Foreshadowing alert: When it was time for Kelly Dippel’s parents to register her for high school, she climbed a tree and threatened to stay there until they allowed her to attend the local public school instead of continuing on in the private school system.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who knew her then that she is now a grown woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to buck the system to get it.
What she wants is to make a difference in her community while surrounding herself with people who like to have fun and have no interest in drama.
After spending ten years working with multiple non-profits that focused on singular causes or zip codes, she decided to start her own so that she could be sure the blend was right. In founding Silicon Valley Cares, she spends her time in an organization that feels inclusive, introduces her to new people and causes, and is light on bureaucracy and heavy on fun.
Her desire to keep things playful is the reason their main event, the Broomstick Ball, is centered around Halloween. “My theory is that if I can put a costume on, I’m going,” says Kelly. “When people are focused on being creative instead of wearing designer gowns, the mood is so much more festive.”
Now in its eighth year, the organization has over 60 members who, indeed, put the fun in fundraising. The annual Ball brings out some 300 attendees for an evening of food, drinks, and festivities, all while raising money for causes near and dear to the membership’s hearts.
Last year, the group raised $100,000, dividing proceeds between the Alzheimer Activity Center, Nike Animal Rescue Foundation, and YSI – Youth Science Institute.
Kelly’s hard work and dedication to SV Cares and the other non-profits she has supported for the past 30 years have earned her the admiration of friends, family, colleagues, and clients. Her service has also brought her accolades, but none as interesting as being knighted – complete with a fancy robe and ceremony at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral – by the Knights of Saint John, a 900-year old organization focused on serving the world’s sick and poor.
When Kelly isn’t hustling to serve, she is hustling to sell real estate and lease office space with Coldwell Banker. She spent her first thirteen years on the commercial side in a business mostly run by big, beautiful men, where one might think that all five feet of Kelly could be overlooked. But then again, not really. In talking with her, it’s clear that this is just another outlet for her to get out there and mix it up.
“At first it was intimidating,” Kelly explains. “And then I realized – like everything else – it is about relationship building.”
Her clients tend to be the people she relates to best, the movers and shakers. Many of them run start-ups and non-profit groups and are looking to maximize every dollar spent. Recently, she added residential properties to her already busy commercial business because the clients she works with commercially want her to help them buy and sell their homes, as well.
In addition to her strong client relationships, Kelly has a passion for the place we call home that makes selling and leasing any kind of real estate in the Bay Area a natural fit for her.
“I have visited many cities in the U.S., but no place compares to Silicon Valley. We have the weather, the beach, the snow, and the brains that make the world go around,” she says. “Where else can you meet with friends, come up with an idea, pull together the funding, make it happen, and move on to the next idea if that one doesn’t work out?”
This entrepreneurial spirit is something she understands firsthand after coming up with an idea for a travel app and moving forward to the design process only to discover that she had just been beaten to the punch by an app called Wanderfly that got acquired by Trip Advisor. So back to the drawing board she goes with a new idea she hopes will outthink and out maneuver the competition to market.
When I ask her what she might still like to accomplish and what fears might be standing in her way, Kelly’s voice clinches a bit as she thinks about her mother, who passed away four years ago after a battle with cancer.
“My mom was a go-for-it girl. I try to honor her by doing things I am afraid of, so I push myself more than I used to, trying not to let fear control my life,” she explains. So far, Kelly has wrestled her fear of heights by climbing to the top of Half Dome and jumped off a sailboat in the middle of the Adriatic Sea despite her fear of sharks.
This mindset, combined with her seven-foot personality packed inside that five-foot frame, and her drive to make a difference, make Kelly Dippel the kind of friend, neighbor, and colleague that gives the Bay its buzz.
Photography by Charlene Chavez