Katie Kofron Virtue, '07, has been thinking a lot about purpose lately, both in travel and in life.
As principal at Festive Road, a global, specialist business travel consultancy, Virtue works with clients to help them create better travel programs with purpose in mind – considering the well-being of their employees, sustainable approaches, and the value of travel to the business. She also leads the organization’s supplier consulting practice, helping airlines, hotels, travel management companies, and others to shape the future of business travel and meetings.
Her work earned her international recognition in October 2023 as one of the top 50 women in business travel by the Global Business Travel Association’s WINiT. She was honored in the “Women Innovating the Way We Travel” category, which was especially gratifying for her.
“I was excited that it was that category, because it's something that my company and I are very passionate about,” she said. “I've done a lot of work on what we call purposeful travel, which has been gaining adoption in the industry, especially post-COVID. If people are coming back to travel, how do we do it in a smarter, more purposeful way? And what is travel’s impact on the planet, what’s the impact to the person?”
Virtue’s interest in travel was inspired as a young ice hockey player, when she would go to different cities to compete with her team. Her interest in consulting was piqued during her undergraduate years as a marketing major at Niagara, where she learned about entrepreneurship and strategic thinking. After graduation, she earned her MBA at Kent State University, during which she learned more about consulting and worked with local community entrepreneurs and students to help them access the resources they needed to launch their businesses.
Virtue’s first consulting job was with Klay Management, a small firm in Calgary, Alberta, where she had moved with Ryan Virtue, a member of NU’s Class of 2007 and her future husband. At Klay, she was able to draw upon both her entrepreneurship and marketing experience as she learned business continuity planning, developed pandemic response strategies, organized business seminars, created newsletters, and designed a website for the company.
A little over a year later, she and Ryan, who were now married, decided to move back to her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. She joined another small company, Corporate United, as a category manager, a newly created position that again enabled her to use both her marketing and consulting expertise to lead strategic planning and execution for numerous product categories.
Virtue took on additional categories during her nearly eight-year tenure with the company, primarily within the travel industry. She worked with clients on their corporate travel programs to connect them with suppliers and address traveler satisfaction. She eventually led a small team and learned more about leadership and small business growth as the company expanded to 50 employees.
In 2017, Corporate United was acquired by OMNIA Partners, and Virtue was named director of strategic partner development. In this role, she continued her work in travel management and learned more about the procurement industry.
Through her work in business travel, Virtue became more interested in helping clients align their travel programs with their company’s objectives and those of their employees. When she decided she wanted to focus more on the travel industry and return to a more consultative role, she left OMNIA to join Festive Road.
Since then, she has worked with companies to evaluate their travel needs and bring them unique insights to optimize their travel program, and has been a frequent speaker on different business travel topics. She is also chair of the Global Business Travel Association’s technology committee and a mentor in its Ladders program, where she was recognized as co-mentor of the year in 2023.
Although Virtue was enjoying career success, her work schedule, which often included weekends and evenings, was becoming stressful as she aimed to balance work and personal priorities. When a colleague suggested she consider operating at 70% rather than at 100%, she took that advice to heart.
“Growing up in school and athletics, there was always the 100% expectation, and I was always striving for perfection,” she said. “When someone finally said it's OK to slow down, it's OK to not be perfect, it was like, now, what can I do?”
Virtue spent the following day reflecting on what gave her life purpose and meaning, and how her work could align with those values. It became a passion for her, she said.
“I've learned the more I have space, pace, and grace in my life, it improves my strategic thinking and the way I engage with others,” she said.
In October, Virtue shared what she learned during a GBTA WINiT summit, where she presented on being bold but finding balance. She has also done sessions with clients’ sales and account management teams and is considering different ways to grow this work so she can inspire “people to discover what’s meaningful to them by finding space.”
“The biggest outcome of finding space is realizing what you can bring to others,” she said.
Outside of work, Virtue enjoys spending time with Ryan and their boys, Easton and Cooper, who share her love for hockey. She is also completing an ambitious goal to run the world, completing a race on every continent. She’s done five so far, with her sixth, Antarctica, scheduled for March.