hard to believe sometimes, and it’s hard to do sometimes, but it’s still always possible. I think it’s human nature to find excuses versus opportunity, but the endless opportunity is far more rewarding.
This Saturday, December 15 from 8-11PM, celebrate the season and mingle with the BWH community at Six Hundred King, a creative event space + restored warehouse in the heart of Jacksonville’s Arts District in Riverside.
Cash bar proceeds will benefit the Women's Center of Jacksonville: an organization improving the lives of women through advocacy, support and education, and providing rape recovery services for individuals of all genders in Duval, Nassau, and Baker counties. Click here to grab your ticket!