#womenwhoinspire: Lauren Watson, Owner + Lead Planner of The Lion House
The best way to describe Lauren Watson of The Lion House would be a walking ray of sunshine. She is bubbly, feminine, a go-getter, and always uplifting other women entrepreneurs. Lauren and I worked together on a stunning, light-hearted Summer Solstice styled shoot many months ago now when she moved back to Raleigh, and since then, she's been setting trends, changing the face of event planning as we know it, and building her Lion House Empire. Not to mention, Lauren is a Leo, so you know she's filled with tenacity, talent, and surefire. Read on to learn more about Lauren and take in all her lovely life insight.
J: Okay, Ocean engineering to wedding and event coordination is a complete 360, tell me about the transition! Did wedding planning always interest you? Or did that come much later?
One of my girlfriends back in San Diego used to love when people asked me what I did for a living. She got a kick out of seeing their reactions when I said “I test underwater robots for the Navy.” I had a feeling these reactions were because my outgoing personality and the fact that I could curl my own hair and apply makeup pretty well didn’t seem to fit that role. Still, it’s a common misconception that pretty gals with style and social skills can’t do the techie work. I disagree. I’m just as much nerdy as I am creative!
Event production, planning & design was appealing because it incorporated all the things! Technology, logistics, design, PR, sales... I could go on. I started unofficially planning events, playing with business names, and drawing logos in Raleigh before moving out west. A BBQ, Beer, and Bands fundraiser in my friends’ backyard solidified my desire to actually turn it into a business. That was certainly a learning experience. We made zero profits and could only make a small donation to the charity of choice. [Fun Fact: I was Bash Event Co. for my first 3 years of business, until I found out ‘BASH’ was trademarked. Major bummer! Turned out to be a blessing; Lion House is much more representative of my brand and business.]
The full time leap was a tough decision, particularly because I also really liked the robotics industry. I was good at it. But event planning and design had been pulling at my heartstrings for much too long to not give it a go. So here I am. I’m a girl with gumption and just decided it was time. The move back home to Raleigh seemed like the perfect transition to re-brand, relaunch, and tackle the #girlboss life!
J: What does a day in the life of a wedding planner look like? Is it different than you’d thought it would be?
As I write this, I’m sitting at one of my favorite places to get work done: Sola Coffee Café. I crank out tasks here. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the bustle and constant commotion that drives my energy. Although some days are much less glamourous and I sit in my home office, sipping coffee (Bird Rock is a fav!), and rockin’ out to “Cool Girl” by Tove Lo. When I’m not getting the word out that Lion House exists and building a brand/reputation, which has proven to be a lot of networking, coffee dates, and instagramming, I’m behind the scenes curating design boards for new clients, writing too many emails to count and corresponding with vendors for upcoming events, styled shoots, client meet-and-greets, and the like.
I don’t really know if it’s different than what I thought. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Coming from a 9-5, I try to focus on keeping that similar work ethic. However, I will say I’m loving the freedom of choice.
J: Freelance work, in my experience, can be absolute chaos. Feast or famine, I always say. How do you manage a work/life balance, if there is such a thing?
L: In my engineering career, I was very good at leaving work at work, never adding my company email to my phone, not answering inquiries at all hours, and letting coworkers know to call me if urgent. In the age of cell phones, it’s funny, because I think the art of a phone call has gotten lost. While text and emails are sometimes convenient, a phone call can answer a question in 2 minutes, whereas it can take 2 days to get the same answer through written methods. I’ve recently added office hours to my business. Unless it’s the weekend of an event, it can typically wait until Monday.
J: In what ways is The Lion House different from other event planning companies?
L: You’ll find it on my website too! (Which was beautifully designed by Kimberly Gilroy of Alfa Charlie): Lion House knows how to party down! Entertaining, warmth, and welcome is in my bones. Being a North Carolina native, I was raised on hospitality. Combined with my 4 years of California living, I’ve cultivated an eye for a classic-cool cali style. I’m into casual luxuries, with a refined yet free-spirited vibe. I look forward to bringing a bit of that west coast vibe this way. Not only that, I know I mentioned it before, but my gumption sets me apart. I actually asked a fellow boss lady that I’ve worked with on many projects what she felt I brought to the table. (I highly recommend doing this - perception is equally as important!)
This is what she wrote (Thanks Kristina of Fog & Dawn Photography!):
Energy: You possess a beautiful, genuine and radiant energy. You always look at a situation and find the positive. Regardless of how you feel, you always put forth a vibe that says "I am awake, alive, and ready to go."
