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Under 30: Elena Balkcom

Age: 26  //  

Occupation: Founder, Laurel Avenue  //  

Major at GC: Art (Concentration: Fiber Art), Minor: Dance

 

Tell me a little bit about why you came to Georgia College

I came to Georgia College because I loved that it was a public liberal arts university and I wanted to stay in the central Georgia area. It wasn’t too big, wasn’t too small: it was the perfect fit for me.

 

What was your favorite memory?

I married my college sweetheart, does that count?

 

What’s it like going from the art world to the business world?

I’m one of those people that’s a hybrid of left brain and right brain, so it was actually really difficult for me to pick a major. I really love left-brained things like math and number crunching and return on investment, but I also love creating. I guess I kind of fall in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to left brain and right brain.

As an art major, I got so encouraged and I feel like it gave me the chance to express and create and be pushed outside of my comfort zone. It kind of gave me the guts to say “You know what, if I can do this scary art thing – you know everybody says ‘Oh, I can’t draw’ – maybe there is something to this business deal.” If I can do art, I can do business. It gave me the chance to take a risk.



 

Why weddings?

A wedding is the day in a person’s life when they are spending the most money, having the most interaction with family. It’s one of the biggest transitions they’ve ever been through in life. It’s an emotional, a financial, and, sometimes, a locational transition, and I think that I have a real heart for people who are in transition.

The idea of being able to take on some of the scariness of that and put it into a system that makes sense, that makes it easier on the person, that I can walk alongside of them and have a relationship with them for that season, that allows them to delegate a little bit – it’s probably the way I can be most useful in the world. That’s really exciting to me. And who doesn’t love matrimony, you know?

 

 

 

What would you consider the biggest success so far in your career?

I feel like the biggest “high-five moment” is when I have either a bride or a mom who has been walking through the planning process and have been so stressed and working so hard, when we get to the wedding weekend and they see it all come together, they look over at me and say “Wow, that was so easy! This is so much easier than I thought it was going to be.” When people get to say “Oh! That wasn’t hard!”

I would say either that or a couple of weddings have gotten published in various publications, print and online, and that’s always a big honor and really exciting. I’ve gotten to work with some vendors who are really top-of-the-stack. That always kind of feels like the big “Oh my gosh I’m working with so-and-so. This is the big time!”



 

What were some of those publications you were included in?

A wedding I did in Augusta got included in a 2-page spread in Southern Bride Magazine this winter. A few online resources have published our work as well, which is a big honor.

 

If you could plan a wedding for anyone in the world who would it be and why?

You know, the best weddings are with people who are willing to build a relationship and do the best with what they have.

Its tempting to say – I mean, how cool would it be if Steph and Ayesha Curry had a vow renewal and asked me to coordinate it? We could just have it in an airplane hangar and have their exit be in an airplane. Why not?

But even better than having unlimited funds is having people who are willing to keep the main thing the main thing and do what’s important to them and have a good time with their families. So I guess that’s kind of the dream.

 

 

 

Any advice for current GC students who might be interested in starting their own business?

Take full advantage of the very willing faculty around you. I think that I didn’t even realize how many faculty knew my name and were pulling for me and cheering for me until I was almost out the door. I think that one thing that is across the board at Georgia College about the faculty is that they are very supportive of the students here and they will do anything above and beyond the call of duty to help you succeed, even if it’s not in the arena that they specialize in.

My advisor and teacher TeaYoun Kim-Kassor, I’m pretty sure that if I called her up and said “TeaYoun, it’s a life or death situation: I need you to assistant coordinate a wedding with me,” I think that art professor TeaYoun would step up to the plate. She’s just one of those people who will do whatever it takes to help her students succeed.

My advice would be too, especially if you don’t know what you want to do, if you don’t know what kind of job you might want to get, if you’re feeling lost, the thing to remember is that the faculty are also people and they have had to do “adulting” too before. They are a resource. If I had to do it over, I would schedule more meetings that didn’t have anything to do with my classwork and sit down with faculty members to just talk about life. They have good perspective and really invest in their students.

 


The Laurel Avenue team is made up of three Georgia College alumnae.

Learn more about Laurel Avenue: http://www.laurel-avenue.com/

 

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