“Writing is 100 percent ‘me’ and trying to figure life out and noticing its little details,” said Brittany Chaffee ’10.
As a little girl, Chaffee would scurry after her mother through the grocery store, book in hand, and develop a callus on the middle finger of her writing hand from daily journaling. After walking through the Arches of the University of St. Thomas, she honed that passion for storytelling into real-world job skills.
Seven years after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications and advertising, Chaffee has forged a career that is, by design and a dash of serendipity, her own. As the marketing manager at Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines, she is right where she wants to be: “on the creative side of marketing.”
“I think storytelling is the most powerful way we sell things,” Chaffee said. “Anything. You can build relationships, brand loyalty.”
For her first job after graduation she landed on the account side of advertising, working mostly in project management for her agency’s clients.
“I was 23 years old and talking to big clients. It was terrifying!” Chaffee said. “So I freaked out and became a flight attendant with Sun Country for two years.”
The change in course, however, ultimately drew her back into advertising.
On one flight she met Marty Davis, owner of Cambria and Sun Country Airlines, who encouraged Chaffee to give her calling another try. She took his advice and soon was working as a copywriter at Cambria, immersed in the creative side of marketing where she flourished.
After a few months as a copywriter, she joined the social media team at nearby Sun Country, splitting her time between the two roles for about a year before transitioning to Sun Country full time. She took a short hiatus from the airline to pursue an opportunity with a start-up that didn’t pan out and returned to Sun Country, which was happy to have her back.
Her current role as the overseer of Sun Country’s brand offers her opportunities to use her creative chops in many areas, be it project management, writing radio copy and social media content (which she manages), or managing the creative and publishing process of the airline’s in-flight magazine, among other responsibilities. She cherishes her job to the point that she proudly declared herself a “Sun Country lifer.”
Her affection for her work comes through in her effervescence when she reflects on Sun Country’s blog, which she helped launch in May ̶ “my little baby,” she called it. It also comes through in the conviction in her voice when she explains why she does what she does.
“We take the value of what the company stands for, which is, ‘We’re the hometown airline, and we value being your neighbor,’” Chaffee said. “Our story is that we create memories that matter, and then my team formats that message into stories through the people who fly with us.”
The Wild Morning
Last year she pursued a passion project in her spare time, a coffee-table book called The Wild Morning. The book was released in April and features informal, intimate, black-and-white photographs of women in their homes at the start of their days. Photographer David Puente captured the women on film. Chaffee penned profiles of the featured women, which accompany their photos.
“At first, when Dave and I were deciding who to include, I thought, ‘Do they have a specific voice in the community?’” Chaffee said. “But a lot of the women we ended up asking to participate would ask us, ‘Why do you want to photograph me? I’m boring.’ And I think that boringness is what we loved. And being OK with boring. Being an empowered and passionate woman is a great thing to aspire to, of course, but that ‘boring’ side, the one that doesn’t want to do anything in the morning, that’s crabby sometimes, that’s what we wanted to capture.”
Chaffee, 29, sees a lot of crossover between her experience capturing women in the vulnerability and hope that morning brings and her role at Sun Country.
“Wild Morning has made me even more driven to bring value to people through storytelling because it’s like, ‘Look at all these people who love to look at these stories and relate to them. There’s a tangibility there that makes sense to people,” she said. “Instead of hearing about a fare sale, they’re going to associate the company with what matters to them.”
She said that tangibility through storytelling has always been in the back of her mind.
“I remember when someone from Haberman ... came to one of my classes at St. Thomas when we were thinking about jobs and talked about their storytelling and how it was central to how they work,” she said. “That’s how I find value in things.”
It is Chaffee’s hope that Wild Morning’s reach extends beyond just book sales. The book has stirred “good conversations” on social media as well as panels. Additionally, she and Puente chose to contribute some of the proceeds to Faith's Lodge, a retreat in northern Wisconsin that supports parents and families facing the death or medically complex condition of a child in a peaceful environment to reflect on the past, renew strength for the present and build hope for the future.
Editor's note: This story is part of our year-long celebration of St. Thomas' 40th anniversary of co-education.