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Dual Careers Unite Tradition and Experience

Kristin O'Leary

Experience and tradition are two notions that have guided Kristin O'Leary to concurrent jobs and a city she loves.

"I am blessed to have two jobs that I love. I am the Director of Strategic Quality at J.M. Wilson Corporation, a third-generation, family owned and operated Managing General Agency providing specialty insurance products to independent insurance agents for risks in 31 states, where I am focused on continuously providing exceptional customer experiences to our customers through strategic and quality initiative implementation," O'Leary said.

"I also work as Marketing Manager at my family's independently owned and operated pet and farm supply store, Oak Ridge Feed, where I also focus on customer experience, as well as event planning and customer communications.

"Both of my roles allow me to do what I love, which is to help people and process, brainstorm, and implement new ideas and create exceptional customer experiences.

"My goal every day is to surprise and delight my customers by doing more than expected - whether that is with a new approach or idea, a solution that solves a challenge they are facing, or simply remembering and asking about their family. I consider it a personal challenge to provide an exceptional customer experience to each person I encounter - and I love a challenge!"

A Kalamazoo native, of sorts, O'Leary was born at Borgess Hospital.

"I can actually pick out the window of the room at Borgess where I was born. Although I was raised on a farm in Mattawan, I consider myself a Kalamazooian," she said.

The element of tradition was a major tipping point in her decision to attend college locally.

"Upon graduation from Mattawan High School, I considered several different colleges and selected the Haworth College of Business and the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University (WMU)," she said.

"My family has a long history with WMU - my grandfather was a WMU police officer, my father worked in the WMU Public Safety department, and my mother was the Director of WMU's Battle Creek location and it was a tradition that I wanted to carry on.

"As a student, I pursued business, biology, and environmental studies. I know, an interesting combination. I loved the creative thought process behind both biological and marketing research. This drive to strategically brainstorming different approaches as well as testing and evaluating their success has led me to where I am today."

After growing up in the area and attending college, O'Leary said she has had opportunities to leave Kalamazoo, but always makes the decision to stay.

"Kalamazoo is where I want to be. It's the community and people that make this city great," she said.

A resident of the Hill 'N' Brook neighborhood, O'Leary said she and her husband love the atmosphere and proximity to nature that the area offers.

"The small town feel of the shops and restaurants in the area make it feel welcoming and friendly. It's also the connection to nature that drew me to the Hill 'N' Brook neighborhood. With multiple lakes and streams, there is no shortage of wildlife and plant life to enjoy. My husband and I love to hike with our dogs at Asylum Lake and kayak in the local creeks," she said.

In addition to the relaxing elements of nature found around Hill 'N' Brook and Kalamazoo in general, O'Leary also praised the wealth of activities and organizations as an asset to the community.

When asked what she enjoys most about Kalamazoo, O'Leary responded, "The entire experience!

"I love strolling through downtown and celebrating local artists during the monthly Art Hops, being active with community friends at Kalamazoo Area Runners events, learning and growing with professional meetings with the Southwest Michigan Chapter of the American Marketing Association, and the Kalamazoo HubSpot Users Group, building relationships with other local business owners, and connecting with local philanthropic groups that I am passionate about - including the Kalamazoo Humane Society and the Southwest Michigan SPCA."

Giving back and pursuing her philanthropic passions are what O'Leary said help her connect more deeply with the Kalamazoo community.

"I am honored to actively participate in supporting the community at J.M. Wilson through a philanthropy team, where we work with associates to support community causes that are important to them," she said.

"I also organize an annual fundraising event for Oak Ridge Feed with the Southwest Michigan SPCA called Dog-O-Ween where we bring families and their pets together with Halloween fun to raise funds to support the SWMI SPCA's community outreach initiatives and care for pets who are in need of homes. Now in our sixth year, this event continues to grow and help Kalamazoo animals and the families that care for them."

In addition to helping provide excellent customer experiences and meet the needs of rescue animals, O'Leary also offers suggestions for those considering a path similar to hers.

"Be passionate, dive in, and have a vision," O'Leary said. "To truly learn and grow, I feel you have to completely devote yourself to that goal. If you can envision where you would like to be, what you need to do to get there, and you are willing to make the commitment and sacrifice, you can make it happen."

Given the opportunity to counsel her former self, O'Leary said, "I would tell myself that I don't need to have all of the answers. If you know yourself, what you excel at, what brings you joy, you will find it. I am blessed to be supported in following that path."

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