How to Play the Game of Life

photos and blog by Robyn Wyman-Dill

What fascinates me most about my job as a journalist is the personal journeys people take to fulfill their life’s expression. It’s like a fingerprint the way a person plays the game of life. No two are identical.

As a girl growing up in Lakeville, a small, blue collar town with a labyrinth of lakes the locals call ponds, Lauren Clymer didn’t imagine a life at the helm of a premier events and marketing company in one of the most beautiful luxury resort counties on the planet, working with a canvas of high rise apartment communities adorned with accents like olympic size pools, clubhouses with executive chef kitchens and olympic size views. (Like Astoria at Central Park West in youth-infused Irvine and Essex Skyline at the corner of Irvine and Santa Ana.) Or, that she’d be staging penthouse parties and hosting tastings on multiple floors with her handsome partner and significant other, Brad Goldston. But, she did feel deep in her heart she wanted to give back to society – some how, some way – and made herself a promise to do so some day.

“I remember sitting in a marketing class in high school and thinking that there’s got to be a better measure of success for companies than solely profit.” Clymer recollects. “I didn’t want to be part of that machine.”

Her dream was to adapt that machine into a socially-responsible avenue to create change.

“I took classes in women’s studies and communications, minoring in psychology, so I would better understand the social effects of advertising.”

In the pilgrimage from idealistic student to orchestrating one enchanting evening after another, Clymer graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, completing a marketing degree and moved across country to sunny San Diego, California. Her vision to give back started to take shape here after she was introduced to RESULTS (www.results.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating poverty around the world, and the Grameen Foundation (www.grameenfoundation.org) that provides the tools necessary for poor people to develop skills to reach their full potential,- like financial services, health and agricultural productivity.

“I was and still am hugely inspired by Grameen Founder, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus because of his ability to shift the way we do business.”

(Yunus is also the creator of Microcredit which provides small business loans with low interest rates to the poor to alleviate poverty.)

Her career in marketing would require relocating to San Francisco where Clymer landed the real deal in terms of events experience at United Business Media, specialists in events, PR newswire and other marketing services with offices around the world.

At UBM’s TechWeb (formed to bring technology communities together throughout the year with live events and manage their online communities), Clymer found herself working with a cast of thousands.

“These conferences had anywhere from 3,000 – 10,000 attendees. I was the liaison between the marketing department and sales, creative and web departments, handling media buys, attendee marketing and sponsors fulfillment to insure that we actually did all of those wonderful things we promised our sponsors. I also worked as an email marketing manager and covered list management. It was a fun, learning experience for me.”

Yet, deep down in her heart, Clymer was still yearning to contribute more. She volunteered on the side, attended Craiglist’s Non-Profit Bootcamp – which trains new and aspiring charity leaders – and started sending her resume to non-profits she believed in.

Meanwhile, the economy was headed for a recession.

“At the time non-profits were actually cutting back their marketing departments but that wasn’t enough to make me want to give up. In fact, it re-affirmed my determination to run a non-profit just like a business.”

She launched Runway Junkie, (An online social enterprise where members could buy and sell designer clothing.) turning shopping profits into funds for non-profit women’s organizations – with 10% of the net sales earmarked for organizations nominated by the members.

“I always liked the event side of the business and the personal interaction that comes with it and started hosting women’s designer clothing swaps and pampering events. Any proceeds and extra clothing was then donated to organizations like The Eli Home (a center providing assistance to victims of domestic abuse) and Working Wardrobes.” (outfitting unemployed people in professional attire to help rebuild their confidence and make a good impression at job interviews.)

Then Cupid came along and pointed his arrow in the right direction.

PART II

When Clymer and Goldstone met in 2010, it marked the start of a love match and the merger of good deeds to come.

While they were getting settled in Orange County, they saw a need to create a system to help people – like them – find a new doctor and dentist, hair stylist and gym. Tapping into Goldston’s sales-driven acumens, skills in seminar presentations and business development with a corporate events background in the health and wellness industries, and Clymer’s social conscience, creative outlook and marketing savvy, the duo began hosting events for their neighbors.

“We had just moved in and we didn’t know where to go for anything and so we began hosting expos where neighbors could come and learn about what their community has to offer them. We wrote out our business plan on a napkin over dinner.”

When EXPO4Life arrived on the scene the duo’s reputation for delivering Wellness & Lifestyle events spread along with their roster of events per year. Averaging 30 events in their first year and more than doubling it with 75 events the second, their company has now branched out into fashion shows, tasting events, cooking classes, grand openings, and gala events and is getting requests to produce events in other markets – like San Diego, LA and San Francisco.

Although Clymer and Goldston have their favorite charities, they strongly believe in being open to supporting new charities with events – such as EXPO4Life’s Monthly Taste for A Cause, where the client or restaurant has the opportunity to select their own charity drive every month.

“What is key for us is to stay as local as possible and really give back to our communities across the board. “ Says Goldston.

EXPO4Life has raised much needed funds for various non-profits such as The Eli Home, Hope for the Warriors, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Surfrider Foundation.

Meanwhile, the team likes to tackle new challenges too.

PART III

At Astoria’s grand re-opening gala benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society last June, the duo had to figure out how to spread a party across five different locations on the grounds and still make the event appear seamless. To optimize the architecture of each environment, they enhanced the ambience with exotic accents, turning the evening into an unfolding travelogue at every corner. Recognizing what is key to an event’s success.  Creating the right ambience.

With the renaissance of metro communities in suburban areas, luxury apartment dwellings are transforming the Irvine and Santa Ana skylines into cityscapes. Goldston and Clymer, who had looked at properties for themselves to rent in several gorgeous buildings, saw the ‘potential’ in bringing penthouses and non-profits together. Essex Skyline made the perfect moderne backdrop for the Annual Gala and Fashion Show Benefit on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. For two years in a row, (2013 &2014) EXPO4Life, who produced the event, has increased attendance from 250 to 550 people.

Goldston and Clymer now serve on the Board of Directors of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, hosting events to raise funds for the organization several times a year.

“Sadly just about everyone’s family is touched by cancer these days,” says Clymer. “One person is diagnosed with blood cancer in the US every 5 minutes.”

Today, Expo4Life produces and markets non-profit events for high-end apartment community clients like – The Irvine Company, Sequoia, Pinnacle and Alliance. Not bad for a company that opened its doors with heart less than five years ago.

And Clymer says she still get excited when she sees photos of an event the next day -even after four hundred events, averaging 3 – 5 events a week and long, often stressful days working on multiple projects later.

“As we evolve, we keep asking ourselves, what else can we do that is fun and exciting that we can bring to our events.”

In the game of life – like the finger print – no two ‘personal journey’ stories are ever alike.

Stay tuned.

 

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