Left to right, Kate Atwood, Mayor Kasim Reed and Metro Atlanta Chamber CEO Hala Moddelmog.

Kate Atwood is showcasing metro Atlanta to the world in an attempt to attract and retain the next generation of top talent. She joined the Metro Atlanta Chamber last September to lead the new ChooseATL initiative.

“Come to Atlanta, hustle, and people will help you make your mark,” she urges.
This is not just Atwood’s message; it’s her story, too.

At age 23, she moved to Atlanta from Charlottesville, Va., and made her mark quickly by founding the nonprofit Kate’s Club.

Millennials, born in the early 1980s to early 2000s, are now the largest cohort in the workforce. Atwood’s job is to tell young people and young influencers that Atlanta is a hub for tech start-ups, that Georgia is ranked among the top three states for film and entertainment production, and that it boasts a “cool factor” with the Atlanta BeltLine, Ponce City Market, a thriving arts scene and more.

To begin however, “you need to meet people where they are, and evolve their perceptions,” Atwood explained.“Outside of Atlanta, we have a lot of work to do to become millennials’ top choice to start a career and build a life.”

So, her plan includes actions at events like “South by Southwest” in Austin, Texas, one of the world’s largest gatherings of film, music and tech. Her team also will look for talent at colleges and universities in Atlanta and in 10 key markets around the United States.

ChooseATL is also building a presence using digital and social media. This October, ChooseATL will host its second Ultimate Job Interview Contest – an “Apprentice” meets “Shark Tank” experience with landing your first job in Atlanta as the prize.

This year, the goal is for 1,000 contestants to submit a 90-second video about how to make a mark in Atlanta. The top 10 vote getters, as determined by social media, then will create a five-minute pitch on why they should be hired. It culminates with three finalists, who will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta to interview with executives. They also receive two days of VIP treatment throughout the city.

In her personal life, Atwood leads by example. A few years ago she teamed up with April Trigg on Living by Giving (livingbygiving.com), which shares stories meant to inspire others to seek their charitable path.

“I feel so grateful that at a young age I was able to tap into how powerful giving can be in my own life – I want to help others know that power, and give them permission to seek the giving that gives back the most to them,” Atwood said.

She’s referring to Kate’s Club, which she founded in 2014, which helps children face the loss of a parent or sibling.

“I didn’t talk about my mom’s death for seven years,” said Atwood, who was 12 years old when her mother passed away after a long battle with breast cancer.

At 19, as a counselor at a bereavement camp in Virginia, Atwood shared her story with 200 campers. Later, a camper told her about losing both parents.

“This is bigger than me,” she said she realized. “When tragedy happens at a young age, you try to understand why.”

Atwood discovered her “why” was to help kids grieve and show them how to move forward.

At 24, she started the club, to provide a place for grieving children to have fun, develop friendships and learn to cope with their loss.

“From the beginning, I wanted Kate’s Club to be this inviting and warm place where young survivors of grief can feel more alive, less alone and begin to believe in their dreams again in spite of tragic loss,” she said.

–Clare S. Richie