After adding more than 10 years of experience working in the advertising industry to her impressive resume, Lauren Grant took her expert-level knowledge of the digital media space and decided to start her own business in 2014. So, what’s life as a female entrepreneur been like for the experience architect since then? Busy, to say the least!
Not only is Lauren a new mom (more on baby Mason later!) but her event planning company, The Grant Access, is more successful than ever with clients including Macy’s, Nielsen, and Havas Media Group, just to name a few. From organizing professional conferences and sponsorship events to hosting glam galas, Lauren’s day-to-day work seems super fun but, most importantly, it’s also been incredibly rewarding for this driven mama.
Scroll down to find out how Lauren transitioned from corporate America to owning her own company, learn how she and her fiancé split parenting duties with their 6-month-old son, Mason, take a peek at this entrepreneur’s daily routine, and check out her best mom hacks for juggling it all.
Name: Lauren Grant, Experience Architect
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and an MBA from Florida A&M University
Current Location: Newark, NJ
Children: Mason, 6 months
What was your first job and how did you land it?
My very first “job” coincidentally was an entrepreneurship incubator sponsored by the NAACP. They essentially took high school freshmen and sophomores and paid us to create a business plan over the summer. I guess I started my entrepreneurship journey early, huh?
My first professional job was with a management rotation program with Nielsen. My classmate and sorority sister had entered the program the year before and suggested I apply based on my interests in media and advertising. The interview process was strenuous and coincidentally, I was the last addition! They’d already selected nine people to participate, and I got a call on a Wednesday asking if I could be in NYC next Monday to start the program. It was crazy but amazing! Over a year and a half, we lived in four cities (New York City, Tampa, Chicago, and San Francisco) and worked in various areas of the Nielsen business. At the end of the program, we were offered a stationary and permanent role with the company. Although the traveling became a lot, it really allowed me to get a full view of the entire company.
Before becoming an entrepreneur, you had a 10-year career in media and advertising. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you did at your past jobs?
In starting my career with Nielsen, I essentially became an expert in TV ratings. I worked in several divisions of the company from learning development to communications to my last role in local market sales. I essentially sold TV ratings to local TV stations. Nothing glamorous, but it was great “on the ground” work to see how the Nielsen data was really being used. I got laid off in 2012, but it was actually the best thing to ever happen to me.
The Publicis Groupe had an opening for a client relations role in programmatic digital media (a fancy way of saying the automation of online ads). They took a chance on a girl from the analog TV world and taught me everything I know about digital media. Working with one of the top four largest ad agencies was a great introduction to the industry and how clients look at digital versus television. From there, I took a director role at Havas Media (another top four agency), working with their client teams to introduce programmatic media into their media plans. During my career in advertising, I’ve worked with brands like Univision, Walmart, Comcast, LVMH, Net-A-Porter, and others.
How did working in media help you transition to planning events and experiences?
Honestly, there’s no better training for any field than a little bit of sales experience. Although my work in advertising wasn’t “direct sales” in the traditional sense, I was still responsible for client relationships and the art of negotiation! Those skills served me well in my transition, as I now work with clients every day! I learned early how to sell things (including myself and business) and negotiate for the benefit of my clients. I’d also say knowing how corporations run is very important to any small business for larger contracts. I know what these companies expect of their vendors because I was once on the other side. It’s allowed me to develop a very effective client experience that includes measurable deliverables.
You founded The Grant Access in 2014 where you now create experiences from professional conferences and galas to sponsorship activations. Why did you decide to focus on corporate events for your company?
Honestly, I’m not the girl who gets excited about creating the best floral arrangements. I learned that early on. What excites me is the logistical planning, the negotiation, the overall execution. Once I understood that my niche wasn’t in personal events (weddings, baby showers, etc.) and most importantly that it didn’t have to be, I settled in where I was most effective. Corporate events allow me to use my 10 years of corporate experience in providing events that meet a specific goal. That is where I thrive.
The Grant Access has planned events for companies such as Unilever and Cantu Beauty. What has been the proudest moment for your company so far?
My proudest moment for the past five years has been during our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) SpringComing event. HBCU SpringComing is a weekend festival done in partnership with my cofounder, George Twopointoh, where we host an HBCU homecoming in NYC! It’s unique in its target to HBCU alumni, but we also give back to the community. Over the past five years, we’ve given away over $20K in scholarships to students from the five boroughs attending HBCUs in the fall. Helping those students start their collegiate careers will never get old!
Can you walk us through the typical process you go through when creating experiences for your clients?
I first get an understanding of the end goal. What do you want your attendees to walk-away with? Starting at the end allows us to back into our path to get there. Understanding the goal of an event affects everything from the venue to decor to logistical execution. My team and I like to think outside the box for the small unique details that make an attendee go “WOW!” but also understand most corporations like consistency and tradition. How do we merge the two for a unique experience with every event? Hire The Grant Access to find out! 🙂
What does your typical workday look like?
Ha! With a 6-month-old, it’s never the same! After dropping my son off at daycare, I usually return home and get to work at my desk. My non-event days include a lot of conference calls (my clients are all over the country) and hammering out event details. From email, I do everything from negotiating with vendors to researching industry trends. Event days typically start early in the morning (6am or so) with event prep, staff meetings, and what I like to call “Go Time.” This is when the event begins. We’re on the go until the end of the day (7pm or sometimes even later), and then we prep for the next day. Most of our business is in conference planning which are several long days in a row. After, we’re exhausted, but seeing the look on satisfaction on our client’s faces is worth it all!
You are committed to creating memorable, five-star experiences. If you could name just one, what is the most important trait or quality to have in order to create such events?
