How I Got Here: West of Fairfax’s Courtney Lopez on taking risks

Courtney Lopez shares why data is her professional love language.

Cortney Lopez

As the visionary behind West of Fairfax, Courtney Lopez brings nearly a decade of expertise in digital marketing to the forefront. With a strong foundation built from agency work with diverse personal and professional brands, Lopez transitioned into consulting for digital strategy. In 2018, she co-founded West of Fairfax with two partners, driven by the mission to sculpt brand identities and narrate compelling stories in the digital realm.

I’m inspired by:

I’m inspired by storytelling and human connection, my incredible team and their unique contribution, our clients, and the challenges they invite us into to help tell their brand story. Collaboration and conversation fuel creativity for me. Times of rest and slow days in a quiet place bring inspiration. And I’m always watching, listening to, or reading something that’s sparking something new for me. I’m currently very inspired by Rick Rubin’s podcast, Tetragrammaton.

The most rewarding part of my job is:

Two things come to mind. First, seeing my team thrive and grow. For many of our all-female team, this would be their early work experience, and I’m watching them take raw talent and become all-stars in their own right – leading projects, working with major brands, problem-solving with clients, and bringing forward fresh ideas. Secondly, the trust of a client is everything. Building long-term, collaborative relationships with clients where we are trusted to execute launches, campaigns, and strategies because of our previous proven success is the ultimate reward. 

 The most difficult part of my job is:

Over the last year, our biggest difficulty has been growing pains (a problem I’m very happy to have). Whether it is landing our next client or carefully building our team, I often find myself balancing competing priorities. I’m passionate about scaling sustainably and adamant that our team enjoys a healthy work/life balance, so focusing on strong internal processes, resources, and efficiencies is essential to me (along with executing killer client work). As a leader, my biggest tension is having enough time to work on the business while balancing that with being in the day-to-day of business.

I stay on top of trends by:

Being on TikTok a *little* bit too long, reading online trend reports, conversations as a team, and hiring employees that have their finger on the pulse of culture. Data is also my professional love language, so I heavily rely on our wonderful report guru, Mary, who provides our clients and team with monthly reports per account. The data on what is and is not performing helps guide and reinforce what trends are worth leaning into and what trends have reached their expiration date.

My professional motto/mantra is:

I’m not sure I’ve ever established a professional mantra or rule of life, but I may need to! What comes to mind is a phrase that I have had to revisit often is this: Everyone is figuring it out as well. Launching a business as a female founder at age 26 was exciting and challenging, bringing a new wave of imposter syndrome. Do I have what it takes? Does everyone else have knowledge that I don’t? With years of leading this agency and successful projects under my belt now, this is easier to correct, but there were many days when that imposter syndrome crept into my thinking. I would have to remind myself that every founder, thinker, and executive has been in my position before and is also figuring it out. 

A lesson I learned the hard way is:   

You need to take calculated risks as a business owner. My natural tendency is to be quite conservative and to play it safe. However, betting on myself and our company by investing in the correct employees and team has brought more growth than my conservatism ever did. The lesson I wished that I learned sooner was to bring the right people in earlier. Be wise, be financially prudent, be calculated, but bet on yourself. 

Isis Simpson-Mersha is a conference producer/ reporter for Ragan. Follow her on LinkedIn.


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