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Making Her Mark at Hallmark

Kim Newton leads internal consulting team for company’s diverse business units

Kim Newton
Vice President of Corporate Strategy & Business Development, Hallmark

Vanderbilt MBA 1996

Today, Kim Newton might be consulting with a greeting card executive at Hallmark in Kansas City. Tomorrow, her team might be addressing a challenge for the company’s Crayola, ornament or home décor businesses. Next week, she might be focused on the digital intersection of greeting cards and Silicon Valley.

It’s all part of the routine for Kim, Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development at Hallmark. And if it all sounds much more complex than the average consumer might expect from a company whose reputation was built on printed cards sold on retail racks, she can quickly set you straight.

“Hallmark is a very diversified business,” says Kim, who has been with company now for two decades. “We have a cable network. We have a home and gifts business. We have a jewelry business. We own about 500 stores and have an independent owner network where retailers license the Hallmark name. And we’re in 90 countries internationally. We have a lot of permission to be part of people’s lives.”

In her position, Kim leads a strategy team that fulfills the role of internal consultant, helping various business units within Hallmark address challenges and opportunities, helping leaders within the company build their capabilities, and helping the company evolve in a changing field.

“There is a misperception about our business,” she says. “The greeting card industry has been in decline for a long time, but the decline is less than one percent a year. It’s not like DVDs or film. It’s still a relatively healthy category. People still send cards — even millennials send cards — and now they’re connecting more than ever with digital options.”

In fact, she says, one of her responsibilities (at least one of the ones she can talk about; “most of my work is pretty confidential,” she says) involves cultivating partnerships across categories with West Coast companies such as Amazon to strengthen Hallmark’s digital capabilities.

Kim’s diverse array of experience within the organization prepared her well for her current role. When she joined Hallmark in 1996, as a freshly minted Owen MBA with no prior corporate work history, she was part of the company’s rotational leadership development program. That enabled her to work at a variety of positions — from marketing manager of Hallmark’s ethnic business center to senior manager of Hallmark Gold Crown Stores to product director of everyday greetings.

A decade ago, Kim joined the company’s business transformation team, which was tasked with looking at Hallmark’s business end to end. “We changed about 80 percent of our processes as a company,” she says, “and that experience gave me an opportunity to look at how our entire company worked (and should work).”

In many ways, Kim’s work has an entrepreneurial flavor — and her time at Owen helped equip her for that responsibility. “I think Vanderbilt really nurtured my entrepreneurial spirit,” she says, “and I think that fueled my confidence.

“People will put limits on you if you allow them to. If you listen to what everyone tells you, you can miss out on great opportunities. Vanderbilt didn’t put any limits on me. In fact, they helped me break down walls.”

“People will put limits on you if you allow them to. If you listen to what everyone tells you, you can miss out on great opportunities.”