Women Are Underrepresented in Senior-Level Creative Positions, and Laura Keller Is Doing Something About It
By Chris Olsen
Laura Keller’s Whyography is one of more than 30 stories featured in the “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose” book.
Laura Keller was on top of the world. She was living in Los Angeles and about to start a new job at a prestigious advertising agency. She was ready to hit the ground running. But before she’d even set foot in the agency’s door, she got a call from her would-be boss. He informed her the Los Angeles office was closing. “The good news is you’ll receive one year’s salary,” he announced. “The bad news is you no longer have a job.”
The news caught Laura completely off guard. But she didn’t wallow in it. She’d also been planning her wedding and had discovered a hole in the market for modern yet classic, tasteful and unique wedding décor and accessories. So Laura found a solution: She began sourcing items from designers and vendors who were not specific to the wedding industry. She developed wedding category exclusivity agreements with those designers, launched Divine Weddings in 1998, at the start of the dot-com boom, and sold the products on a first-of-its-kind website.
Laura’s vision for a successful business quickly came to fruition, and the competition was taking notice. In fact, one of the biggest players in the wedding industry began copying her product designs. She met with them and proposed they buy Divine Weddings. They weren’t interested—they’d already copied her business model. Squashed by a much larger competitor, Laura closed her business in 2001. But she didn’t see it as a failure. It opened her eyes to the world of entrepreneurship, and she knew she’d start another business eventually.
When Laura’s then-husband’s job required that they move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, she took a contract position for an advertising agency there, tapping into her numerous industry contacts to recruit creative talent. When the senior recruiter left the firm, Laura stepped into the role and began working with outside consultants. Once again, she recognized a hole in the market. No one was recruiting in a strategic way.
In 2007, Laura and business partner Ashley Mehbod—also an agency veteran—launched Pixie Dust, an executive search firm specializing in supporting creative agencies and marketers looking for leaders who can champion new ways of thinking. And more specifically, Pixie Dust is focused on female leadership. Women are grossly underrepresented in chief marketing officer and senior-level creative positions, and Pixie Dust is on a mission to do something about it. As the name implies, the agency provides clients with the magic ingredient to enhance, elevate and improve their business—the people. Along with their talent scout, Lisa Hashbarger, they work to continually build and expand their network of the best creative problem solvers in the industry.
Laura’s focus on women’s equality extends beyond her work at Pixie Dust. In 2017, she met social entrepreneur and humanitarian Wendy Diamond, the founder of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED). WED is an international event that empowers women and girls to become active participants in the economy. WED engages program ambassadors all over the world to fulfill its mission, and Laura now serves in that role for Minnesota.
To learn more about Laura’s business, visit PixieDustInc.com.
Photo: Sarah Hrudka Photography
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created Publish Her Story (formerly My Founder Story) and Publish Her as platforms for doing so.