27-Year-Old with Degree in Communication Named VP and Partner of Momentum Marketing
Shelby Cook of Peru, Indiana, knew from a young age that she wanted to lead. So when she arrived at Grace College as a freshman in 2013, she knew that a degree in communication would help her accomplish that goal, regardless of where or whom she was leading. Now, at 27 years old, Cook has been named a Vice President and Partner of Momentum Marketing in Elkhart, Indiana, and she is leading in ways she never imagined possible.
Cook is quick to say that she would not be where she is were it not for the influence of many great leaders who took the time to invest in her. Like a chain of dominos knocking the next into motion, Cook’s professional journey has been a product of one professional connection leading to another. And it all began with her advisor and communication professor at Grace, Dr. Pat Loebs, who showed her the great value of a degree in communication.
“While a basic business degree is great, there is so much more to a degree in communication,” said Cook. “You get to learn the art of speaking, understand why people communicate the way that they do and explore all there is beneath the surface of a conversation. Pat really pushed me to grab a hold of these things, and he is one of the main reasons why I am where I am. He saw the potential in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
Cook’s senior year at Grace, Loebs connected her with an internship at Warsaw-based marketing agency, 212 Media Studios. It was there that she was introduced to her first professional mentor, David Phelps, the owner and CEO.
After Cook graduated in 2016, Phelps offered her a full-time position allowing her to work directly with clients on social media marketing and website edits.
“That laid the foundation for my marketing experience and really set the trajectory for where I would go next,” reflected Cook.
One of the clients she worked with was Cultivate Food Rescue, an organization that fights food insecurity in the South Bend area. Phelps was made aware that the organization needed a Volunteer and Communication Coordinator and recommended Cook for the position. After a meeting with the organization’s leadership, Cook knew that it would be a good fit for her skillset – interacting with people and leading the community to engage in a worthy cause.
After Cook came on board, Cultivate partnered with the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Academy to launch a backpack program that supplied backpacks full of frozen meals to children experiencing food insecurity. The initiative turned heads at the national level, and Cook led the charge in getting the good word out. To her great surprise, the Rachel Ray Show picked up the story.
“At age 23, I ended up being submerged in a PR nightmare essentially,” said Cook. “There was so much publicity and we didn’t know what to do.”
As a result of the positive press, Cultivate grew tremendously. Under Cook’s leadership, the organization’s volunteer base grew from 300 volunteers to more than 1,200 in two and a half years.
Around that time, a connection at the Commerce’s Leadership Academy recommended Cook to Shane Frost, owner of Momentum Marketing, to fill a project manager position.
Cook immediately identified Frost as a leader who invests in his people and cultivates a strong company culture. She knew that she wanted to be a part of what was happening at Momentum.
In true Cook fashion, growth followed her. She used the skills gained from her degree in communication to engage the community and build key relationships.
“Elkhart has been such a great community to be a part of,” said Cook. “I love getting to meet community leaders and rub shoulders with them because they’ve helped mold me into who I am today. But the best part of what I get to do is working very closely with clients. If they have questions and concerns, I get to be the one who brings those back to the team. It’s so cool to be able to orchestrate that conversation and watch the team respond to those needs.”
A year after arriving, Cook was promoted to director of operations, and not long after, Frost approached her about becoming a vice president and partner of the agency.
“I absolutely love this company and I love what we’re doing,” said Cook. “It was a no-brainer.”
Most recently, Cook was named “40 Under 40” in Michiana, which shines the spotlight on 40 of the region’s most talented and dedicated young leaders and professionals.
“I’m so honored to pave the way for young professionals who might think that they are too young for people to take them seriously,” said Cook, who also serves as co-chair of the young professionals group at the Chamber of Commerce. “I really feel like this is what I have always wanted to do, and the fact that I’m doing this so young, I hope speaks to young professionals. It doesn’t matter if you’re young – you bring great ideas to the table.”
Looking forward, Cook hopes to be a key member of the Elkhart community and has high hopes for the future of Momentum Marketing. Beyond that, she wants to be a leader who continues to look back and pass the baton to those behind her like the many individuals who did so for her.
“I’m not quite sure what the future looks like,” said Cook. “But I hope it’s bright and big, and I am ready to tackle anything that comes along.”
Do you want a degree that equips you for leadership regardless of your age? Learn more about Grace College’s degree in communication.