Leading Ladies: Kathy Howell

by CoVaBizMag

Owner/President/Creative Director, Howell Creative Group

By Barrett Baker

Originally from the Atlanta area, Kathy Howell graduated from Georgia Southern University and lived near Orland before moving to Virginia. She started off doing freelance work but eventually created Howell Creative Group after she landed some major clients like BASF Fibers corporate communications and niche markets. “We serve as a conduit between our clients and their target audience,” says Howell. “In this case, we’d take an engineer’s product line, like Basofil heat and flame resistant fiber, figure out how that product is used and who may benefit from it, then determine what the message is that will resonate with that audience.”

Although running her own agency is rewarding in itself, her deeper passion is being part of an amazingly talented group of creative professionals who make their clients’ goals their own. “I love it when our firm’s work helps make our client successful,” she says. “And I will never tire of seeing the work we do for our clients on TV, on a billboard, website or social media. It’s amazing that I’ve been able to have a career that allows me to express my creativity, but I truly find joy in offering that opportunity to other team members, and it’s inspiring to see them succeed.”

As a female business owner, she sees unique challenges that women must still face today. While she is encouraged every day by what women have been able to achieve in the workplace during her career, she is amazed that women still have so far to reach equality in the workplace. “The ‘Me Too’ movement has been a long time coming, but the revelations have been difficult to comprehend,” she says. “While I’m glad that the ‘eggs have been cracked open,’ we’ve got to look out for each other and do our best to not slip back into this quagmire.”

Of course, running a business can have its share of challenges for anyone. And while she believes her firm has achieved success through a long-term body of work, she also knows that every day is a new day to prove themselves again and again. “Finding the balance between our push for excellence in a field with zero tolerance for errors and a firm populated with living, breathing people who pride themselves in their work can be tricky at times,” she adds. “I never want to break someone’s spirit—that’s where the best work comes from.”

With all that she has accomplished, Howell still does not consider herself a role model, but she does understand that her position requires her to be a responsible steward in the eyes of others. “I’ve shouted ‘Girl power!’ from a Model T during a Christmas Parade a few years back to all the little girls lining the street,” she says. “I so hope they grow up believing they can achieve what they dream. And let their doubts fly away.”

Kathy Howell, Leading Ladies

Howell’s proudest moment as a business owner came during the tragedy of 9/11. The agency had an ad running in a firefighter trade journal for BASF that she just couldn’t let run because they were so saddened by the loss of so very many of the product line customers, including firefighters and first responders. “Being a small, nimble firm paid off,” she explains. “I contacted the publisher who was about to go to press, talked them into pulling our ad, designed a tribute ad, got that approved by the full chain of command in a very large company and replaced the original work. When the publication came out, competitors had regular sales-related ads. I just couldn’t let that happen. Not on my watch.”

Kathy’s advice for other entrepreneurs provides great encouragement to all but especially those who may have hit a wall along the way. “Hang in there. Don’t be afraid to ask your heroes to share their secrets to success. Take a little time to breathe. It’s hard to do when you’re wearing lots of hats, but you’ve just got to do it or you’ll burn out.”

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