It all started with a meal. A little over five years ago, Lauren Wesley Wilson witnessed the lack of diverse media professionals in leadership positions and wanted to do something about it. She began hosting quarterly luncheons with the goal of growing the network of professionals within the digital, media and advertising sector.
After witnessing the success of her luncheons, she developed the ColorComm Network, now recognized as a national professional membership organization that caters to women in communications, marketing, and advertising.
Currently headquartered in Washington D.C. with locations in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, Lauren, the President and Founder of ColorComm, manages the relationships with 32 partners and is gearing up for her annual conference at the Ritz Carlton, Miami.
In the midst of it all, Lauren took a moment to chat with Her Agenda about her journey, career and of course, ColorComm.
Her Agenda: How did you go from experiencing the lack of diversity in senior level positions to launching what is now ColorComm?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: Around 2011, I partnered with a friend, and we put our networks together rather quickly and hosted a luncheon. As we started to host more luncheons, we noticed there was a community being built outside of ColorComm. We saw people who never met before ColorComm become best friends, help each other out with new businesses and become resources for each other. And so, we decided to launch our first membership organization in Washington, D.C. It was just local at the time.
Then, in 2013 we decided to expand to two more chapters and really take it national. We noticed there were other cities in need of this too so we expanded to Chicago and New York. In 2014, we expanded to Atlanta and in 2015 we launched in Los Angeles. We are expanding to San Francisco and Miami this year.’
Her Agenda: When did it hit you? The “wow” moment of being president of your own organization that is quickly expanding to several different locations?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: Nothing has really been able to hit me because there is still so much work to be done. On top of the network, we are a professional membership organization that really caters to professionals within the corporate communications and advertising sector.
2014 was a huge year for us because we launched our national conference while we continued to expand in different cities. The conference was definitely a game changer for the organization because we began to connect with people all over the U.S., not just within the cities where ColorComm is present. We had the chance to connect with executive level decision makers, such as Lisa Ling and Soledad O’Brien (who were keynote speakers) and partner with brands and companies such as Coca-Cola, Toyota, Wells Fargo, BET and CBS.
We are approaching our third conference this year where Arianna Huffington is going to be our keynote speaker. This year our conference is likely to sell out.
Her Agenda: Did you ever experience uncertainty or doubt when first starting ColorComm? How did you overcome that?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: Many people thought that we were going to become this “one and done” group but we’ve been around for five years. The folks who are new to hearing about ColorComm are always shocked about how fast we’ve grown. [They really don’t know that] we’ve been putting in the work for nearly five years.
Her Agenda: You must be really busy with your annual conference coming up, managing the sponsors, etc. How do handle it?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: [I rely heavily on] a team. We have our board members, teams in each chapter city, an executive director, and programs director… It is bigger than myself. It’s a collective body of work of women who are serious about their career and care about growing within this industry and growing their network. That’s how you advance yourself. You can’t advance yourself just by just doing good work in a vacuum and expect your boss to promote you, that’s just not how it works. You have to get underneath and figure out what your boss cares about. Are you interacting with who your boss cares about and connecting with their peers and their colleagues?
Her Agenda: What does a typical day or month look like for you?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: I spend my day doing ColorComm and a lot of people don’t know what I do. The bulk of what I do is focusing on business partnerships and relationships. Most of my time is spent traveling, in partnership meetings and/or on the phone. A typical month might look like San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, D.C., and New York again.
Her Agenda: What is your personal motto on success, achievement and going after your dreams?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: I don’t really have a personal motto. This is going to be really cheesy but, Matthew McConaughey got it right when he said ‘You should live life by these 3 principles: something to look up to, something to look forward to, and something to chase.’ As cheesy as it sounds it is definitely true. If you are not going through life having those three things by your side (and they will constantly change) then you’re not really living. At the end of the day, you need to do the work and you need to do it well.
When it comes to success it is important to have goals in mind. It’s about doing your best work and bringing your best self to the table. People will say a lot of stuff in between but I think if you’re professional, focused, on time and dedicated those things will show through what any naysayer has to say.
Her Agenda: What are one or two pieces of career wisdom or advice you wished you knew when you were younger or received along the way?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: There are a lot of pieces of advice that I received. Some important things I’ve learned along the way were: don’t be afraid to ask or be persistent, if you’re a mentee or you’re younger it is your job to maintain the relationship and chase the people who you are looking to have lunch with. Also, it is very important as you grow and succeed to take others with you because you don’t get to where you’re going alone.
Her Agenda: Where do you see ColorComm going in the future?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: I see ColorComm expanding to several more cities until we get to ten. We’ll take our annual conference to a different venue and we are likely to launch a content driven site for the industry.
[Editor’s note: This feature published on June 27th, 2016. It has been edited for length and clarity.]