Small Business Spotlight: Synergy DG
When it comes to conferences and trade shows, no one does it quite like New Orleans. There is a reason, in 2018 thousands of visitors attended conferences held at hotels and venues throughout the city, and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center hosted more than 900,000 visitors. Tourists and conference managers know how special an event can be in New Orleans.
The creativity behind trade show and design marketing just seems to be a part of this city’s DNA. And that’s why the Synergy Design Group excels here.
To learn more about a business so closely connected to the city’s conference industry, we chatted with Luz Lobos, founder and CEO of Synergy Design Group, whose company focuses on trade shows, exhibits, and brand marketing.
Born and raised in El Salvador, Luz embraced the passion, creativity, and resiliency of New Orleans. An expert in design marketing, Luz and her team at Synergy DG create unique exhibits for trade shows, museums, retail displays, and branded interior spaces for companies both locally and nationally.
A Conversation with Luz Lobos, Synergy Design Group
Tell us a bit about your company and you. How did you become an entrepreneur and start Synergy Design Group? Why did you want your own business?
The youngest of three, with working parents and sisters who had already gone off to college, I was used to fending for myself. Growing up in the middle of a civil war in El Salvador made me realize that there were a lot of things out of my control, but the future was mine. I should make the best of it.
After starting in architecture and following my passion for design, I realized there was a disconnect between the marketing goals of a company and how they represented themselves in environments. Remember those heavy, big carpeted panels you had to lug out, and velcro text and photos on? Exactly. Ad agencies were spending a lot of money creating beautiful campaigns, but not implementing these campaigns in the trade show arena.
Perhaps, I was too brassy. Perhaps, I was too vain. I felt that I could make companies stronger. Here I found my happy place, where combining my studies was a rewarding experience. I could help companies grow and employees be proud. I could collaborate with agencies to create a synergy in brand that enhances not only a company’s appeal, but also its bottom line.
When I had the opportunity to start my own company, I took it. Do you realize how many advantages entrepreneurs have here in the United States? And I am talking way, WAY before all these mentoring programs became available!
How has Synergy utilized the business/entrepreneurial resources in New Orleans to grow your business?
For the longest time I didn’t, and that was my mistake. Let me explain: When I founded Synergy DG in 2000 life was grand, and companies had nice budgets. Then 9/11 happened. This tragedy also caused companies to stop traveling and pull out of trade shows for a few months. Marketing budgets were cut. Flexibility was key for our economic survival.
Once things settled down, and it was grand again, Katrina hit. I have no words for it.
I relocated to Baton Rouge and interviewed potential team members at Starbucks because of the free Wi-Fi. My office manager helped me place orders with her cell phone.
The result was that I was working inside a bubble. I was so focused on the day-to-day survival that I was too busy to take advantage of networking events and business associations.
Fast forward to 2019 and working on the business (not in it). We are lucky to be in a city where business people care about nurturing relationships and not just the quick sale.
New Orleans’ soul is not Fortune 500 businesses, but independent, small business owners who follow their passion.
Now, we have organizations like the New Orleans Business Alliance that can assist in ways that I would not have thought possible in 2000.
What in your opinion has been key to your success?
We say, at Synergy DG, that we have a knack for creativity, fun, and resiliency. Just like our city. I was not born in New Orleans, but I feel it has embraced me. New Orleans welcomes entrepreneurship at all levels, leaders who don’t quit, and talent that is resourceful.
Perseverance also drives us to recruit the right team member and to stay strong and bold. It is defined in making time for networking and continued education– even when we think there are not enough hours in the day, in not giving up when demand is low, and in striving to exceed expectation by providing a different solution than a “cookie-cutter” kit you can purchase online from market competitors who commoditize design in the trade show industry.
Perseverance drives us to put New Orleans on the map for top exhibit designers in the U.S. by competing in International Exhibit Design awards.
What advice do you have for startups and small businesses in New Orleans, or looking to locate in New Orleans?
Take advantage of the supportive local community and resources such as the New Orleans Business Alliance. Entrepreneurship is part of our New Orleans culture. Embrace that culture, get out there and talk to people at any of the dozens of business education and networking events each week.
Get involved in the community. Join local organizations and use our unique culture to help set yourself apart from other companies. You can make a difference here.
What specific partnerships have been critical to your success?
Partnerships with the manufacturers we represent keep us healthy in-house. Long-term collaborations with our customers and agencies to make their customers shine also have been essential to our sustainability.
I am a proud sponsor of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, which has been so rewarding and I feel it is essential to our business. We give back and make a difference helping others grow.
I also serve on the board of the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network, and I believe in making a difference by creating opportunities for businesses that might otherwise not have a chance to be on the table.
On a personal level, being part of the Women Presidents’ Organization in New Orleans empowers me to follow my potential. These women are strong leaders not only in their businesses but in the community as well.
Overall, partnerships keep me from being insulated and enrich both my business and personal life.
Can you share with us any recent successes or accomplishments?
A few months ago, we received the 2018 Excelencia Small Business of the Year Award from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
We are currently nominated for two exhibit design awards by Exhibitor Magazine for our work with Warped Cigars and Ocean Infinity.
Additionally, we are really excited to be working on a permanent museum installation at the American Italian Cultural Center, which will showcase the history of Italian cultural influences in New Orleans.
What is your pitch to a prospective customer? What does your company value?
At Synergy DG we recognize that a company’s brand is a combination of distinct elements (logo, mission, culture, key competitive advantage). We combine these marketing, function and aesthetic elements into a cohesive turnkey environment; whether it functions as a trade show exhibit booth, a retail space or a presentation workspace.
We take a holistic approach to exhibit design, considering our clients’ short-term and long-term goals, and develop solutions that serve as important components of our customers’ marketing strategies. Our international network of partners and relationships with exhibit manufacturers ensure our clients the best possible solutions for their investment.
We value our customers’ success. Our clients understand the importance of marketing and branding and seek a tailored solution that helps them increase brand recognition, meet sales goals and grow their business.
What are your goals for 2019? Where do you see Synergy DG in the next five years?
For 2019, we are adding team members to meet demand and global growth opportunities. We will focus on our international display rental customers coming to New Orleans.
We are excited for the next five years because we are increasing our national footprint and leveraging our international partnerships.