With over 20 years in marketing, Katie Schibler Conn honed her skills at industry giants from coast to coast, including top companies like Tracy Locke in New York City and PlayStation in San Francisco before deciding she needed a change. Katie traded her Blackberry for a backpack to travel the globe for 15 months, exploring Southeast Asia and South America. When she touched down at T.F. Green Airport, she answered an unexpected phone call from global giant Pepsi, seeking help on a project. Forty-eight hours later, Katie founded KSA MARKETING from her kitchen table.
Ambitious, passionate, and above all committed, Katie worked to grow her business. In 2018, she was accepted into the Forbes Agency Council, an invitation- only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative, and advertising agencies. In 2019, she graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, which gave her the skills and resources to scale KSA. She also served as president of the Association of Marketing Professionals of Rhode Island. “The communities that I have been able to be a part of are one of the greatest resources I have,” says Katie. “They allow my staff and I to stay up-to-date on the latest trends so that we can keep up with the dynamic world of marketing and always offer the best work possible for our clients.”
This year, KSA Marketing celebrates 10 years as a wildly successful full-service marketing agency that works with small, medium, and large clients that need messaging and marketing across all channels. The team has grown from one person to 15 marketing champions, each of which brings their own perspective, knowledge, and skill in the industry, like Laurie Lewis, Director of Culture & Operations and the “glue that keeps the team together”; Melanie Roberts, who uses her detail-oriented nature as Client Manager remotely from California; Director of Traffic Susan Rentz, who keeps the team on track from North Carolina. In 2020, Amelia Oates and Olivia Marcello made the shift from interns to Campaign Coordinators and Elaine Pham also rejoined the staff as a Campaign Coordinator working remotely from her home country of Vietnam.
The team also welcomed Karen Jedson as their new Director of Media Relations last fall. A native Rhode Islander and award-winning hospitality professional, Karen brings her 29 years of experience working for the City of Warwick to KSA. In her role as the Director of the Department of Tourism Culture & Development, which she held for 16 years, she led integrated marketing campaigns in collaboration with hospitality venues, state organizations, and a variety of agencies. When she decided to pursue another career opportunity, she couldn’t resist the chance to work on the other side of the table. “I am so grateful to be able to share my experiences with our clients and assist them with their marketing plans during these unprecedented times,” says Jedson.
While the hospitality industry was one of those struck hard during the pandemic, KSA rose to meet the challenge. At the end of 2020, they received a grant from Commerce RI to support hospitality businesses around the state that had been severely impacted. “Through this program, we were able to help many businesses get back on their feet and get the exposure they would never have been able to without our marketing support,” says Katie. KSA completed a series of webinars, held virtual business office hours, and created integrated marketing campaigns for 12 Rhode Island businesses.
For Katie, being able to build these relationships and help local businesses was the most rewarding part of what was an unprecedented year: “I want to give back to the state that gave me so much.”
3351 Post Rd., Warwick • 681-4900
“We tip our hats to fellow trailblazers,” says Katie. “We are honored to work closely with these fellow leading ladies, who have triumphed in typically male-dominated fields.” While these women work with KSA for their branding and marketing needs, they are more than just clients – they are partners, and Team KSA is deeply committed to their success.
Virge and Diane are two friends who consider each other family. On vacation together with their children in Cape Cod, they recognized the need for a towel that could be soft and absorbent while staying dry and leaving the sand behind. The pair took their idea and co-founded Wowel, LLC out of East Greenwich and began working on the idea for a waterproof terry towel. “I was scared, I didn’t want to fail – although there is no failure in trying,” said Virge.
Finally, after years of research, material sourcing, and more than a dozen prototypes, the Wowel hit the market – and found immediate success. “My job is not a job, it’s a passion,” says Virge. “I believe in supporting all, but especially women and women of disadvantage, to allow them the opportunity to follow their dreams.”
Karen’s journey with Howard Johnson Inn Newport started back in college when she took a summer job there as a front desk clerk. Today, Karen is the general manager of the nationally recognized, award-winning property, and continues to love every day of it. “I have done everything from cleaning guestrooms and shoveling sidewalks to creating annual budgets and running multimillion-dollar renovations,” says Karen, who is excited to show off the hotel’s newly renovated rooms. She loves making guests happy and working with staff and longtime owners, the Kempenaar family. “I have shared many life changes, good and bad, with the people in this great little hotel,” she says. “Personal connection, caring people, and comradery go a long way.”