Kara Noel Vanderpool Ward & The Launch Group, LLC
Why the Elle Woods Bend and Snap is All I Really Need to Know


It was nearly a year after the birth of my second child when I started thinking about going back to my marketing job full time. Not 24 hours after that discussion did I find myself orchestrating the care of a terminal ill parent, taking over care of that parents mother, assuming responsibilities of my parents business, and still trying to raise my then 1 and 3 year old daughters. I guess contemplating wasn’t exactly what the universe had in mind, because life decided it was time for me to bend and snap. 

Five months later, I planned a funeral.  I thought life would go back to “normal” after that, not realizing that my life was forever altered as the responsibilities I had as mother, caregiver, businessperson, were amplified.  I never did go back to that marketing job.  In fact, all my well thought out and ambitious plans for “having it all” were simply wiped off the table.  In those tidies months I learned to bend, no day, in fact , no minute, was the same as the one before as I scrambled to handle the basic needs of my mother, paralyzed and dying of a brain tumor, keep a business of a grieving father alive, and tend the needs of two toddlers. In those tidies months I learned to snap, I did not sleep, I did not make plans, I made life altering decisions with little to no information, and most of all I learned to fail fast and move on.   

I never thought to far in to the future after that.  In fact, I began to loathe the word “plan”, because as sure as I had one, something would change it.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.  But when life decided to teach me a lesson, she sure taught me a valuable one.  That the best plan I could ever have is to simply learn to bend and snap.  While bend and snap was a move portrayed slightly differently in the movie Legally Blonde then here, it is the meaning that is the same -be open to possibility, deal with change no matter how minor or drastic, and make quick decisions when needed.  In essence it is the very reason that in the midst of all my existing and overwhelming responsibility I launched my own company.


When it comes to business, the movie Legally Blonde is probably not the medium that is typically quoted by a habitual entrepreneur and CEO, but then again my journey to that title didn’t exactly happen in a typical manner either. Sure, it started out like most. I graduated high school and was easily accepted to every college I applied to. I graduated early with and excellent GPA, got a job, got married, bought house, had kids.  That was the “plan” and I followed it to a tee.  Yes, I was going to have it all.  As long as I stuck to the plan, which as a rather uptight person with control issues seemed like a comfortable arrangement. There was always, however, this gut feeling that I should be doing something else.  I wasn’t sure what, but it didn’t seem to fit into the box I had conveniently built for myself, so I suppressed it and moved ahead. 

As a child I did not fancy Barbie’s or playing house, my favorite game to play was “office.”  I didn’t realize how much I liked playing “office” until I had to bend and snap.  While cleaning out my mother’s house after her passing I found a bunch of stuff in my old closet.  I had binders and binders full of rather important papers and documents drafted for my pretend career.  I even had a logo, which wasn’t half bad for an 8 year old with a box of fresh markers.  My very important 8 year old documents indicated having an office in Baltimore, MD (as a native born Washington D.C. girl, I was an avid Orioles fan so Baltimore seemed like the best possible place). I had a fancy office and apparently wore a lot of red lipstick. (again proving there is nothing a box of markers can’t communicate).

I’m not sure where in the realm of my life it happened, but I lost site of the pure joy of sitting in my make shift playroom office.   But that fateful day when life said bend and snap, I did, and albeit it for a very difficult circumstance, it was the reason I found that stuff in the closet, and it was the reason that I realized that having that ability was indeed the exact trait one needed to turn pretend offices to real ones. 

Professional Challenge:

So maybe my office my office isn’t in Inner Harbor, but it is in suburban Virginia and that’s just fine.  I’m thriving here and have built a debt free company with a bright future.  It’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges, there always are.    My current challenge is one I believe most CEO’s face.  When is time to scale, how quickly can I scale, and how do I leverage opportunity to dollars in a sustainable manner?  Recently, my firm has received some nice attention.  At the same time my brother’s firm received a major designation.  Our two industries, marketing and technology go hand in hand.  We are in the process of figuring out how to merge or develop a strategic partnership to effectively capitalize on our respective successes.  Trying to scale your company is scary and difficult enough, add in a family dynamic, and it brings it to an entirely different level.  On one hand it brings an enormous amount of comfort, knowing there is a built in trust factor that would otherwise take years to cultivate with an outside hire.  That exact same reason also increases a risk factor that goes beyond the board room.

Personal Challenge:

I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, my father a successfully business owner, same of his father, and if you look back at my family history, owning a business dates back to the Revolutionary War.  Even with this long history of entrepreneurs, one thing was the same, I never saw a female business owner in my family and maybe that’s why I never really contemplated the idea of owning a business and only ever played the idea.  It wasn’t that I was discouraged to do so, I just lacked the confidence.  Confidence which I had to find quickly when I was left with no choice but to care for a dying parent and immediately assume a business role, in an industry unfamiliar to me.  It was truly the best education of my life.  I knew how to study from books, but at that moment I had to act, I had to snap, I had to make business and medical decisions, right or wrong, and learn how to lead from where I was.

I am the first female in my family to step outside of a traditional role and run a company, which brings with it a unique dynamic.  Despite the fact that I put in just as many work hours as my husband, brother and father, I still must also be the primary caretaker for my grandmother and daughters.  That’s why learning to bend and snap is a crucial lesson I must carry with me.  I might be prepping for a big client but the minute the phone rings with a puke report from the school nurse, it’s still me who has to bend…and….snap, rearranging meetings and prepping staff via phone while  stopping to pick up ginger ale and trash bags on the way to the school.  My days are incredibly diverse that way and it can be exhausting having to figure out how to make your brain work in so many directions at once.  If only my clients knew that 5 minutes before I presented a major campaign to them I was also figuring out to throw together a presidents day costume and convincing the local sheriff that my grandmother just got confused and accidentally went into the wrong house ( I might add here that an important component of bend and snap is also learning to laugh). 

I hope that my kids see me struggle, I want them to see my success, and I want them to see how they can do it better than I ever could.  My girls (now 10 and 12) and I watch that movie Legally Blonde a lot.  I don’t know that they can see the meaning of bend and snap over the move bend and snap.  I think they just love Elle’s spirit and her sparkly clothes, and that’s ok because there was a time when I thought having red lipstick was easily obtainable and meant success….then I learned to bend and snap and saw there could be so much more!