Drive: It doesn't matter what you take on. You take it on with full vigor and force. You find a way to network and promote others around you. You posses a drive that is not only self serving, it’s helpful to your fellow creatives. It is something that will serve you well on the client side and in creative networks.
Direction: Need I explain? You have a downright talent for figuring sh** out. You have a great head for business and you aren't afraid to use your voice to get what you want. When something is challenging, you take charge and take the lead. Clients will love you for it.
J: How do you give back to the community or serve others currently? Any organizations or charities you are partial to?
L: I’m a member of the Junior League. I joined in San Diego 2 years ago and was Procurement Lead for fundraising events and have now transferred to the JL of Raleigh. Junior League is an organization focused on promoting volunteerism, the potential of women, and improving the community through action and leadership. One of my favorite experiences was Stretch For Vets. A volunteer opportunity that allowed me to work and participate at a yoga event on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Midway while raising money and benefitting hundreds of veterans. We came together and flowed to a powerful live pianist on one of the most beautiful mornings. That will stick with me forever.
J: Where do you garner your inspiration from or what inspires you daily?
L: There’s a bit of inspiration overload on Instagram, Pinterest, etc. I try to stay away from using those outlets and focus more on the physical world around me.
While on holiday in coastal Carolina a few weeks ago, my hubby and I got up early one morning to watch the sunrise, something we’d never done together. I snapped a picture of the puffy clouds with a beautiful contrast of pale orange against the moody blue sky. And BOOM - instant color palette inspiration!
J: Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life to date and why?
L: I attended Bloom, The Workshop in San Clemente a few years ago. One of the main reasons I signed up was because my long time Instagram girl crush, Amy Osaba, was going to be a guest speaker and offering a floral arranging breakout session. With her Georgia southern accent, I instantly felt a connection and was inspired as she spoke openly and humbly about her life, her struggles, and the rise of her floral business. It was just so REAL!
My husband, Reid, is on the top of the list for inspiring as well. He gets up on a stage, plays his drums like no other, and pours his passion and heart out in front of a live audience. That’s a vulnerable place to be and I admire a courage like that.
J: What has been your biggest struggle professionally? How did you endure it (or are enduring it currently!)?
L: Getting clients to understand the value in a planner/designer. You can smell and indulge in the sight of gorgeous flowers. You can sit and make memories at the beautifully curated lounge. You can taste the divine 5 course meal. You can rock out to the jams played by the killer live band. But with a planner/designer, it’s the only role in an event that is almost 100% service-based.
There is so much behind the scenes work a planner/designer does that you likely wouldn’t even think of! Things like: who makes sure there’s wedding cake waiting in the bride and groom’s suite to enjoy for breakfast the next morning before fleeting off to their honeymoon? Or who has a generator drop-off arranged because the electrical wiring of the venue craps out 30 minutes before your band is about to go live? Also, you know how much content there is on Pinterest? It’s overwhelming! Our design service is really learning what’s important and representative of your love story, brand, or business. Then narrowing down, creating, and pulling together those pieces to produce an incredibly personalized experience for you and your guests. It is these things that are hard to put a price on, but really make it worthwhile to hire a planner/design.
J: We all have one book, blog, or podcast that we’d recommend to others as a “must” check out. What is that for you?
• Read: How To Style Your Brand and Design Love Fest blog
• Listen: Lion House playlists! I put a new playlist out every month. It’s my way of saying “Hey, this is what I’m groovin’ to. Maybe it’ll fuel your creative energy!” Head to my website, and click the Spotify Playlist button to see what I’m currently listening to.
• Watch: If I Made ___ has such applicable content. Both free (and paid) resources for small business owners.
J: What is your day to day motto?
L: Wake up and hustle.
J: If you could leave the readers with one piece of advice to take with them daily, to help them feel inspired, what would it be?
L: Wake up and hustle! My parents always taught me that hard work pays off. If you want to reap the benefits: get outta bed, put in the work, and make it happen.
J: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with the readers and I?
L: Why Lion House? Well first - I’m a downright Leo. And second - hospitality for me starts in a home. It’s where I learned the skill. Your house is where you should be able to let your hair down, relax, dance, cry, pop open a bottle of wine, enjoy food, family, friends. Really just create memories. A feeling and experience I hope to always bring to my clients.I