Moving to new cities to pursue career opportunities isn’t uncommon in today’s dynamic work environment, but adjusting to these new settings can be difficult. Entrepreneur Stacey Servo experienced this first hand after moving from Seattle to Louisville to acquire an environmental engineering position. She and her husband discovered a need to connect other “transplants” like them with the city they now call home, and it has now blossomed into the socialite business of New2Lou.
Stacey and New2Lou bring southern hospitality to life. Stacey uses Louisville’s unique local and foodie culture to connect newcomers, as well as locals, in monthly networking events. New2Lou’s events at local restaurants and bars, gives people an opportunity to mingle and meet other newcomers, and have fun. Stacey gives us an inside look on how she created this one of a kind business.
GRACESHIP: Tell us about yourself. What brought you to Louisville?
Stacey: “I went to college at Montana Tech and have a background in environmental engineering. Nothing related to what I am doing right now. I went through a series of jobs in the field with both small and large firms, most of them consulting jobs. The last one I worked at actually transferred me to Louisville. This was one of the ways I got to Louisville, then I eventually left that job and started doing my own thing.”
GRACESHIP: Where did you live previously? Was it a big change between the two cities?
Stacey: “Seattle. Yes, a huge change. I knew nothing about Louisville. My husband, who works in real estate, brought it up as a potential option when he was doing some market research on real estate markets. When he first brought it up I was like, ‘I don’t even know where Kentucky is or anything about Louisville.’ It wasn’t a bad or negative feeling, it was just I knew nothing about it. The city of Seattle has over 800,000 people in the city, but then you have the whole surrounding county with over 1 million. When we looked at the Louisville stats there were only 800,000 people in the entire county so it wasn’t even comparable. It’s a much slower pace, not as much traffic, and different climate. Tons of new things to learn, like fireflies here in the south. We didn’t have those growing up in the Northwest.”
GRACESHIP: What is your favorite city and why?
Stacey: “It’s hard because they are so different yet there are a lot of similarities. I think both markets are very outdoorsy, local business, and foodie cultures. Seattle is just on a much bigger scale and ahead of us on a lot of these trends because they have more resources. I love them equally for different reasons. I grew up in Montana so Seattle is more familiar to me because it is in the northwest and close to my family. I’ve spent more time in Seattle than in Louisville. We’ve been in Louisville longer than I anticipated, 6 or 7 years, it must have something that has attracted us.”
Stacey: “My husband and I’s first business venture that we still have is a property management company. We started doing temporary corporate housing for people moving to Louisville and we started meeting new people coming to the city. They started asking the exact same questions like, ‘How do we meeting people? Where do we eat? Where do we get our hair cut?’ All the basics you need to know when you are new to the city. We started thinking about our transition that took a couple years and all the people we met were transplants like ourselves. Then we started thinking, ‘Well isn’t’ this interesting? It seems like transplants are gravitating to other transplants.’ In December 2009, we decided to host our first social and we invited our friends and clients to grab a drink with us and that’s where it all begin."
GRACESHIP: You currently also have New2Seattle. Do you have plans to expand to other cities besides Seattle?
Stacey: “When I started New2Lou it meant to be more for networking. I was working full time at the time and it was a way for us to network for our own business and meet other people to develop relationships. Then, in April 2012, it started shifting into a potential business. We then started to invest money into the brand in building a website, as well as me stepping back and spending more time growing it as a business.
My business partner in Seattle reached out to me in 2012 and said, ‘My husband and I just relocated to Seattle from NYC and we love the concept.’ She started following me on Facebook and thought it could really work. Up until then I hadn’t thought of expanding. It was more about bringing on a business partner than location at that point, so I brought her on board as co-partner for New2Seattle last year in 2013. She is running and piloting the program in the Seattle market. We both have the intention to fine tune the program so we can scale to other cities.”
GRACESHIP: New2Lou has over 2k followers on Twitter. How do you think social media has influenced entrepreneurship and your business?
Stacey: “Social media is where we started. We didn’t launch a website until 2012, so we operated for over 2 years on just social media. It is a huge influence in our business and the growth of our following. Other businesses that started with websites are trying to integrate social media, where we are the exact opposite. For us and other entrepreneurs, social media is a great way at a low cost to engage and come up with followers, and develop a marketing platform.”
GRACESHIP: Do you have any aspirations for your self in the future? Further expanding your business beyond New2Lou or any other dreams you would like to achieve?
Stacey: “Our big goal is to expand to other cities and make it a viable business. My goal is for this to be my full time job. My long-tem goal is to be in the position where we are the launchers and we hire a team to build the organization in other communities and we get a chance to travel to these cities.”
GRACESHIP: At GRACESHIP we sell a lot of our bags to young professional women just starting out their careers. So, what advice can you give to other women starting their own businesses
Stacey: “Women need to be supportive of other women in business. It was a big culture shock for me in coming to the south where you don’t see a large market for women business owners, women in tech, or women in science. So, it is even more important to network and be supportive of women in business.
I think networking is also very important especially when you are young. Start developing those networks and relationships before you make ‘the ask.’ I think that is the biggest turnoff for a lot of leaders: that people will ask before people get to know that person. So, really networking and developing relationships and look at the long-term and not just the short-term value.”
GRACESHIP: What is the best professional advice you have been given?
Stacey: “Based on my experience and other advice, just to stay focused on who you are as a person, as a business. Instead of trying to please everyone. You have to figure out who your market is that you are trying to target. Otherwise you are trying to fill too large of a market and you never are going to please anyone. So identifying your target demographic as soon as possible is the most important thing you can do. I think it is important to understand and be flexible if your market is shifting to pivot and adjust.”
GRACESHIP: When you aren’t making everyone feel at home in his or her own city, what do you enjoy doing most?
Stacey: “I am a pretty active person so I like to go to music concerts outside and run along the waterfront. It is a good stress reliever. I like to play volleyball. That’s how I first made my connections in Louisville by joining outdoor and indoor volleyball leagues. In general, going out and meeting new people. I like to get out and hear people stories, why they are here, and what they are doing. There is a ton of networking events in the city you can do, sometimes two or three in the same night. My husband and I also like to travel, its what we do in our spare time.”
Interested in learning more about New2Lou or events going on in the city? GRACESHIP and Stacey encourage you to check out New2Lou’s upcoming event at the KFC Yum Center!