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Celebrating Women: Katherine Chapin

Meet the Managing Partner of Health Savings Associates


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Photo by Jennifer Siegwart

What is your business?

We provide employee benefits, including health insurance, dental, and life insurance. We’re not performing brain surgery, but if you need brain surgery, we are the right partners for you to help navigate through it.

How have you been affected by the Affordable Care Act?

We went through a lot of changes and are in for more. The operative word is “change.” We prefer to be nimble and we need to be flexible. I came from a corporate environment and I quickly learned that running an independent business is entirely different.

Where did you come from?

I worked for a Fortune 500 company and had responsibility for a $125-million P&L. I was hired by Mattel to change the image of Barbie. I was director of Barbie Consumer Products.

Why did you make the change?

I moved to San Diego in 2004 to get married. I left the corporate environment to help a family member. It was a rude awakening for me. This is a very personal business and we grow it one by one.

What is your work schedule?

I work whatever hours it takes. My husband and I have three businesses and our work is our play. We are always looking to improve. Our family is our team and our clients. I am also chairman of the board of La Jolla Music Society with a $75-million construction project and that takes many hours of my time.

What do you do to support the community?

Giving back is a huge component of this business and is a component of success. In addition to my work with LJMS, we’ve done beach cleanup days, a soup kitchen, sponsoring a family at Christmas, and other projects.

Who was your mentor and whom do you mentor?

I have had many mentors, men and women. My dad, who was part of the greatest generation, taught me to approach life with integrity. He insisted that I stand on my own two feet. I live my life by example. You never know whom you are going to inspire. Three things that I try to instill in my young team are: give back, do your best, and learn financial independence.

Where did you get your education?

I have an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Illinois, and I studied Japanese at Konan University in Kobe, Japan. I speak Japanese and Greek.

What was it like living in Japan?

I lived there for two years. The culture is different from ours and it helped me to translate how to conduct myself. It made me understand that people are all different. I learned that if you come up against an obstacle, you need to look at things in a different way.

What do you do for yourself?

I have tutors to help me keep up on my foreign languages. I love cycling, skiing, and hiking. We entertain and have diverse groups of people. We call them salon dinners.

How do you see your future?

I’m growing more toward the nonprofit world. I find it rewarding and satisfying. I have developed people in my organization who could take over the reins. Two of my 10 team members are partners in the business. I want to do more in the community, especially in the arts world. My vision is much bigger than just a performing arts center. I see opportunities for collaboration.

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