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Martha Vetter: Casual Excellence

Martha Vetter isn’t just good at her craft – she’s excellent. 

But that’s what the former marketing agency owner and Chicks for Charity founder spent her entire life perfecting: casual excellence. Being great at what you do and putting in the hard work, without taking life too seriously. 

“I’ve never been a rule follower,” Vetter said. “I’m not a big one for meetings and committees and being real formal about things. I’m very casual. And anything that I’m a part of, I want it to reflect that. Can we laugh? Does it have to be so serious? Laughter doesn’t mean that you’re not doing great work. It’s like, can we just do it in an environment where we’re enjoying it and having fun?”

Read on below, and listen to the full interview, here: 

From Medical to Marketing

Hailing from Akron, Vetter is one of 14 children, clocking in at number 11. Her parents encouraged each of her siblings to pursue higher education, but Vetter didn’t want to follow in any of their shadows, so she was the first of her family to attend Bowling Green State University.

Initially, Vetter wanted to enter the medical field as a nurse. Upon seeing the blood in one of the presentations, however, she fainted, and quickly changed majors. She toyed around with medical records technology, even transferring to the University of Pittsburgh for a semester to study it.

“I hated everything about it,” Vetter said. “I was like, ‘I need to go back to Bowling Green where my friends are and where my life is.’”

After coming back to BGSU, she took up journalism because of her love of writing. However, she didn’t want to work at a newspaper, so she found her true passion through Public Relations writing. She earned her degree through the College of Business, having acquired skills through varying business classes, and eventually got her Master’s Degree in Business and Organizational Communication from the University of Akron.

R/P Marketing Public Relations

Upon graduating, Vetter took a job at a company she didn’t really care for, but met two women there named Jenny Wilson and Ann Roman who worked with her to start their own business. 

The three women resigned their jobs within six months and dove headfirst into starting their own company: R/P Marketing Public Relations. Their first client was the former large scale bookstore chain, Borders.

“We took off from the very beginning,” Vetter said. “It was just three women doing great work.”

Vetter had the business savvy and PR background, Roman brought her own PR background and Wilson was a great designer; all key components to the three making a good team. After about a year, though, Wilson opted to be bought out, and eventually Roman became the head of marketing and communications at Borders – leaving Vetter to hold down the fort.

She was up to the task, though, realizing only half a year later that she loved the freedom to make decisions on her own and get the experience of running operations solo.

“I just have had the very best career working with phenomenal clients and a great team,” Vetter said.

Not only does Vetter view her experience as inspiring to herself to achieve this feat, but is also proud to inspire other women to garner their own bravery and pursue their dreams. Being women, there were some issues they faced starting their own business in a more male-dominated landscape, but ultimately they fought through it.

“There very much was a ceiling and an old boys club – that was all real,” Vetter said. “We just didn’t let it define us. We were focused on our craft and doing great work.”

Creating Chicks for Charity

In 2006, while Vetter was still running her company, the group was brainstorming how to raise money for a local nonprofit. One of the employees, who was at the time a young, 20-something art director, said “I don’t really have very much money to give. And besides, nobody ever asked me to give,” and the idea for Chicks was born. 

Chicks for Charity is a philanthropic organization dedicated to giving back to small, under-the-radar charities in Toledo. The organization is composed of women and young women that have a giving mindset. The organization chooses a local organization and charity that will receive all funds raised throughout the year. One hundred percent of the money raised goes to the chosen organization. 

“We (started) talking to those people that want to give back but may not be able to write a $1,000 check or that $500 check or even $100 check,” Vetter said. “If we could all do something to give back then we put that money together and we could really make a difference, especially for small under the radar charities.”

Anyone can be a part of Chicks, no matter if you’re in elementary school or retired. In fact, Vetter says the best donation she ever received for the organization was from a little girl who hosted a lemonade stand to raise money for Chicks, and brought in a baggie of coins that amounted to $15.38.

“It’s not about the size of their bank account; it’s about the size of their heart,” Vetter said.

R/P Marketing Public Relations was helping to handle a lot of the leg work of Chicks for Charity. However, when Vetter sold her company in 2017, the woman who bought the company wasn’t involved with Chicks, so the organization went on a bit of a hiatus.

Now, after Vetter took some time to enjoy retirement, the organization is making a comeback with a pending nonprofit status. Chicks for Charity celebrated its return at The Awesome Kickoff & Awards party in May, where the group announced its new chosen charity, HOPE Toledo, and gave out “Awesome” awards to community standouts.

In addition to donating to the chosen charity, Chicks also has a few programs in the works. One is the Cookie Jar Trust, where community members in need are given microgrants to help them out. Another is the $100 Chick Challenge, where they give a Chicks member $100 to pay it forward however they see fit. The group is also working on the Junior Chicks Advisory Board, where young women can get experience participating in charity work, in hopes that the lesson of giving back will start early.

Vetter is proud to have started this organization, as it is her true life’s passion.

“I was always brought up to give back and do what we could do,” Vetter said. “I always feel better when I’m helping. I get more joy out of giving my money than spending it, so getting others to also feel that vibe and how good it feels to help someone out has been so inspiring to me. I’ve worked with so many women in my career… It’s amazing what we could all do when we work together.” 

Leaving a Legacy

Outside of her PR work and running Chicks for Charity, Vetter volunteers in other spaces like serving on the Lourdes board, working with the Toledo Humane Society, hospice and several different organizations working to cure Type 1 Diabetes, including the Spring Point Project.

Vetter is also a gardener, loves spending time with her grandchildren and is a “death junkie” as she puts it – death itself intrigues her. She hopes that when her time comes, people remember her as being fun, working hard and giving back as much as possible. 

“I want to be known for having done my best and having strong integrity,” Vetter said. “To be known as a fair and honest person is probably the most important thing.” 

She also hopes that other women look at her work and are inspired to pursue their own passions.

“I’m a big believer in following your passion. That’s how it worked for me,” Vetter said. “ I would encourage anybody thinking about (starting your own business) to find what it is you really like and that you’re good at, and just go for it. You’ll be better off for it.”

Get to know Martha: 

What is the last book that you read or one that you’re reading right now?

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. It’s one of the best business books because it encourages you to just keep going and you’ll get there. 


What music are you listening to right now?

I kind of listen to everything, but I love musicals. I loved Hamilton and My Fair Lady is an old favorite of mine. But I love them all. My kids listen to country, so I do too, but I’m rock and roll – I came up in that era.


What is your favorite movie or television show?

It’s old now, but Ted Lasso really resonated with me. I love the lessons of the show.


What are some hobbies or special interests that you have outside of work?

I love gardening, and I have five grandkids and I love getting to spend time with them.


How do you care for your mental health?

I’m rather introverted in many ways – I’m not a party person, I’m a “hang out on the patio with a glass of wine and a few friends” kind of person. One thing that’s been helpful for me is taking time for myself: reading a book, tending to the garden, going to bed early and not feeling guilty about it, etc.


What are the qualities that you value in those that you work with professionally and those that you associate with personally?

I value casual excellence. It’s a term we used back in our work days: the ability to be casual and have fun, but also be excellent at your craft. 


Are there any national charities that you gravitate toward?

Ones that deal with Type 1 Diabetes we have supported, the American Heart Association we have supported and the National Humane Society are probably the three largest ones.


If you could give your childhood self any piece of advice or encouragement, what would you say?

I would tell myself to not try so hard all the time. To give myself a little more peace to relax and do things that are enjoyable to you and not stress about things so much.

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