Kelley Rich has always been a “do-er,” who builds momentum with those around her to get things done. Throughout her life, both professionally and personally, she has been a big thinker, and a prime motivator, driving towards the goal at hand. While working for the national consumer product firm SC Johnson, she was instrumental in the launch of their e-commerce platform following a successful career managing Raid and Ziploc for them. Then, at Whirlpool, she led innovation efforts to launch multiple licensing projects and develop the Zera in-home composter. Now at Notre Dame University, Kelley has reshaped their innovation process and risen to take on the entire IDEA Center, driving innovation and entrepreneurship for the university and the community. All that, by the way, while raising three amazing children as she challenged and mentored them to successful lives of their own. While Kelley is an accomplished marketer, she actually started as an Engineer with both BS and MS degrees from Purdue and Cincinnati. Her nominator notes that she really blossomed after her MBA from the JL Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Kelley is widely recognized by her peers as someone who is selfless and giving, and she shares widely through her volunteer work with the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation, Girls on the Run, and many other local causes. Keep reading for more on the life and times of Kelley Rich, a Bold Woman of Business for 2022.
Where do you live?
Saint Joseph, MI
Company or Organization
University of Notre Dame
What is your job or role there?
I am the Interim Vice President and Associate Provost for Innovation at the IDEA Center. The IDEA Center is the university’s central resource for all commercialization and entrepreneurship activities.
How do you think that Bold Women of Business demonstrate being bold?
Being bold means making a positive IMPACT. It means thinking big to identify disruptive innovation opportunities, motivating others to believe in the dream and then working hard to make it happen. It means keeping a positive attitude and pushing hard to overcome challenges and resistance to new ideas and bringing people along with you on the innovation journey. One of my favorite quotes is “The person who says it can’t be done, should not interrupt the person doing it.”
Bold women are often defined by a number of descriptors. Please choose from the following descriptors to produce the top three that you would say most exemplify your personality?
Please provide an example of when you feel you were at your very best in taking action on the job or in your role.
One of the accomplishments that I am most proud of was when I was working in brand marketing and new product development for SC Johnson. The internet was just emerging, and I knew it would have a profound impact on almost every aspect of our business. I had tried pitching the concept of a new ecommerce group to leverage the internet for consumer communication and online sales opportunities but had encountered resistance at every turn. I didn’t give up though. I happened to run into the President of the company in the lunchroom and told him I had an idea I wanted to talk to him about. He invited me back to his office that very minute, and I explained how we had to create a new ecommerce team or get left behind by our competition. Luckily, he agreed and told me to scope out the opportunity and put together a detailed proposal. Six months later, I had a full cross functional ecommerce team in place, and we had made great progress in developing a home care website and gaining distribution with our online retail partners. It was an exciting and challenging time, and I loved every minute of it!
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened on your road to success?
A funny thing that happened to me as I was trying to create the new ecommerce initiative at SC Johnson, the head of sales actually told me that the internet was just a fad!
Who most inspires your personal drive for success every day?
My husband of 30 years, Kris, is my biggest supporter and gives me the confidence I need to rise above my fears and act courageously. He provides a solid foundation, encourages me, and inspires me to accomplish great things. He nominated me for this award and I couldn’t be more thankful to him for his love and encouragement.
What is your best advice to women in Southwest Michigan looking to succeed, as you have, in business?
My advice to other women is to believe in yourself…you are more talented and capable than you think. Also, great things can happen in your career if you identify opportunities and take risks to make them happen. I found success by working very hard and developing close relationships to colleagues that became my allies. Also, if you don’t get organizational resistance to your idea, it probably isn’t big enough. There will be people that will tell you it can’t be done…don’t believe them and don’t give up! Keep pushing through the hurdles and obstacles that will invariably come up as you drive change forward.
What does your selection to the ranks of the Bold Women of Business from Moody on the Market mean to you?
I am tremendously honored and humbled to receive the Bold Woman of Business award. I am excited to be recognized for all the hard work and impact that I have been able to make over my career. I am thankful that this award was created to spotlight all these impressive, successful women. Together, I think we can help the next generation of women leaders in business have even greater success in the future!