Kimberly “Kimmy” Wilson is someone we’ve admired for some time now. She began her career as an intern at Michigan Avenue and went on to help them put together some memorable events. Kim is now at 900 shops and our intern Briana Mate had a chance to catch up with her.
Welcome to the debut of 23 Questions, where we get a chance to ask some of our favorite Chicagoans about life, career and aspirations.
Briana: What was a key point that enticed you into the field you are in?
Kimmy: Since I was young I wanted to work in the ‘glamorous’ world of fashion. During college is when I really determined that I wanted to pursue something in the marketing and advertising sphere.
B: What was your dream job when you were little, in high school, and college?
K: It’s always been in the fashion world. When I was young, I wanted to be a designer; in high school and college, I wanted to be a buyer. Fast forward to today and here I am not only working for the premier shopping center in Chicago but also on Michigan Avenue, which is one of the most successful retail environments in the world. It’s pretty cool. I guess it pays to dream big.
Briana: What specifically does your job at 900 shops entail?
Kimmy: I am spearheading a new sponsorship program for the property, which entails temporary leasing for things like pop-up shops and seeking out businesses that are looking to advertise or create unique activations that will connect their brands to a target audience that fits 900’s consumer profile. I also assist with tenant relations and marketing initiatives such as events, promotions and developing strategic relationships with like-minded businesses in the community.
Briana: Did you have prior internships or jobs that led you to this point in your career?
Kimmy: During college I interned with Elite Model Management here in Chicago (now Factor Women) and Target’s HQ in Minneapolis. Both opportunities, although very different, provided me with invaluable experiences that taught me what it’s like to work in the “real world” as we called it back then.
B: Do you feel that you learned more about yourself and your career path through school or your hands on work experiences/internships?
K: I think I established my work ethic and developed important skills such as time management and the ability to multi-task and prioritize in school. However, it was my internships that really allowed me to hone in on the career path I wanted to purse after college.
Briana: What’s your favorite aspect of your every day job?
Kimmy: I would definitely say getting to meet new people and building business relationships. I’m fortunate that I get to meet people in all industries, whether it’s a director of philanthropy, an event producer, or a local business owner looking to launch his or her first brick and mortar store. I’m fascinated by all of the talented people in Chicago; I love to meet people over a cup of coffee and just brainstorm creative ways as to how we can help each other’s businesses.
B: What is a challenge you are faced with in your day-to-day routine?
K: I know it sounds cliché but there really aren’t enough hours in the day. Since the onset of my career I’ve struggled with maintaining a well-balanced work and personal life. I would say my biggest challenge is “shutting down” for the day. I’m just gradually beginning to accept that my “To Do” list is always going to be endless.
B: Where do you see yourself in 10 years in terms of your career and aspirations?
K: Hopefully, I will still be in Chicago doing something that I am passionate about.
B: What was the hardest part of getting your foot in the door as you began your career in Chicago ?
K: I will be the first to admit that I had a lot of luck when I first moved to Chicago. I had little to no network in the city but found a Marketing and Events internship posting online for Michigan Avenue magazine prior to the publication’s launch in 2008. Although it was not a full time position, the opportunity was a dream come true for me, so I poured my heart and soul into it. I think my dedication and hard work is what ultimately earned me a full time position and growth within the company.
B: What was the best knowledge you gained working for Michigan Ave Magazine?
K: Follow through is crucial. My role at Michigan Avenue was primarily to develop and execute marketing and event programs for advertising partners. It’s easy to promise the sun and the stars to a client, but what I took away is the importance of following through on those promises and always doing your best to go above and beyond a partnership in order to exceed expectations.
B: Do you believe it is more about who you know or what you know when it comes to landing a dream job?
K: I believe good things happen to good people; especially those that work smart and work hard. Building relationships and establishing a network is important, however I don’t think you can solely rely on who you know. You have to be poised, professional and prove to an employer that you are going to work harder for them than any other candidate. Ultimately, I think that’s what helps clinch a position.
B: When it comes to networking, how do you go about doing so in Chicago?
K: Events have been such a big part of my career since I’ve been in Chicago so that is definitely where I do most of my networking. Since I joined 900, I have become more involved with the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association and will also be joining the Make-a-Wish Illinois Wish Ball committee this year.
B: Outside of work what are some things you enjoy doing?
K: I live by the lake in Lincoln Park so I like to take advantage of the lakefront and the zoo as much as I can. I also love to cook and with fall quickly approaching, I’ll add that and I love to “watch” football with friends.
B: Favorite restaurant in the city?
K: Trying new restaurants is one of my favorite things to do but for some reason I always come back to Sunda as being my favorite. It’s just so delicious every time.
B: What’s the Friday night hotspot go to for you and your friends?
K: My friends and I usually bounce around the bars in Old Town.
B: For shopping, eating, drinking in Chicago what part of the city do you head to?
K: Working in the heart of the Michigan Avenue/Oak Street shopping and dining district, can be a bit dangerous (in a good way), but I also love to explore the boutiques in Wicker Park and Bucktown. For dinner and drinks, I’m finding myself over on Randolph Street more and more.
B: How would you describe “a day in the life of Kimmy?”
K: In-person meetings are crucial (especially in sales) so I usually have several meetings with potential clients or existing partners. Add some calls, lots of emails, presentation preparation and some time to pop in and say hi to tenants and that describes my typical work day. After work, I’m probably attending an event and if I’m not, I’m more than likely out to dinner with friends or relaxing at home.
B: Do you find that being with a higher job title helps or hurts you in the workplace?
K: For the most part, I think it has helped. Sure, I’ve been in meetings when I can tell that the person across the table is shocked at how young I am but I try not to let that affect how I present myself. I’m lucky that I work in an environment that embraces creativity and innovation. More and more I think businesses are finding value in young talent who can respectfully challenge traditional ways and provide a fresh perspective.
B: Who was the most interesting person you met either during your time at Michigan Ave or currently at 900 shops?
K: I can’t pinpoint just one. Having the opportunity to meet both Mayor Daley and Mayor Emanuel was pretty special. I also got a kick out of Rosie O’Donnell and was in awe and inspired by Jennifer Hudson. Jonathan Toews wasn’t too bad either 😉
B: Would you consider leaving Chicago for work purposes?
K: I love Chicago so I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.
B: What do you believe is your best quality in relation to your career and future aspirations?
K: I attribute so much of my success to following four very simple rules that my Dad taught me when I was young – Have Fun, Do Your Best, Be a Good Friend and Be a Leader. As long as I continue to apply these rules to my career, I think they will allow me to achieve even more success down the road.
B: What was your greatest a compliment?
K: After I told my old boss that I was leaving the company for a new opportunity, he called my new boss and said, “You can’t have her.” He obviously did it with light-hearted spirit but that meant a lot to me.
B: We have to touch on this… Dating, in a relationship, or single? And how do you feel about maintaining a career and dating in the city?
K: Single. This goes back to what I’m working on…. finding that well-balanced work and personal life.