Founder and CEO, Symphoni Media
Lauren Davenport says the most adventurous thing she’s done was jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet. Perhaps the story of how she got there is even more adventurous: picking up her business and moving it to Tampa without knowing a soul. Three days later, she met her future husband by tripping over his dog, Chance, in St. Petersburg. Their first date? Skydiving.
Jumping right in is Davenport’s specialty. While attending Middle Tennessee State University, Davenport worked at a bar to help with tuition payments. At the time, only students with a college email address could post on a new social network called Facebook. Davenport persuaded the bar to let her post on its behalf. It quickly became the fastest growing bar, and before she knew it, she had 15 clients in the Nashville area — all before she had a degree.
With a $50,000 investment and bookkeeping assistance from her father, Davenport decided to start a company to address businesses’ social media needs.
Hoping to break away from her “college kid” reputation in Nashville, Davenport researched to find a city with a high ratio of small businesses and more than 200,000 people. She landed on St. Petersburg.
Four years later, she leads a team of 30 employees with a client portfolio that boasts brands such as Marriott, American Strategic Insurance and Carrier. Her company, Symphoni Media, has grown 400% every year, with all of its clients referral-based.
For future growth, Davenport continues to look to rapidly expand the group’s services by taking on strategic risk. “I’m always willing to jump off a cliff, but I want to know approximately how far I’d fall.”
— Traci Beach
Name: Lauren Davenport
City of residence: St. Petersburg
Twitter handle: @lfdavenport
Employer: Symphoni Media (SymphoniMedia.com)
Title: Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Years on the Gulf Coast: four
Marital status/children: Married, one fur-baby (dog) named Bella.
Alma mater: Middle Tennessee State University
Best place to network: LinkedIn. In this day and age, it’s so important that you are always establishing yourself as an expert online. Doing this on LinkedIn recently won our company a contract worth more than $500,000.
Coolest business experience: Working internationally. A few months ago, Symphoni partnered with our first international client. We are now creating multimedia campaigns in six different languages. One of our team members came to me for advice on a Facebook account they were working on the other day, and when I looked at their screen the entire layout of Facebook was in French. I couldn’t help but think ‘wow, how amazing is this!’
The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Always be true to yourself. If you know who you are and what you believe in it’s easy to follow your heart and make decisions without regret.
One website that makes your job easier: Entrepreneur.com. I’m an addict. On average, I read one or two books a week on business growth and personal development. In between books, I use Entrepreneur.com to grab quick tips, tricks, advice and inspiration from other successful entrepreneurs.
One community group you’re most involved with: Working Women of Tampa Bay. Their founder, Jessica Rivelli, was one of the first people I met when I moved to Florida, and she immediately welcomed me into their group. It is so important that women work together in business to help each other succeed, which is exactly what Working Women is all about. As a speaker, I have taught many workshops and classes for Working Women of Tampa Bay, and I was a keynote speaker at their annual Working Women State Conference this year.
Favorite off-hours activity: Traveling. My husband and I love to travel. For me, learning from other people and cultures is one of the best ways to expand personal horizons and boundaries. Some of our most successful campaigns have been inspired by previous experiences abroad that have helped take our company to new heights.
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: First, Barbara Corcoran. She started her real estate company with a $1,000 loan from a boyfriend and created a company that built her net worth to more than $40 million. She truly is a fairytale story of where a strong spirit and hard work can take you in the entrepreneurial journey, and I would love to have dinner with her and pick her brain. Second, Jack Daly, the author of Hyper Sales Growth. This book was one of my favorites from 2015, and I’m sure having dinner with Jack would spark amazing ideas for our company that would help take us to the next level.
What you would be doing if you could pick another career: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” – Marc Anthony. What I do now as an entrepreneur: developing a growing company, creating jobs and building something that inspires people to be the best they can possibly be, is the only career I could ever possibly do. It’s my passion and it’s my life. No matter what industry that leads me to, this path is my destiny.
Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Jumped out of a plane at 14,000 feet. When I moved to Florida to grow our company, I didn’t know a soul. Three days later, I met my husband when I tripped over his sweet dog, Chance, in Downtown St. Pete. He asked me out on a first date to go skydiving, and I said yes. It was one of the most exhilarating and fun things I have ever done.
What’s at the top of your bucket list: A trip around the world.
What new skill would you like to learn: I would love to learn Spanish. When I started our company, my last name was already established as Davenport. When I got married, according to the United States government, it changed to Fernandez, so I would love to be able to speak the language that my married name infers. I get mail in Spanish and when I tell people my (non-business) name is Lauren Fernandez they talk to me in Spanish, so I would love to be able to understand and join in on the conversation.
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Anne Hathaway, except she already is. “The Intern” came out Sept. 25, 2015, and judging by the previews, this is basically the story of my life.
If I had a magic wand I’d: wish for a real version of the time-turner necklace that Hermione Granger wears in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner from Azkaban." In the movie, she uses the necklace to allow her to take multiple classes that are only offered in the semester at the same time. I would wish for one so that I could get even more done within a 24-hour period.