Laura Hammarstrom is the founder of Laura Hammarstrom, CMP, LLC, a company that provides a comprehensive suite of professional, customer-focused, on-site event management services. As event manager and travel director, she specializes in VIP experiences, corporate meetings, international conferences, pharmaceutical programs, festivals, and experiential marketing.
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur in 2017, Laura worked as Events and Experiences Manager at Walton Enterprises and Walmart Corporate. As Senior Event and Project Manager for the Walmart International President and CEO, Ms. Hammarstrom managed strategic projects and events, both domestically and internationally. As Director of Special Projects in the United Kingdom, she generated more than $1 million in public relations value, raised $20 million for charities, and received an ASDA Excellence Award.
Laura thrives in a fast-paced, challenging environment. She is detail-oriented and experienced in driving all aspects of projects, including developing strategy, directing vision, contract negotiations, operations, vendor sourcing, and budget management.
Ms. Hammarstrom’s event management portfolio includes Walmart International Associates Conference, Walmart Presidents’ Roundtable, Bentonville UP Urban Air Mobility Summit, Rapha Prestige Ozarks, Oz Trails Glow Ride, Rotary International Women’s Day Celebration, Bentonville Film Festival, and many more.
Laura is an avid world traveler and biking enthusiast. She personally planned, funded, and traveled to over 60 countries worldwide and resided in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I was fortunate to have a successful career working in a variety of communications, marketing, and event roles for the world’s largest company. After 15 years, I decided to do a bit of reflection on what roles I had enjoyed the most, what my strengths were, what I enjoyed personally, and what I wanted for the rest of my career. It was clear that I needed to marry my personal passion for world travel with my love of event management to create my own event management company focused on incentive travel. I left the comfort of my corporate career, started Laura Hammarstrom – Certified Meeting Professional, and haven’t looked back.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As an event manager, my routine changes drastically depending on what phase of the event planning process I am in. Early on with an event, I can ensure a good night’s sleep, working out in the morning and taking the dog on a walk, followed by a day in my home office working. In the final weeks leading up to an event, it is very hard to get my brain to slow down, so it is a lot of late nights, early mornings, and coffee. The reward is when the event is a huge success and knowing that sleep and the calmer phase of the event process are around the corner.
How do you bring ideas to life?
What I love about events is it uses both sides of my brain – the analytical and creative. I spend hours diving into spreadsheets, processes, and details but then get to step back from that to brainstorm the creative aspects of the event. When I feel stuck in either realm, I take a break from that aspect of the event and work on another area. As much long-term planning goes into an event, the most exciting part is the last-minute creative touches that come together to make the event truly memorable.
What’s one trend that excites you?
While I can’t wait for live events to return, I have really enjoyed the trend toward smaller, interactive virtual events. Having joined hundreds of virtual events over the past year, the ones that stand out to me are the ones that have mastered breaking out into smaller groups and allowing interaction, whether a scavenger hunt, cooking class, or a brainstorming session.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Collaborating with others is key. While I don’t have a huge team, I have a huge community around me. I have other event planners around the world that I have connected with at conferences, through organizations, and on social media that I lean on and learn from. I also have a great local community that comes together to pull of incredible events. We realize we are better together, and when we share ideas, equipment, and resources, our events are only better for it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When it comes to a career, don’t be afraid of change or get too comfortable. For many years, I let myself stay too focused on the paycheck and following a career path that was set for me. I wish I had let myself discover more.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Travel and exploration. Seeing and learning about other parts of the world is what makes me happiest personally, but it also makes me stronger professionally. There are so many skills that I have strengthened as a world traveler that play into my career as an event manager – organization, planning, flexibility, problem-solving, budget management, relationship building, and being more compassionate, to name a few. Also, you never know what you will learn and find exploring places closer to home.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The best thing I have done for my career is stepping back from a leadership role and learning the event industry from the ground up – my “two-year-event-education-experiment.” I wanted to work for others and gain a better understanding of everything it takes to execute events from the ground up, whether it is AV production, catering, venue management, hotel registration, or being a brand ambassador. One, it has made me stronger, smarter, and more compassionate as an event manager, as I have a better understanding of the hard work it takes behind the scenes. Two, I have built relationships and stronger connections with my vendor partners and other event managers. There is newfound respect and willingness to recommend my services to others as an event manager.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One regret I have had as an entrepreneur is getting sidelined from my business goal of being an event manager in the incentive travel industry. In 2015, I left my corporate career to make this transition to incentive travel; however, I had a job offer as a corporate event manager that I felt was too good to pass up. I am grateful for that work and the opportunities I had; however, it did sideline me from my goal of incentive travel. Today I am committed to work that aligns with my long-term goal of incentive travel.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Adobe Creative Cloud. I will be the first to say I am not a graphic designer, but I know enough to get the job done. Having the tools to make the last-minute changes requested by the client, not having to wait 24 hours on a creative agency to make small tweaks, and not miss the print deadlines is worth every penny.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Google has me. I have tried lots of project management tools but always end up going back to using Google (Sheets, Docs, Drive, etc.). They just make it so easy to collaborate; whether it is managing project timelines, editing press releases, or sending out surveys. Having everything housed together is so easy.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Showing Up for Life: Thoughts on the Gifts of a Lifetime” by Bill Gates, Sr. is an inspiring message that encourages you to show up. When an opportunity comes your way and someone asks you to be part of something, just say yes. It so easy to get caught up in our own routines and comfort zones and say no to new opportunities, and this book highlights the reasons you should say yes. You never know what you will learn or have the chance to be part of unless you show up.
What is your favorite quote?
Never let your memories be better than your dreams. – Douglas Ivester
- When it comes to a career, don’t be afraid of change or get too comfortable.
- Collaborating with others is key.
- You never know what you will learn or have the chance to be part of unless you show up.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.