When you are unabashedly unafraid to create the waves necessary to produce change, you are a force to be reckoned with. At first glance, Marla Chapa’s small frame and brilliant, welcoming smile could deceive you into thinking that she’s not this person. Born and raised in south Texas, Chapa has always been bold. 

At 44 years old, one could say she’s lived a full life already. She’s a proud veteran, having served 10 years in the United States Navy; she is a single mother raising three young children, all of whom live with various forms of disability; she is a successful business owner and community activist; and she is an entrepreneur who has seemingly stopped at nothing to be the good and bring the good to her community and neighbors. 

Building Blocks 

The Navy brought Chapa and her family to Washington State in 2014. Stationed on Whidbey Island, her family chose Mount Vernon as their home base. At this time, Chapa had already served eight years and was preparing her exit strategy so that she could support her now ex-husband’s Navy career and stay closer to home to raise her three disabled children: Liam, Scarlett, and Brady. 

Over the next two years, while commuting to and from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and in preparation for her transition to civilian life, Chapa pursued and completed her master’s degree in business administration and management and simultaneously obtained her realtor license. 

“This was a challenging time. It was difficult being a newcomer to Skagit Valley and starting a new career in real estate,” says Chapa, realtor/managing broker of Marla and Company | Keller Williams Western Realty, a Homes for Heroes affiliate. “I had to get creative with how I would choose to grow my network and become a trusted and respected member of this community if I wanted to make the transition work.” 

In 2016, Chapa created Skagit Highland Social Night. Held at her home in the newly developed Skagit Highlands neighborhood, she hosted monthly professional mixers that introduced new business relationships for herself and others. Neighbors caught wind and began coming through her doors each month as well. It didn’t take long for the mixers to outgrow her home and relocate to area restaurants, who gladly opened their doors for the social network on slow nights. 

Today, the group has evolved into an online marketing platform called Skagit Social that continues to highlight the good in the community by sharing news and updates while also offering a marketing arm to local businesses. The group’s social media presence has a combined following of over 5,000 individuals and businesses and was recently presented with the Wheels of Honor Award for Community Service, sponsored by Les Schwab Tires, Double Barrel BBQ, and KAPS Radio. 

Within one year of obtaining her realtor license, Chapa was also named “Top 10” of Skagit Valley Listing Agents. 

Creating the Good 

In 2022, Chapa had a vision for something big and with a mindset of ‘why not us’, and out of her own pocket, she created and hosted the First Annual Skagit BigFoot Fest. Drawing from the magic of legendary Bigfoot, her intention was to create the ultimate destination for Bigfoot enthusiasts and lovers of local business, art, and music. In year one, with only six weeks to prepare, the event had over 40 local vendors, 15 live performances, and nearly 500 attendees. While the event took a financial loss, it was a catalyst for Chapa’s “Keep Skagit Wild” movement. 

“Our mission is simple: to bring a family-fun, mystical, and engaging event to Skagit Valley that hasn’t existed until now and help continue putting us on the map for more than just beautiful flowers,” adds Chapa. “There’s something about Bigfoot that shines light on the idea of believing in yourself and believing in something magical. This year, we’re combining this feeling of belief and good with a sexy Coachella vibe.” 

The Second Annual Skagit BigFoot Fest is scheduled for Sept. 29-30, 2023, at the Skagit County Fairgrounds in Mount Vernon. In year two, the two-day extravaganza will boast more than 20 live performances, including regionally popular bands; Bigfoot historians and storytellers on two separate stages; numerous local artisan vendors and booths; an interactive Kid Zone, including a climbing wall; a variety of food trucks; a Beer & Wine Garden; and a VIP section with band access. 

“We’re anticipating much more foot traffic this year, and believe we’ve created a strong enough foundation in year two for this event to become a mainstay in our region,” adds Chapa. “Our community needed this kind of uplifting, celebratory event– and now we’ve got one.” 

Foundation is Set 

Chapa is a pillar of strength and perseverance to those who know her. Her favorite quote is by Steve Martin which appropriately states, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” 

“I want to create opportunities for people to succeed,” she concludes. 

It’s safe to say that Chapa is making her mark on her community, leading by example for her children, and more than showing up to the occasion of life, regardless of what it throws at her.