Young Money Blog: An interview with Lauren Byrd
blog by Caitlin Campbell McNulty • February 28, 2012 @ 6:15pm
Young professionals are doing big things in our community these days. From starting businesses to launching new events, we’re doing what we can to bring our contemporaries back to Buffalo.
Lauren was honored with the 2012 Rising Star Award at the Emerging Business Leaders awards gala on Wednesday, Feb. 22 and I was really impressed with her story and tenacity. I had the opportunity to chat with her over the weekend and walked away thinking about how incredible she is (not mention super-nice!) and the how I could get involved in the amazing event she has built over the last few years.
Caitlin McNulty: What gave you the idea to launch Buffalo Fashion Week?
Lauren Byrd: I actually fell into the industry. I was always involved with events during my time at SUNY Fredonia and one of the events I helped to produce was the annual fashion show. After that, I was hooked. I remember one day I was at home with my mother and said, “Mom, one day I’m going to create a huge fashion event for Buffalo.” Nine months later I conceived Buffalo Fashion Week.
CM: Tell me about the first year. What were your challenges, what were your successes?
LB: The first year was unbelievably hard. It took me months to get everyone on board with the idea. I had to prove to people that this was a great idea and an event worth their time and investment. I had a lot of challenges that I never even knew I would have to face. The fact that I was still learning about the industry made it more difficult to relate to others in the fashion world. Also the fact that I was only 22 years old made it hard for people to take me seriously and trust me with their money. I had a lot to prove. I was producing an event and at the same time I was learning how to be an event producer, contractor, coordinator, model and talent scout, contract negotiator and so forth. I worked hard and believed enough in what I was doing and soon gained the unwavering support of my sponsors and the company I worked for, RPM Entertainment Productions.
CM: Why Buffalo for a new fashion week? Why not go to New York or another big city and get involved in their already successful fashion weeks?
LB: People tend to ask me this question and I always respond with the same answer: I love my city. It’s where I was born and raised. I could have chosen to leave and produce events elsewhere, like New York or Los Angeles, but I decided to stay and make Buffalo a place that I want to live, not just a place that I chose to live. I truly feel that if more people stayed and worked together to help make this city a place where we all want to live, we would be much further ahead than where we are now. Also, I love the fact that I have put Buffalo on the map for fashion!
CM: What can we expect from Fashion Week 2012?
LB: Luxury! We had an amazing 2011 show and it’s going to be hard to top, but this year will be over the top with glamor and luxury!
CM: What is your dream for Mercedes-Benz of Buffalo Fashion Week? Where do you see the event five or 10 years down the road?
LB: My dream is to see this event continue to grow and to be able to help the city of Buffalo grow in this industry. We all know what retail stores can do to help boost and build an area. It is my hope to continue to make Buffalo a fashionably attractive place to start a business and grow.
CM: Do you ever think about leaving Western New York?
LB: Of course, and I’ve had offers to leave Buffalo. I choose to stay. If people don’t choose to stay, then how can we grow and develop this city into a place people want to live in?
CM: What do you tell people who doubt your ability to change our community?
LB: Although no one has ever doubted me to my face, I am sure that there are those who don’t understand what I am trying to do or simply don’t care about it. That’s OK. I would just say to them that I have found a way, a small way, to impact the community I live in and that makes me happy. I really don’t care if people doubt it, because I believe in what I am doing and what it will lead to.
People don’t always see what happens behind the scenes and may not realize what I have already brought to the city. I have helped launch models’ careers who are now giving back to the community. I’ve given designers a platform to show on. I’ve helped to market new boutiques and upcoming designers here. Most importantly, I think I’ve created something that people can feel proud about for our city.
CM: What advice do you have for other young professionals who want to launch something big but don’t know where to start?
LB: Start with your heart and what you are passionate about. When adversity comes, and it always does, it will be your passion that drives you forward and allows you to succeed. People gravitate towards those who are focused and passionate so start putting it out there and build your network.
Photo by Eric Winton.