Punch Profiles: People to Know / 9 Questions with Lauren Wesley Wilson, Founder & Chief Networking Officer of ColorComm
We at the Punch are all about merging talent together in order to make Washington, our community, our country, our world, a better place and we love to spotlight the brilliant activists and entrepreneurs who give birth to the ideas, develop them, and lead them to greatness.Â One such person is Lauren Wesley Wilson, Founder & Chief Networking Officer of ColorComm, with whom we got to talk recently.
ColorComm, which began as a luncheon speaker series for women of color in communications, is officially launching as a membership organization complete with a schedule of upcoming events and Board of Advisers.Â We look forward to the future history that Lauren and ColorComm will create.
Pamela’s Punch: Tell us a bit about your background, personal and professional.
Lauren Wesley Wilson:Â I came to Washington DC to pursue a graduate degree in Communications at Georgetown. I had no intention in staying in this city for very long and dreamed of moving to L.A. to become a celebrity publicist. After school, the only job opportunities were in DC. I stayed and now Iâ€™m in love with this city.
Currently, I serve as a Communications Director for a Member of Congress where Iâ€™m responsible for serving as the formal spokesperson and media liaison for the Member. Prior to this, I worked at several PR agencies.
Iâ€™m from St. Louis and Iâ€™m die hard St. Louis anything, St. Louis Rams (football) ,St. Louis Cardinals (baseball) , St. Louis Blues (hockey), fried ravioli (only in St. Louis) and Nelly of course!
PP:Â How did the idea of ColorComm begin?
LWW:Â The idea for ColorComm began when I was working in the PR agency world. It was an environment that was based on hierarchy, sweatshop mentality, and a cut throat atmosphere. My path to a promotion and success was often unclear. At the time I was looking for a mentor to help guide me and provide strategic insight on how to achieve my best and get to the next level. So I began actively seeking out a mentor. I attended every professional development seminar, networking session, panel discussion that you could imagine. I was looking to meet anyone who cared enough to give me 15 minutes of their time.
What Iâ€™ve found and eventually learned, is that most people really donâ€™t want to give up their time to people that they donâ€™t know or someone who didnâ€™t come recommended. Whatâ€™s in it for them? And honestly, how many times have they done this before? I can remember that there was one Senior Vice President at Fleishman-Hillard that I was dying to get to know and dying to hear from, and it took an entire year (July 2009-July 2010) for me to meet with her. I get it, I wasnâ€™t a priority! But, I wasted time. I was so focused on that one person, and at the end of the day there was 0 connection. The â€œmentor huntâ€ was unsuccessful.
I thought to myself, there has got to be an easier way to meet executive level communicators. How about we put them all in one room over lunch and that way we have an opportunity to hear from them, learn from them, and connect with them. No more getting the runaround! I knew I wasnâ€™t the only one who felt that way. Thus, the idea for ColorComm was created. Since the first luncheon in May 2011, it became apparent that there was a hunger for more interaction among women of color in communications. Our unique questions were not being answered and we needed to connect with other like-minded women. ColorComm began with a luncheon series and now is transitioning into a membership community, and itâ€™s the most amazing thing to watch evolve.
PP:Â You have a “day job” that keeps you busy and on your toes, how have you found taking on the task of developing ColorComm on the side to fit into your life?
LWW:Â Yes, thatâ€™s true! ColorComm has become my gym workouts, happy hours, lunch break, bed time novel, vacation plans, and new activity. Time that was normally spent on those things is now taken up by ColorComm. The new direction of ColorComm has such a great team, so Iâ€™m hoping Iâ€™ll get to take a breather or two in the near future.
PP:Â It seems as if many women in Washington, DC have an entrepreneurial spirit, yet when most outside of the immediate nation’s capital area think of the region, they think stiff, stodgy, boring, SMART, but uncreative. How have you found the REAL culture to be as you have begun to get ColorComm off the ground?
LWW:Â Washington is an amazing city! I wish I could convince the naysayers in other cities that the women here are beyond creative especially the women who are apart of ColorComm. They are the most dynamic, brightest, and fascinating women that Iâ€™ve ever met. To think, I wouldnâ€™t have known these women if ColorComm wasnâ€™t created.
PP:Â What do you envision ColorComm to be?
LWW:Â I envision ColorComm to emerge as the elite and premier membership organization for women of color in communications. I want this to be the first organization that someone thinks of when they think of communications + women + first class. ColorComm in every major city would truly be a delight and a testament to the power of women communicators and the hunger to connect.
PP:Â “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other womenâ€ is a famous quote that Madeleine Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State has been known to say (I even heard her say it in person once). ColorComm is all about uniting women in a very competitive industry to make them stronger. Overall, do you believe there is a stigma of women NOT helping other women? What are your thoughts in this matter?
LWW:Â I wholeheartedly agree with Madeline Albright! Women must help one another to succeed and survive in this industryâ€”itâ€™s our duty! The stigma exists, because sometimes itâ€™s true. In the workplace I often see a competitive spirit among other women and thatâ€™s ok, itâ€™s natural. However, we shouldnâ€™t let that competitive spirit drive us to tear one another down. If youâ€™re transparent, honest, and do good work, than there should be an opportunity for everyone to succeed. Thereâ€™s room out there for everyone to be successful, not just for one womanâ€”but for all women.
PP:Â We all have our inspirations from childhood to now and those whom we aspire to be. Who are your inspirations?
LWW:Â I could name celebrities, which I typically do. But to be honest, my parents inspired me. They were who I eventually wanted to become. My mother ran a mid-size adverting agency in St. Louis and Chicago. She was the business owner, entrepreneur, creative to the core, and disgustingly one of the most detail-oriented people that I know. My dad held a senior level position at a semiconductor company. He was the â€œsuper networkerâ€ who was extremely social charming, and could talk his way into anything. I think Iâ€™m the exact combination of the two.
PP:Â What advice do you have for young up and coming professional women in the DC area in the public relations, media and communications arena who are wanting to get to the next level?
LWW:Â Have a plan. Whether itâ€™s a plan for your career, going back to school, or starting your own businessâ€”have one. Then identify the people you need to know who will a) help you get there or b) provide support. Stay persistent, aggressive, and humble. Often times we lose out on opportunities because weâ€™re not persistent enough. Just sending one email to a Senior Vice President isnâ€™t going to get you that coffee meeting that youâ€™ve desired. Follow up, stay on them, and figure out where they could be speaking at next.
One more thing, keep your plans to yourself. Not everyone needs to know your every move, until it happens. If I told all my friends that I was thinking about throwing $55 luncheons for women in communications, they would have laughed in my face and it probably wouldnâ€™t have happened.
PP:Â Lastly, a fun one. Where do you love to spend your time in DC? Any special haunts or places where you can just relax and enjoy?
LWW:Â I absolutely love anything that expands my horizon and DC is such a great place for this. Whether itâ€™s a museum, new restaurant, or hiking adventureâ€” Iâ€™m usually game. I also love exploring the city through crazy long walks. Iâ€™ll walk anywhere and see where it takes me. Dupont, Foggy Bottom, and Georgetown are my spots. During the summer, Jazz in the Garden is always a favorite activity.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.