Kali Kupp: Illustrating the Story of a Strong Brand

I graduated from TFA in 2012, and headed to Clemson University in South Carolina. I started out studying English and spent a year in the major; however, I soon realized that while I loved writing and reading, it wasn’t the perfect fit for my career goals and I started looking into other options. I found that Clemson had a unique major called Graphic Communications, and after a couple of administrative appointments, switched into the major. The Graphic Communications program at Clemson has its roots in the printing industry, but has evolved to include marketing and digital media, in addition to working in labs with ink and printing presses.

The major turned out to be a great fit for me; it combined my love of words and visual arts while being part of the business school, allowing me to learn about marketing among other (somewhat less fun) subjects like accounting and economics. Through my Graphic Comm classes, I learned the Adobe Creative Suite, the principles of design, color theory, how to print a trifold brochure, and how to work printing presses, among other things. Also, through the program, I completed two full-time internships: one in Orlando at a small PR and Marketing agency, and one on-campus in Clemson University’s Marketing office, where I was able to work in social media and video production. I was involved in the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson, and during my senior year I took an honors course on Brands and “The Theory of Cool.” I loved the class and found brand storytelling and brand marketing fascinating. Through a class project and the Business School Career Fair, I met a Clemson Graduate who worked at a company called Newell Brands. While I had never heard of the company, I recognized all their products: Sharpie, Elmer’s, Graco, PaperMate, Rubbermaid, among other consumer brands. I applied to their Assistant Brand Manager program, and ended up taking a job with Newell in Atlanta.

In January 2017, I moved to Atlanta, and had my first day of work the same day the Clemson Tigers won the National Championship (go Tigers!). With my background in social media, content development, and marketing, I was placed on the Social Media Marketing team at Newell. Each of our team members work on 2-5 brands, and today, I work with an amazing team to manage the social media presence and strategy for Sharpie and Rubbermaid. (I have to say I have a favorite child, and it’s Sharpie.) My day-to-day job includes content development and content curation, social strategy, community management, copywriting, targeting, paid strategy, and analytics reporting, as well as working in a cross-functional environment with digital, PR, and brand teams to create a cohesive brand experience.

Looking back on my college and career path, I owe thanks to many of my TFA teachers for where I am today. Mr. Kowars inspired and grew a love of writing in me that I still have today; he was one of the reasons I originally pursued English in college, and why I still want the magic of words to be a part of my everyday life. My art teachers, Mrs. G and Mrs. Collins, fostered creativity, artistic vision, and an eye for design through every one of my art classes; I still draw from my high school art days as I work with artists for Sharpie’s social media and sometimes even get to create art myself. I can truly say that both words and design are skills I use in my corporate job today, as I help write and illustrate the story of a strong brand like Sharpie on social media.

Quite soon after I moved to Atlanta, I started attending Passion City Church. Many students have heard of the high-energy, life-changing Passion Conferences that happen every January; I attended in my Freshman year of college, but had no idea there was a church behind it. Now I feel privileged to attend it; I love hearing from Louie Giglio on Sundays and being led in worship by the amazing Passion Band. I’ve started serving on the Touch Team, where I get to greet and connect with people who walk through the doors on Sunday. I’ve also found a home in Passion’s women’s ministry and joined their year-long mentoring program called Flourish. I love this church family who reaches this generation without sacrificing any of the truth of Jesus and His Word; it’s a “Jesus Church,” as they say every Sunday. And as a person in social media with a heart for words and design, I love being in a church of creatives too — check out their social media!

My family is still my rock, even though we are spread out, with Carson still at Clemson, Jake in law school at UF, Alex in Tampa working for JLL, and Mom and Dad (Kristie and Ken) keeping things strong in Orlando. I’m so proud of them and thankful to have this support group as my life continues to change in my 20’s!

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