Leadership Through Love

By Liz Harroun – March 1, 2018
photo by Brian Fitzsimmons

Claire Siegel is the Lead Dietician of Snap Kitchen, the healthy meal delivery service, and Haley Robison is the CEO of Kammok, Austin’s beloved outdoor gear company. Even with their demanding professional careers, these two Austin women also make time for relationships, self-care, travel, and fitness. How do they manage to do it all? We sat down with them to find out. 

Claire Siegel

When Siegel isn’t working on new content and offerings for Snap Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog (The Petite Professional) or teaching yoga around town. She promotes being gentle with yourself and self-love as keys to growth and healing. 

What led you to study nutrition?
My understanding of food as it relates to health started at a very young age. I grew up as an overweight child, so that came with normal torements of youthhood. I experienced bullying and lack of self confidence. I felt like I did not fit in or look like the other girls. I was in middle school when I first started doing Weight Watchers. Eventually, I just grew into my body and became the average build. But, still, I always had this understanding of [dieting] that the average child does not think about on a day-to-day basis. 

At the same time, I formed a true love of cooking. I watched Food Network every day when I came home from school and was cooking meals for my family all the time. So, I always loved food in terms of flavors and things like that, and coming together for every meal was always very important for my family. And also understanding that all the things you eat affect the way your body looks, the way you feel about your body, and the way you feel about yourself. I ended up adding nutrition [to my studies in college], pursuing the dietetic track.

Why do you enjoy working at Snap Kitchen? 
Working with Snap gives me this amazing tool to bring real food to real people. We are real about the things people want to eat. Our food is really satisfying and filling and also delicious. We make healthy versions of classic comfort food that you actually want to eat. And we also get that you’re not going to cook from a bunch of different ingredients in a box; that you want something super easy that you can just microwave and eat at and home or at work.

Working with Snap really shaped my own food philosophy further. That and doing the Whole30 a couple times is how I got to this real-food focused place. I know in my body I do best with a Paleo-based diet that’s generally low in carbs with some room for fun, especially on the weekends. Because, like I said, I love food, and I love my friends, and we like to experience that together. 

Why did you pursue yoga teacher training? 
Almost six months ago, in the summer, I started going through some personal health issues and ended up getting diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. And in midst of all that, there was a lot of chaos in terms of going through testing to reach a diagnoses and a plan, and there were a ton of questions and a lot of stress. My sort of “picture perfect dietitian health” image that I had of myself was ripped out from under me. I feel like I lost my sense of autonomy with my health. I’ve always understood that food is something you have control over. You can put it in your body and have this amazing outcome of health through that. I felt as if I was doing all this stuff right, and look what happened to me. I felt like my world was over as I knew it, but I kept getting drawn to yoga. 

I always hated yoga; I thought it was hard, and I felt like I was crumpling over into all these positions. I didn't feel beautiful or elegant. But I was drawn to it going through this health journey and trying to figure out what is wrong with me. It was my way of not only grounding myself and finding this meditative experience, but also a great reminder that I’m still really healthy. I’m still able-bodied, and it has served me in so many ways.

What was the biggest habit or mindset shift that helped you learn to love yourself through this journey?
One, it’s realizing that life is really short; nothing is promised. And that these little things we worry about, in the grand scheme of things, don’t matter at all. Looking back at my relationship with food and my body, there is a time when I was counting calories and weighing my food and tracking everything in MyFitnessPal, down to the gram of carb. I was probably 10 pounds lighter, but I felt so miserable, and I hated my body. I felt so self-conscious and fat. Now I look back, five years later, and while I might be 10 pounds heavier, my relationship with food is so much better because I’ve realized that it doesn't matter that much. When I think about it, this diagnoses was a blessing in disguise because I started taking better care of myself and appreciating my body more.  

So I don’t love my thighs every single day, but they allow me to hold myself up in plank, for example. Everyone is fortunate enough to do that. So, I don’t care if I have cellulite, because I can do all this badass stuff. 

Haley Robison 

Robison’s love for adventure has led her from leading backpacking trips for teenagers and family to her current role as CEO of Kammok. She now loves getting an early run on Lady Bird Lake in before heading into the office on East Seventh Street. 

Is there anything you’re personally focusing on in 2018?
I read The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines and was really inspired by Joanna’s mental fortitude and how she chose not to fight her circumstances but embrace them. Presence is a discipline that requires mornings for you to process and reflect so that you can be clear-minded throughout the day. A lot of my 20s, I let my own baggage be a recording in my head that prevented me from being present with people because I always had this soundtrack of other thoughts. The times recently when I haven’t had that soundtrack because I’ve taken time to clear it out have been really rich. The first day of 2018 was really tough, but remembering Joanna’s embracing of circumstances—instead of fighting them—was really helpful.

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What inspired you to be a CEO in the outdoor industry?
I was inspired by the opportunity to set an example for younger women as well as challenge my own assumption for what’s possible for myself. I realize that I am now a female CEO because I stand on the shoulders of radical feminists, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a radical feminist. I think there is an opportunity for a third way where my gaining of power doesn’t mean that men around me have less power, but how I, as a leader, can amplify both male and female leaders. That’s a new narrative that I’ve been afforded the opportunity to create because of some really radical feminists that took huge strides and risks to break glass ceilings. I think, by and large, the tides are changing slowly, and I get to be a part of that.
Last year at Outdoor Retailer, there was a panel called “When Women Lead.” When asked what success looks like, I responded that success is when the title of this panel is called “Brand Collaboration in Climate Change.” You almost have to have the conversation with the goal of eventually not having the conversation.

Can you explain Kammok’s mission and core values? 
Our expressed mission is equip and inspire for life-changing adventure. Our core values are adventure, community, and love. We carry out our mission and values by creating well-designed gear that is versatile and durable. We also want to invite customers into a broader narrative to engage with community and try something new. Really simply, we want to be a force for good in the world. 

The outdoors is most transformative when it’s experienced in community with intention to serve others. The times that have shaped me the most are leading 16-year-olds in the wilderness or taking my mom and aunt backpacking. Because these were moments of self-discovery while also introducing something new to other people. When we take risks ourselves and invite the discomfort, we are being shaped to invite more people into that experience of life change.

Why is love the greatest adventure of them all? 
In American culture, the word ‘love’ is ubiquitous and can mean a lot of things. The highest form of love is complete self-sacrifice through the service of others. My personal understanding of love comes from my faith and belief in Jesus and how his life of love and sacrifice models what it really means to love somebody—to lay down your life for them. So, I think that love is the greatest adventure because it requires a giving of self for another, and within that we often find ourselves. I have found that when I’m serving others through love that I am the most changed and alive.



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