The Branding Entrepreneur | 30 Under 30 Class of 2019
"I try to focus on all the ways I can contribute."
In 2014, Laura founded Social•SynerG, an experiential consultancy specializing in the connection of branding, social media, social responsibility and events. Today, she leads the consultancy and manages production for G’Day USA, Australia’s premier public and economic diplomacy program in America. She is an avid volunteer, and in 2015, worked as the director of the host town program at the Special Olympics World Summer Games LA, managing communications and events for more than 80 communities. “Being a part of that experience and bringing the games to LA is something I’m really proud of. It was a rewarding experience to see people work together for a cause like that,” Laura shared. “I also had the opportunity to work on the LA Olympic bid, and I cannot wait to see the LA 2028 games come to life.”
Tell me more about your role leading Social•SynerG.
Every day is different. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing people and some really unique brands. It’s a lot of switching gears, but I definitely channel the belief that it’s better to be busy than bored.
Why do you love what you do?
I get to work with a variety of different people on really different types of work. It’s always evolving, so I’m constantly learning what I love and what I don’t.
How did you discover your passion for your job?
By doing. What I’m doing is not far off from what many could have guessed I might do on an overarching level, especially given my academic background. However, I had no idea that this is what I’d really be doing – really had no expectation to work in events or experiential branding and partnerships. There’s no way I would have known what any of these roles would have been like without trying them.
How do you define success?
Going for it! It’s all about the execution, but in order for there to be any strategic execution, you just have to go for it, and sometimes that means not having everything be perfect. Letting go of the things that aren’t perfect can be a challenge sometimes, but it gives me something to get right the next swing. I really try to be all in. That’s when I personally feel most successful.
What motivates you?
Many things, but top two that come to mind are creating and people. Creating is always at the back of my mind in whatever I’m doing. Seeing the outcome is really motivating because you have some control, but ultimately, it’s never the same twice. And people – so much of what I do is centered around the people I’m building events and brands with in my work and outside of work. Those relationships really drive me and continue to shape my work.
What is it like managing production for G’Day USA?
Well let’s just say I get a lot of surprised looks when people realize I’m not Australian. I think it’s safe to say I’m now an honorary Aussie at this point. Managing the production for G’DAY USA is a really interesting and dynamic project. The program has grown quite a bit over the past 15 years. The program gives me the opportunity to produce a range of events from policy dialogues to a large gala event to an all Aussie product popup shop to our most recent large project AUSTRALIAHOUSE at South By South West (SXSW) Tech and Music Festival in Austin, Texas. I’m constantly learning through my work with G’Day USA since I get to work with the most well-known event – the Los Angeles Gala in January. At the 2018 Gala, G’Day USA honored Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning producer Bruna Papandrea with a G’Day USA Outstanding Achievement in Film and Television award. Actress and producer Margot Robbie received the G’Day USA Excellence in Film award in recognition of outstanding performances in recent films. Oscar-winning actor Heath Ledger was honored posthumously with a G’Day USA Lifetime Achievement award and songwriter John Farrar was honored with a G’Day USA Outstanding Achievement in the Arts award. Last year guests at AUSTRALIAHOUSE enjoyed world-class coffee from Hugh Jackman’s ‘Laughing Man Café,’ premium Australian wine and cheese pairings with celebrity chef Curtis Stone, and performances by some of Australia’s top musical artists. SXSW boasted 50 plus Australian musical acts last year.
Could you explain exactly what G’Day USA is?
G’Day USA is the Public Diplomacy Program for the Australian Government. G’Day USA is Australia’s premier public and economic diplomacy program in the United States. Over the past 15 years, the program has grown to include events in major cities across the United States, bringing together corporate leaders, policy makers, creative industries and academia from both countries in a year-long series of activities designed to cultivate and enhance the Australia-United States relationship.
Where did you grow up?
Manhattan Beach, California.
Where do you live now?
Culver City, California.
Who is your role model?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
What is your theme song?
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor.
How did you earn the position of director of the Host Town Program at the Special Olympics?
Honestly, I was in the right place at the right time. I was looking for the next opportunity. When I graduated from CU, I immediately began working for a division of CBS Television, where we allocated advertising dollars across media platforms to fund community projects. The World Games were coming to LA and I was in the right place at the right time. I was actually in conversations about working in a very different area of sports marketing when the World Games opportunity presented itself. I had written a thesis on corporate social responsibility, so it was a really natural move to get involved in something socially conscientious or philanthropic.
What did you do in that role?
The Host Town team was tasked with signing on communities throughout Southern California to host and welcome the athletes prior to competition. Essentially, the role was a ton of sales, partner/relationship management and brand development. I was initially brought on to support the Host Town team with all things communication and planning. The role quickly evolved, as I ended up signing on a number of Southern California communities and transitioned into owning a number of accounts myself. I also managed press events for each town signed on and overarching communications for all the Host Towns. The most challenging part of that role was juggling so many different audiences and needs in a compressed amount of time with no budget. Managing volunteers takes a tremendous amount of effort, and I was really lucky to be on an all-female team of experienced women that knew how to make it all happen. We also really had each other’s backs, which was essential in that environment. A large part of my role was also being the point of contact for other Games departments and making sure that our team was working cross-functionally to support their objectives. We ended up bringing on more than 80 communities throughout Southern California from San Luis Obispo to San Diego!
What was the most rewarding part of the experience?
By far the most rewarding experience was seeing the happiness on the faces of the athletes experiencing Los Angeles for the first time. It was such a rare experience to work alongside such a diverse team while also working with the Special Olympics community from international backgrounds. The Closing Ceremony of the Games was a really meaningful moment, as I got to be down on the field at the LA Coliseum with athletes from around the world.
In your application, you mentioned the multiple boards you serve on. Why is important for you to serve your community in this capacity?
Yes. I serve as a board member on three boards (a nonprofit, a Young Professionals group and a female millennial advancement group). It’s really important to me to be a part of something larger than myself. It’s easy on the day-to-day to get lost in all of the things that I cannot impact, so I try to focus on all the ways I can contribute something. Gamma Phi Beta really reinforced this belief system. If you put your hand up and show up, that’s going to be valuable to someone. There are so many things to be done, I really enjoy working with different types of people outside of work and forming new friendships. I enjoy being a part of something that influences the culture, something that builds community.
How do you balance work, volunteering and fun?
Work, volunteering and fun are all intertwined to me. I don’t really end up separating them out much in my mind or in my schedule. It can be a lot of running sometimes and I can feel overwhelming at times, but ultimately, I’m really fulfilled by working alongside other volunteers and having the opportunity to work with clients and colleagues that are passionate. The passion and drive to make things better really adds a layer of purpose to anything I’m working on. The ultimate in fun for me is watching a major event or campaign go live in the market. It’s a really satisfying feeling. On occasion I’ve gotten to collaborate with friends through work or volunteering, and that’s also something I really get to have fun with.
What has been the most difficult part of running your own business?
Wearing many different hats. There are days when I don’t have time to process everything that needs to get done, let alone what I want to accomplish.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I can’t take credit for World Games but being a part of that experience and bringing the games to LA is something I’m really proud to have been a part of. It was a rewarding experience to see people work together for a cause like that. I also had the opportunity to work on the LA Olympic bid – so as an Angeleno, I’m really proud of the city and cannot wait to see the LA 2028 Games come to life.
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