Kabbage spoke with Kelly Nelson, founder and CCO of L.E.D. Experience. A serial entrepreneur, Nelson believes in following your passions and making your work environment filled with joy. Nelson has long been intrigued in mixing mediums to create emotionally captivating experiences and constantly is inspired to create. Follow her small business on Facebook, Instagram and Vimeo.
Tell us a little bit about your small business. Who are you?
L.E.D. Experience is a dynamic, full-service, strategy-based experience engineering agency that designs and produces live events and entertainment-driven projects for corporations, associations, not-for-profits, public programs, venues and private individuals.
At L.E.D., all of our solutions are based on a strategic platform of purposeful design. We craft our solutions to reflect positioning and messaging of our client’s unique brand attributes. We leverage engaging tactics to speak a message to audiences, connect them emotionally with your brand and ultimately move them to a desired behavioral outcome. More personally, I’m an award-winning experience designer with over 30 years experience in entertainment and live event design and production in the private and public sectors. Additionally, I’m an immersive theater conceptual artist and live show author and designer. I created the breakthrough public show “Luminocity”, which utilizes the urban landscape as a canvas for a migrating, immersive lighted performer procession and video mapping display. I’m trained in behavioral psychology techniques, strategy-based experience design, and entertainment marketing. I have degrees in Communications, Fine Arts and British Studies.
What made you realize this is what you wanted to invest yourself in?
Although reflectively, the signs along the way were clear that I would end up on this track, it has actually been a learn as I go process for me. I was the kid who constantly created elaborate “themes” for parties at home, spent far too much time investigating how everything looked in black light, had an obsession for things that glowed in the dark and spent months planning my unusual Halloween costumes that I would make myself. “Why be normal?” was my mantra and purple was my favorite color. I spent most of my Florida childhood barefoot and knee deep in the river or on the back of my horse finding the magic in a fictional world of my own construct.
When I found my first agency, we operated on nearly identical principles as the agency I first worked for (primarily producing corporate meetings and events), since that was the world I knew. With the creation of Luminocity in 2010, however, I took another turn in my career that landed me in the world of performance art and public spectacle design. The reputation Luminocity created for me served as a calling card and credential earning me a place in the colorful world of elite performance artists from stage, screen, dance and cirque. The joy I now feel every single day collaborating with these amazing beings fills my soul. This feeling tells me that I have found my calling! Here in this place, I can use all of my skills orchestrated together to make magic and move people emotionally.
“Here in this place, I can use all of my skills orchestrated together to make magic and move people emotionally.”
Have there been any obstacles you’ve faced since you started your small business?
As an entrepreneur leading a small business, I have weathered the dot-com crash, 9/11, the recession, physical challenges related to creating a family, the death of a baby, the death of close family members, the death of close friends, physical injury, a spouse who was unemployed on and off and numerous other challenges. As an eternal optimist, my reaction when faced with adversity tends to be to regroup, gather strength and persevere. I won’t tell you that it has always been easy, but I just tend to be the type of person who doesn’t stay down for long. I’ve found that literally every time I thought things were insurmountable, just when things were darkest, I would find just a little more steam to push out of it only to find a turnaround right around the corner. The lessons I take away from all of this are: Learn from your mistakes and misfortune and use this knowledge to propel you forward and inform your empathy for others. Never give up, and always ask for help when you need it.
Was there anyone in particular who created a huge impact in helping you and your small business get to where it is today?
I would like to give a shout out to Susan Wiggins of the W.C. Bradley Company who was my first client after I went out on my own with my first agency. I was a 22-year-old kid who had lots of bravado and good ideas but not as much experience, squaring off against my former employer (a formidable company with offices in 11 cities worldwide and huge teams of people with decades of experience). Susan liked my unique ideas and the way I listened carefully to what they considered important and ultimately found a way to produce her event in a space my competitor deemed impossible. She took a chance on me without which I’m convinced it would have taken me much longer to find my way on my own. That first project (a fairly challenging and complex one) allowed me to flex my logistics and creative muscle successfully and build an immediate reputation for my newborn agency.
I always have to thank my husband who is forever patient when I share the frustrations of leadership and who has stepped in to support my work countless times over the years and who always encourages my dreams. I also want to give a special shout out to my many, many friends and family who have helped me make connections in the world and who continue to invest fiscally and emotionally in our agency. And lastly, I have to thank my team who honor me with their time and talents and who inspire me to be a leader they can believe in.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their business?
The first thing that comes to mind may be cliché, but it is something I truly believe “If you do what you love, the money will follow”. Follow your passion, do something you would do even if you didn’t get paid to do it…if you possibly can! Create a culture where you are having fun and enjoying the process, no matter what your profession. We spend so much of our lives working, we might as well enjoy it, otherwise, we are spending a great amount of time being unhappy. Happiness is infectious and clients who enjoy your culture will naturally be attracted to doing business with you.
“Learn from your mistakes and misfortune and use this knowledge to propel you forward and inform your empathy for others. Never give up, and always ask for help when you need it.”
What resources have been at the forefront in helping you run your business?
“The Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant and “Enchantment” by Guy Kawasaki have been influential and satisfying reads for me. I’m also a Ted Talks addict (I, honestly, have never seen one I disliked). Apps such as Evernote, Basecamp, Dropbox and Wunderlist have been incredibly helpful in keeping us organized as a business and a team.
How do you see your small business growing or changing in the future?
We have a very dynamic plan for our future growth. In addition to expanding our agency and our entertainment division, we have several concepts that have been born from our core starting to take root as their own separate initiatives. In the near future, we have plans for a long-running immersive theater dinner show in an artisan tent, a social media network, an app, an eco-lodge and an entertainment-based restaurant/retail concept.
Kelly Nelson is the founder and CCO of L.E.D. Experience. As a serial entrepreneur, Nelson founded and grew two successful companies (The Maverick Group and L.E.D. Experience). She has long been intrigued by working with mediums that create emotional, behavioral, physical and entertaining links that traverse our lives in work and play. A trend identifier who is constantly inspired to create, Nelson finds joy in innovating and lives by the mantra: “What’s the thing that is not in the world yet, but should be?”
Want to learn more about the Kabbage process?
Check out these helpful links:
The Kabbage Team is here to not only fund the small business loans you need, but to help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you’d like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.