A solution-based attitude. No matter how long you may plan an event, challenges are sure to come up. How are you approaching those challenges? Are you running to your client with a problem or a solution you’ve already implemented? My team knows I like solutions.
Has something ever gone terribly wrong while you were planning an event? If so, how did you overcome it?
Of course! I distinctly remember a time I was hosting a rooftop event for 900 people, and there was talk of rain in the forecast. I downloaded every weather app I could to track the storm and had two hours to jump into action for a plan B. There was a restaurant downstairs that was virtually empty. In an hour, I negotiated a deal with them that required no money up front, use of a back stairwell for the folks on the roof and even made my client money on bar sales! Thankfully, the rain didn’t drown out our attendees, and we were able to party in two locations. Crisis averted!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The hustle and bustle! Event planner has been on the top five list of the most stressful jobs for a few years now, but I LOVE it. I love the unknown. I love the preparation, and most of all, I love the peace it brings my clients to know I’ve got it handled.
You’re able to maximize value for your clients because you are able to negotiate with your vast network of vendors. Do you have any advice for others on how to grow and build their networks?
Yes! Be genuine when meeting people. Figure out what they do to connect it with what you do, and when you’re able to send business or referrals their way, do it. People appreciate that. I keep a mental rolodex of people who I can make introductions for. It’s the connector in me that wants to elevate those around me to their greatest potential. You never know, you may be the connection someone needed to reach the next level in their business or career. God is like that; He’ll set you up to be the conduit to someone’s dreams. I don’t take that lightly.
How does The Grant Access differentiate itself from other event planning companies?
We really focus on the customer/attendee experience. What do our clients want their attendees to take away from attending their event? We’re huge on operational execution. My team is comprised of event professionals with years of experience. They are prepared, well-versed on the nature of our clients’ business, and able to answer any questions an attendee may have.
We love supporting women owned businesses here at The Everymom! What is it like owning your own business as a woman?
Thankfully, I’m in an industry of mostly women. If anything, I’ve faced challenges pitching to larger companies because of my age. They’re not sure I have the experience. It usually only takes one conversation, however, to change their minds!
Do you have any tips for other women who want to start their own companies?
Do it. Do what you love, and start charging people for it. It may be a nominal account or fee in the beginning (my pricing changed four times in my first year of business), but the act of providing a service or selling an item does make you a business woman. No matter how great or small. Own that and see where it takes you!
You have a 6-month old-son, Mason. Congratulations! How has being a working mom been for you so far?
Challenging. Exhausting. Rewarding. All of the above. It’s forced me to redevelop my priorities in a way that puts him first. Thankfully, I have a group of understanding clients who understand the demands of motherhood and are flexible with me during this transition. I’m still figuring it out, but that’s the fun part!
What is your work-life balance like as a new mom?
Ha! What balance? Honestly, I believe the best decision I’ve made as a new-mom is to ask for help. As an entrepreneur, I’m used to being able to do it all. As a new mom, that’s a really quick way to burn out. I realized early on if I couldn’t take a full three months of maternity leave (my first large event of the year was six weeks after Mason was born), I needed to ask for help. Bring on another part-time employee, find a nanny, subsequently find a daycare. [I had to] find ways to allow me to work but also be dedicated to spending time with my son. It’s a balance I’m still developing, but I feel more at peace every day.
How do you divide parenting roles with your fiancé?
Having a supportive partner has been the only way I’ve been able to jump back into running my business full-time after childbirth. He just gets it. When I’m away executing client events for a week, we FaceTime with the baby in the morning and the evening before bed. He wakes the baby up in the morning, gets Mason dressed for daycare, feeds him, and then I take over to take him to daycare. In the evenings, we take turns with bathtime and alternate putting him to bed. He understands, when I have to work, I really have to work and adjusts his schedule to accommodate that. I’m so grateful to have someone in my life to believe in what I do.
Can you walk us through your daily routine?
What are your favorite activities to do as a family?
We love to go for walks with Mason or take him to local events. Since we’re a bit “older” than our parents were, we don’t subscribe to the thought that you have to adjust your life for your kid. Your kid should become a part of your already full lives! He comes with us everywhere. Street festivals, restaurants, wherever!
If you could only pick one, what has been your favorite memory from motherhood so far?
Every single day, Mason smiles at me when he wakes up. I love it. It’s literally my favorite part of the day.
Can you share with us five mom hacks you rely on to make things work in your day-to-day life?
1. Put everything in your calendar. Everything!
2. Use your phone’s reminder app for quick things. Everything has a list and probably a reminder to go with it.
3. Amazon is your best friend. We schedule auto-deliveries of everything from baby wipes to formula!
4. Make daycare bottles at night and store them in the fridge. It saves me time in the morning!
5. The best gift we’ve received was a Baby Brezza. Mason didn’t breastfeed for long, and I couldn’t pump for a long time with my schedule, so we switched to formula pretty early. The Baby Brezza mixes the perfect amount of water and formula for each bottle. It’s fast, easy, and a life-saver!
Lauren Grant is The Everymom…
Go-to meal to cook? Blackened salmon
Diaper bag must-have? Wipes! Regular and sanitizing. Mason is teething, so everything goes in his mouth!
I wish I knew how to… Find energy to workout! lol
Best way to end the day? With a glass of wine
Greatest challenge in your career thus far? Being away from Mason during work trips.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why? Judy Smith. (Olivia Pope’s character on Scandal is based on her.) She’s a woman who’s known for simply getting shit done! I’d love to know how she expanded her business and created her empire.