Lauren Marturano is the Founder and CEO of Zinnia, a platform to automate offsite and corporate event planning, backed by Atlanta Ventures. She hails from a long stint in corporate at Microsoft and Salesforce and is passionate about building community through the power of human connection.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I grew up in Elkhorn, Nebraska with a loving family that always pushed me to chase my dreams. I never liked following the well-worn path and always dreamt of doing something greater. I started my career in corporate at Microsoft and Salesforce and started small initiatives within the larger organizations, slowly realizing that I was most passionate about paving the path and building something from the ground up. Giving back has always been a big part of my passion for building.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
I remember my first week at Microsoft, I saw Amy Hood, the CFO, walk across the stage in front of 15,000 employees at the MGX Sales Kickoff. This was the first time I can remember seeing a strong female leader, and everything changed for me. I knew then that I, as a female, was capable of chasing my dreams.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea that made you start this brand? How did such a unique idea strike you, and what motivated you to “YES, go for it?”
I knew I wanted to build something that would make lives easier. I have also always been passionate about the power of human connection and community. As I explored markets and the trajectory toward this future of work remote-first world, I realized the importance of continuing to build community, connection, and employee engagement through concentrated moments of in-person human interaction we call offsites. I also knew first hand how difficult it is to plan and orchestrate them well and explored how software could change the game. Zinnia was born!
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
Zinnia enables your team to plan their next offsite, retreat, sales kickoff, or customer event, all in a matter of clicks. We are here to give your team time back to focus on their day job, all while driving event ROI, and saving money.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
One of our core values at Zinnia is “Fail Fast, Learn Faster”. We celebrate failure and we learn from it. The fact is, we are all just figuring it out along the way. No successful founder has ever known everything. The perspective that we are all just faking it til we make it has lessened the burdens of Imposter Syndrome.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
The pandemic has shifted the way that people work. The world realized that there is no longer the need to go into the office every day. This brought tailwinds toward the future of work and offsite industry, driving demand for Zinnia’s services.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
While I was proud to have been named as Charlotte 30 under 30 and have Zinnia listed as Atlanta Inno’s Top Startups to watch, my biggest achievement thus far has been curating the most incredible team at Zinnia. Each member brings such an incredible passion and zest and they inspire me daily.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
Only 1.9% of Funding went to female-led startups in 2022. We need to change this! This is obviously a convoluted issue, but we need to start by choosing big problems in big markets. Don’t be afraid to go for gold!
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
As I have navigated ups and downs in both my personal and professional life, I realized that nothing truly matters if we don’t make an impact. My personal motto is “Leave the world better than you found it” and I try to live this in every interaction.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Only 53 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are female. This is the first time in 68 years that females have made up over 10%. While this statistic is still frustrating, we are moving in the right direction. Statistics show that companies with female board members perform 57% higher than those without. A balanced leadership team provides a company with perspectives from every angle, and I think more and more companies are realizing this.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
You are capable. You are worthy. You deserve a seat at the table.
If you don’t get a seat at the table, bring your own table.