Kathryn Flaschner ’14, ’17 (MBA)
Vice President of Brand Licensing, Hello Sunshine
Host, "The Truth Is" Podcast
By Bret Ellington
Kathryn Flaschner’s journey from coaching collegiate field hockey to her current role as the vice president of brand licensing at Hello Sunshine, a production company founded by actor Reese Witherspoon, has been unconventional. Her career path has taken several detours along the way into retail, theater, podcasting, and wellness sessions. Each one of these diverse experiences has shaped her perspective on collaboration, management, and mentorship—leading her to where she is today.
Currently living in Los Angeles, Flaschner is also the host of her own insightful podcast "The Truth Is"—"a podcast dedicated to speaking the truth— the truths of who we are, what we experience, and what we dream of.”
According to Flaschner, transitioning into her current position has been a pivotal moment in her career, and one that aligns with her values and personal convictions. According to their website, Hello Sunshine aims to broaden perspective and empower women by giving them authorship, inspiring agency, and creating a platform to help them shape culture and the world around them.” In addition to “putting women at the center of every story” through making movies and tv shows, Hello Sunshine also builds women-founded, female-centric brands in the marketplace. This is where Flaschner thrives.
“Landing in a role like this feels really aligned to me personally and is probably the biggest milestone I’ve had,” she said. “I could not have predicted when I was just starting out at Simon, that I would ever find my way to a position that is such a perfect fit.”
Embracing unconventional paths
Originally from Buffalo, NY, Flaschner began her academic journey at the University of Rochester where she was a stand-out midfielder on the field hockey team. After graduating with a bachelor’s in political science with minors in both film & media studies and psychology, she began coaching field hockey at Tufts University. While she calls coaching an amazing experience, Flaschner said she was always drawn to Simon.
“During my formative years in Rochester as an undergrad, I always looked at Simon as this really special other piece of the University of Rochester. I have always felt it was a prestigious program, and I thought it would be an incredible opportunity.”
While still living in Boston, Flaschner applied to Simon. Initially she was interested in the MS in Marketing Analytics program. During the interview process, admissions encouraged her to apply to the MBA program. She has a vivid memory of receiving a call from Simon while she was working in retail during the off season.
“I was working at lululemon, folding pants to just make some extra money, and I remember being on my break when I got the call,” she said. “They told me I was accepted in the MBA program, and without really having a thorough understanding of what all it entailed, I thought, ‘if you guys are going to take a chance on me, I’m not going to say no to that.’”
Initially, Flaschner said she felt intimidated by her peers' extensive professional backgrounds, but she soon realized the intrinsic value of her coaching and team-building experience in the business school setting.
“I understand now that coaching and working within a team environment were so beneficial, not only in my transition into the business school setting, but also in the consulting and corporate setting as well,” said Flaschner.
During her time at Simon, Flaschner said she found inspiration in Professor Carol Shuherk's communications courses, describing them as one of the "unsung pieces of curriculum Simon offers." The focus on executive communication and team dynamics proved to be crucial skills that she considers the most important in any professional setting.
Additionally, Flaschner says the experience of being part of an academic team with members with various backgrounds had a huge impact on her. Working within a diverse group not only enhanced her understanding of global business but also exemplified the collective problem-solving philosophy of collaboration at Simon.
“On my first academic team, I was one of five people representing five different countries. The other students represented Ethiopia, India, China, and Tanzania. The depth and breadth of knowledge, and the cultural experience represented within a team of just five people was amazing,” she said. “I remember feeling so privileged to be working with those people and thankful to Simon for thoughtfully building teams that would challenge and expand each of us.” Despite the late nights and long hours of study, Flaschner was also able to find time to volunteer and serve as an assistant coach for the same University of Rochester field hockey team she was a player on. An experience she said she’ll always treasure.
Back to retail and beyond
While earning her MBA, Flaschner landed an internship in the San Francisco Bay area with Cognizant, where she served as the sole business consultant on a digital supply chain transformation project for a global clothing brand. In this role she collaborated with teams across the organization—from engineering, technology, and retail operations.
The internship helped her discover her love of consulting and would lead to a full-time position after graduation as senior consultant of retail and consumer goods at Cognizant. Looking back, she sees the connection of all these experiences as they relate to her career now, calling her job folding pants “fortuitous.”
After graduation, Flaschner moved once again to the Bay Area to take a position at Walmart corporate offices in San Bruno, starting first in product development before going on to build and manage brands across the home division—including actor Drew Barrymore’s Flower Home line. The unexpected transition to her current role was facilitated by relationships and trust she had built at Cognizant. It was a classic example of the power of networking which led her to Hello Sunshine.
“It was a woman I worked for at Walmart that thought of me for this role. A friend of hers was looking to fill the role, and now her friend is my boss,” she said.
"Make sure you’re following what you’re intrinsically interested in because that’s what you’re going to want to build your career around."
—Kathryn Flaschner ’17 (MBA)
Once a coach …
Long before her work championing two national brands owned and launched by women, Flaschner’s commitment to women’s causes was evident. She served as president of the Simon Women in Business organization and was an active member of Cognizant's Women Empowered (WE) initiative. Over her four and a half years at Walmart, Flaschner said she had the opportunity to connect with professional women early in their careers, drawing parallels between her experiences as a field hockey coach and her role as a mentor.
“It’s always been about relationships and connecting. The moments I have really treasured, that remind me of when I was a field hockey coach, are when I’ve been able to dedicate time to support people as they’re just starting to explore their own careers.”
For aspiring professionals, Flaschner offers valuable advice: discern genuine interests from perceived obligations. She encourages students to follow their intrinsic curiosity, emphasizing the importance of authenticity. "Make sure you’re following what you’re intrinsically interested in because that’s what you’re going to want to build your career around," she advises.
Looking ahead, Flaschner is focused on the second season of her podcast, "The Truth Is." Inspired by a wellness session at the Simon Women’s conference, the podcast explores living truthfully in work, relationships, and life. Flaschner aims to provide a platform that empowers individuals to embrace their true selves while navigating their careers.
Flaschner advises against putting added pressure on oneself to maintain perfect balance. Instead, she encourages taking it one day at a time, making space for personal interests and relationships amidst professional responsibilities.
“A professor at Simon once said something I still remember. He didn’t believe in balance—just one big life. On one level it’s semantics. But I find that if I’m investing in things and making time for relationships and hobbies that I enjoy, it balances itself,” she said.
The impact of the Simon alumni network
Flaschner said being part of the Simon alumni network has been a source of connection and support especially when she just moved to LA. But no matter where she is, she said she always treasures the opportunity to connect with both current students and alums and finds that they always share her affinity for the School.
“Whenever I’m at a Simon event—virtually from California or back in Rochester—it feels like going home. It’s such a reset and reminder of how fortunate I am to have attended Simon and be a part of this community. There’s so much admiration and respect for having attended Simon, and anytime I connect with an alum—whether I’ve met them before or not—we both have that mutual feeling of how special it was.”