Lauren Balmayer gave up a primo job in Paris to follow her joie de vivre in San Francisco.
The former director of L’Oreal’s Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Global Corporate Communications moved here two years ago to launch a new type of public relations (PR) agency, one aimed at promoting “mission-driven” companies who care about making the world a better place.
“I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs, the latest technologies and people like me who didn’t fear change,” Lauren says.
She’s a certified yoga instructor and evangelist of mindful leadership. The LinkedIn page describing her company, Nuvolette PR, talks about helping companies become more “conscious” in ways that “serve us all and leave no one behind.”
She’s known for starting business meetings with a mindfulness breathing exercise or meditation.
In other words, she’s a lot more Californian than a lot of Californians.
Where did you get the idea of moving to San Francisco?
Lauren Balmayer: After getting my master’s degree in political science from Sciences Po Lyon in France, I attended an International Exchange Program at the University of Georgetown, where I studied public affairs. After graduating from that program, I started working at the French Embassy in D.C. as a public relations officer. After that, I came home and worked at Fleishman-Hillard in Paris, a global PR agency, and then L’Oreal in Paris. My job at L’Oreal involved a lot of global travel. I visited the United States fairly often and knew that San Francisco would be a great place to learn about the latest technologies to better serve my clients. I guess what really drove me was my desire to be an entrepreneur. I loved the corporate social responsibility (CSR) part of my job at L’Oreal and wanted to support mission-driven, purpose-driven companies.
Working at L’Oreal sounds fabulous and glamorous. Was it?
Lauren: Absolutely – at times it was. I started out as international communications manager. I helped integrate plans for a network of 45 PR managers around the world companywide and ran international press conferences. I got to travel all over the world and was the official media spokesperson for L’Oreal. Then I was promoted to global corporate communications director for the brand Yves Saint Laurent Beauté. In that role, I focused on communications strategy, brand transformation and handled international PR events. One of the more glamorous parts of the job was working with celebrities.
Did you work with anyone we’d know?
Lauren: Jessica Chastain was an actress I worked with. She represented our perfume. I helped manage interviews with all types of beauty magazines around the world and attended a lot of red carpet events.
Yeah, that sounds terrible. I could see why you’d want to give that up.
Lauren: (Laughs.) It was a great experience and I loved it. I could have stayed the rest of my career. But I knew the world was changing so fast, and I was really interested in the way technology was changing our jobs. I could have become an entrepreneur in Paris, but I felt it would be easier to learn more about technology advances and learn a lot from other entrepreneurs in San Francisco. People here are early adopters and more progressive, more open to testing new things. I wanted to work with start-ups and nonprofits and help them use new technologies and social media to help them serve a larger purpose. I couldn’t think of a better place to do this kind of work.
Did you get work right away or has it taken a while to build a client base?
Lauren: I don’t live lavishly, so I was able to make a go of it from the beginning. I can’t name all of my clients because some have nondisclosure agreements, but I’ve been lucky to have worked with a lot of social impact startups, technology startups and the Women’s Forum Silicon Valley.
Can you give an example of a “mission-driven” client?
Lauren: Yes of course. One is called Thrive. They offer natural beauty products for men. They use native plants that improve the soil and biodiversity of previously degraded lands. They work with farmers in Costa Rica, which helps boost those farmers’ incomes. And they grow plants that not only have amazing, restorative properties for their products but also regenerate the soil. The more they sell, the more they improve the environment. Isn’t that great?
What brings you to SF IABC?
Lauren: I only recently joined, but I can tell already that it’s a strong, supportive community. Since I’m a one-person shop, I appreciate the opportunity to broaden my network. I’m a big fan of ‘it takes a village.’ We’re all stronger together. I’m looking forward to getting to know other members and exchanging experiences. I’m super excited about becoming active as a volunteer on the SF IABC board. And I’ll be attending the next Net9 dinner meeting in San Francisco.
Any tips for fellow SF IABC members?
Lauren: Do something that matters to you. People will try to talk you out of it. Don’t let them. Stick to your intuition. Don’t let anyone stop you. If you told me I’d be an entrepreneur in California three years ago when I was in France, I would have laughed. But I feel I am in the right place, doing the right thing, and it’s working. I would encourage anyone to take a risk like this in order to follow a dream. It’s all about showing up no matter what. Surf the wave. Don’t let the wave beat you down, just surf the wave.
Julie Knight is an award-winning, accredited business communicator. Her clients have included The Walt Disney Company, Starbucks, Cisco Systems, Genentech, McKesson Corporation and Hewlett-Packard, to name a few. Connect with Julie on LinkedIn or missionpossible.strikingly.com.