Emerging Lane | A Very ‘Impressive’ Entrepreneur

Commerce Lexington’s 2017 Young Entrepreneur winner discusses life, business

By Abby Laub

The McDonalds once struggled to survive a car crash, but now are the parents of three children and a thriving young business.
The McDonalds once struggled to survive a car crash, but now are the parents of three children and a thriving young business.

In 2008, Laura McDonald was in a hospital bed for two months, full of “hardware” after a tragic car accident that also left her husband in a coma for a month. It was this experience, though, that McDonald believes led her to become a successful entrepreneur. Her business, Impressions Marketing & Events, won Commerce Lexington’s Young Entrepreneur Award for 2017.

“My husband had to relearn how to walk and talk,” she recalled. “I broke multiple bones and had to stay in a hospital bed for two months following surgeries. This experience taught me to go after my dreams now, because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. I believe it also contributed to developing the grit needed to be persistent as an entrepreneur. Our accident was Aug. 23, 2008, and our son was born on Aug. 23, 2017. It made his birthday even more special.”

Before she gave birth to the couple’s son, she was busy forming Impressions and raising the couple’s other two children, daughters Clarke, 7, and Sutton, 3. While Impressions incorporated in 2010, it wasn’t until 2012 that McDonald began devoting time to build the business.

The company primarily helps nonprofit and small business clients make a lasting impression on their audiences through marketing and events. During its nearly five years in business, Impressions has seen consistent growth, with plans to add more employees and contractors to the team.

McDonald hails from Georgetown and attended Georgetown College, where she received an undergraduate degree in communication and media studies. She received a master’s in integrated marketing communication from West Virginia University.

The business owner previously worked in a corporate position that taught her a lot about marketing and event planning through hands-on experiences.

“As my workload continued to grow, the leadership responded by bringing in consultants to help support various events or marketing purposes,” McDonald said. “Not all organizations could afford these costs, and if a consultant was brought in due to workload, they couldn’t spend an excessive amount of time on projects. This realization led me to start Impressions Marketing and Events, where our core tenets are to provide excellent service and results at a price small businesses and nonprofits can afford.”

Her favorite parts of the job are working with people who are passionate about what they do and always learning more about communication strategies. Nothing beats authenticity and knowing the audience.

“So often, organizations start down a branding or communication path without considering their target audience,” McDonald said. “Be authentic from the moment you meet someone – be it in person, online or through other channels. Too often, people and organizations try to put on a persona they believe will connect with the people they will meet. Today’s audiences can tell when you are being inauthentic, and this leads to distrust and, ultimately, hurts your personal, business or nonprofit brand.

“At Impressions, we love building relationships with our clients. When we meet someone for the first time, we really work to get to know them, and we continue to find ways to build connections with individuals and organizations on an ongoing basis. It has become one of the factors for which we are known.”

The Impressions owner believes that first impressions are, in fact, underutilized.

“I believe we need to extend our understanding of a first impression,” McDonald said. “Because our personal and organizational brands have to break through the clutter of thousands of messages received each day, our ‘first impression’ may actually be the fourth or fifth time they see our brand.”

McDonald’s work and personal life was eventful over the summer — a new baby and big award. She said she was “surprised, excited and profoundly thankful” for the latter and that her children make her better each day.

“My kids remind me why I do what I do. I have the opportunity to work with small businesses and nonprofits that seek to make the world a better place. There is no greater gift I can give or lesson I can teach my children than working hard toward something that makes a difference,” McDonald said.

Balancing it all is an ever-present challenge, and she jokes that if you don’t consider sleep as a part of “balance” then her life is pretty balanced.

“I am fortunate to be able to set my own schedule, so I have the luxury of making sure I can be with my family when I need and want to be,” McDonald said. “I try to find ways to involve my family in the work we are doing with clients. My daughters are excellent goody-bag stuffers, for example. While the flexibility is wonderful, I also work a lot. I like the quote about entrepreneurs that says we will work 16 hours for ourselves so we don’t have to work eight for someone else. My husband jokes that my hobby is working, because I love what I do so much.”

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