Young St. Petersburg entrepreneur orchestrates a growing business

The marketing CEO can attest to the value of working together.
Lauren Davenport and her dog, Bella. MARLA KORENICH   |   Special to the Times
Lauren Davenport and her dog, Bella.MARLA KORENICH | Special to the Times
Published July 27 2016
Updated July 27 2016

ST. PETERSBURG

You could say that the entrepreneur in Lauren Davenport began to emerge in middle school.

For 25 cents an item, she would iron clothes for her mother and some of the people in her neighborhood, all for the love of shoes.

"I definitely had the most shoes out of everyone in school," she said. "It was fantastic."

Davenport, 27, still likes shoes — more than 50 pairs, at last count. And as founder and CEO of a rapidly expanding digital marketing company in St. Petersburg, she can afford them.

Her Symphoni Media has more than 25 employees and a wide client base that includes companies such as Marriott, American Strategic Insurance, Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems, and Tampa Steel and Supply.

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce named Davenport a finalist for its Entrepreneur Iconic Woman of the Year award in 2014.

The next year, the Business Observer, a weekly magazine for business leaders from Tampa Bay to Naples, named her one of its "40 under 40" bright, young entrepreneurs to watch. She was the youngest person on the list.

Davenport said she chose the name Symphoni Media because she likes to compare her agency to an orchestra, where everyone works together "to create something beautiful."

Davenport got her start in public relations in Nashville, her hometown.

While studying journalism at Middle Tennessee State University in nearby Murfreesboro, she began handling social media for the bar where she worked. Soon she was editing code and HTML for 15 businesses.

"I knew I would always be 'the college kid' if I stayed there," Davenport said. "So to continue my business, I had to move."

She looked for a city with at least 200,000 people and more small businesses than corporations. St. Petersburg fit the bill, she said, and "it has a beach."

Three days after arriving in 2011, Davenport took her dog out after a night with friends and tripped over another dog named Chance. It was a propitious encounter.

"I knew right then I wanted to marry her," said Chance's owner, Daniel Fernandez.

Their first date was skydiving.

"I had to set the bar as high as possible, and I did at 14,000 feet," Fernandez said.

Davenport started Symphoni Media with four interns in an office on Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg.

Her staff includes her husband as chief marketing officer and her father, Chris Davenport, as president and chief operating officer.

Her father, who flies back and forth from Nashville, handles human resources and legal issues and helps oversee operations. He is also a global security consultant for IBM.

Before marrying Davenport and joining her company, Fernandez was director of marketing at Florida Hospital Orlando.

He studied Davenport's goals and realized they were passionate about the same things.

In a small-business setting, being married to the boss can be tricky for the couple and uncomfortable for employees.

"They are a power couple, and they work well together," said Tyler Killette, who was a content creator there for seven months in 2014 and 2015. "It isn't awkward."

With a growing staff came the need for a bigger office. Symphoni Media now works in 7,000-square-foot quarters in an office park off Roosevelt Boulevard.

The new office has a common area, projectors, Mario Kart video games, computers and a quiet room.

It is also dog-friendly. Davenport's dog Bella is around almost every day.

Marla Korenich is a student reporter at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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