OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | PeopleWise: Kathleen Harrington Clark
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PeopleWise: Kathleen Harrington Clark

What do a tech company, an online library for undergrads, the energy industry, professional sports, and higher education have in common? Kathleen Clark—the versatile, innovative marketing executive who brought her award-winning experience to a broad range of brands and industries.

From professional sports (Houston Astros) and top-tier hospitals (Texas Children’s Hospital) to Fortune 500 technology (Compaq), media (CSN Houston), energy (Reliant/NRG, Shell), and higher education (Baylor College of Medicine, Rice Business), Kathleen Clark has made marketing magic since she graduated from Harvard Business School in 1990.

She started her career at Compaq as Director of Advertising in North America, showcasing the company’s innovations to the world. From there, Clark tackled Tricord Systems and Questia, a Houston-based startup and one of the earliest funded by Houston Technology Center. With her group, she executed detailed go-to market plans and brand strategies to help the company raise over $140M in venture capital in 18 months.

With this momentum under her belt, Clark went on to found her own marketing consulting firm, Carta Marketing. As a self-described risk-taker, her decision to start her own company as opposed to a partnership was a bold but exciting venture into entrepreneurship. The decision was based on “making something that works for my business life and my personal life that would enable me to do the kind of marketing that I wanted.” With two young daughters looking up to her, Clark was able to manage her time and priorities with her own firm.

Your core value is the crux of what you do well, what your customers want, and what is ownable over time.

Carta Marketing was built in 2002 with years of experience and knowledge already in the bank, and Clark acknowledges the challenges and sacrifices that came with it. Today, she feels that entrepreneurship is a hot topic among students. She notices that “students sometimes go into a startup and think the first one will be a success.” Her advice for those students? “I think you must have a backup and learn where and when to pivot.” We often hear about the huge successes of serial entrepreneurs, but we don’t always hear about the failures that came before. Clark’s current position as Executive Director of Marketing and Communications as well as teaching Brand Strategy at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business feeds into the diverse entrepreneurial community within Rice and Houston, and allows for exposure to many entrepreneurial ventures.

With all this, she recognizes one of the most important aspects of success: a great team. According to Clark, success from a marketing standpoint is getting a team to agree on a common direction and the ability to execute. With many exciting successes throughout her career, including launching the Astros new brand identity, uniforms and campaign, Clark considers the ability to create teams that can challenge themselves and flourish to be one of the most rewarding experiences in her work.

Through Clark’s work, the Jones Graduate School of Business launched Rice Business Wisdom, an online ideas magazine that encompasses a brand, tagline, a printed magazine, social media, and informative and funny cartoons by Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Nick Anderson. The cartoon is a creative way to showcase faculty research and visually represent their ideas to the public. If you haven’t already checked it out, you definitely should. Already one of the top business schools in the country, the Jones Graduate School of Business continues to strengthen its presence with help from Clark’s tenacity and know-how.

The only way these successes happen is with great teams.