A self-made savvy entrepreneur, Lauren Davenport, 27, knew how to harness the power of social media before it became the buzzword in business today. During her senior year of college at Middle Tennessee State, she successfully rebranded and launched a social media campaign for a local bar, making it the most popular watering hole for campus co-eds. She quickly saw the need for businesses to connect all social and digital platforms under one roof and became an early innovator in the digital marketing field.
Armed with optimism and passion, a business plan and $50,000 in seed money from her father, Davenport moved from Nashville to St. Petersburg without knowing anyone and launched one of the most successful and visible brands in the marketplace, earning her designation as a Finalist for the Entrepreneur Iconic Women of the Year in 2014. Symphoni Media, the full-service website and digital marketing agency that counts some of the area’s most prestigious brands as her clients.
Davenport, and her husband, Daniel Fernandez, just celebrated their second wedding anniversary, are also partners in life, working together at Symphoni. After its recent merger with Chris Jenkins and imtheirwebguy.com, the digital empire is expanding its reach to more national and international clients. In her own words, Davenport shares how she knew why she would be an entrepreneur and how she hopes her story of success will inspire other women.
You’ve orchestrated quite an entrepreneurial career in a short time. How did that happen?
I think I was probably born an entrepreneur. My dad told me when I was a kid that the true way to find a career was not only going to be something that was fulfilling, but something you could make a great living out of, find a niche and fill it. I’ve always been obsessed with shoes. By the time I was in middle school I wanted all the coolest shoes. I had to work for the things I wanted that were extras. I needed to figure out a way to make more money and my Mom hated to iron so I talked her into letting me iron. I had her pay me a quarter for every piece I ironed. My mom started telling a few of her friends in the neighborhood so then I started ironing for my mom’s friends. Before you knew it, I had more shoes than any girl in middle school.
How did you come up with the idea for Symphoni Media?
I found two niches that I didn’t see anybody else doing. The first was that most local businesses saw marketing as like a curse word. Instead of it being something like an investment, it was basically always a cost. It was way before local businesses were using unique phone numbers or that they were tracking forms being filled out through their websites. The second was that they were working with so many different vendors. You have one guy who does your mail, one guy who does your website, one guy who does your social media. Nothing looked alike. I decided that I was going to have to move if I wanted to be able to grow this thing. I started looking around the country for somewhere that had a minimum of 200,000 people and had a higher ratio of locally owned businesses compared to big corporations. When St. Petersburg hit the map out of a handful of cities and counted as the sunniest city in the U.S. with the beaches I was so down for that. I picked up, I didn’t know a soul, and moved down to St. Pete in 2011.
Q: Where does the name Symphoni Media mean?
A: My father came up with the name Symphoni with the idea being we would have all of the experts — 18 players under one roof and very similar to a musical symphony or like an orchestra.
A: I actually met my husband tripping over his dog named Chance three days after I moved here. He’s my soul mate. I can’t imagine where I’d be without him.
Q: How is the dynamic working with your spouse?
A: You can ask anybody who knows us. We have so much fun working together. We have very similar personalities, but we have very different strengths. We’re both big picture thinkers and visionary-type people. Daniel leads our team in all of the strategy and innovation for our clients. I’m the big picture partnership people kind of person.
Q: What advice would you give other women entrepreneurs?
A: Anything you believe, you can achieve. People thought I was crazy moving to a city that I didn’t know anybody to grow a business as a young woman. If you can teach your mind to believe what you want to achieve, you’ll achieve it.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?
Believing in yourself. No one else is going to be able to teach you how to inwardly believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself then nobody else will either.
What is your definition of success?
Having a life where I get to be passionate about what I’m doing and making a difference in the world. My absolute favorite thing about what we’ve created with Symphoni is the fact that every day we’ve created jobs that people are excited and passionate about.
Lauren credits three men with helping her become successful. Top: her dad; Middle: her husband; Bottom: her new business partner, Chris Jenkins.
Connect with Lauren at Symphoni.com