I first met Lee Deas when I was working as the Volunteer Coordinator for Pecha Kucha (a super fun series you can learn more about here) and immediately I knew she was a #bosslady. She managed to, along with a kick ass team of creatives, execute fun, exciting, and inspiring events for the Charleston community. When you look at her career, she's spent most of it promoting and uplifting the community.
I truly admire people who give back and find ways to run a successful business while helping other people at the same time. Her company, Obviouslee Marketing, works on some of Charleston’s biggest events and companies including the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, Cigar Row, SEWE, Family Circle Cup, Kiawah Partners, Charleston Gaillard Center, and a whole host of local and regional businesses within the creative and hospitality realms.
I sat down with this born and bred Charlestonian in the beautiful OM office space after a quick pitstop at The Daily (#bestcoldbrewever).
How did you get your start?
I had a very short career before starting Obviouslee at 25. I mainly worked for non-profits and then worked for a global company, IMG. I worked in the golf division and thought that I had found it. I was about to accept the position to become tournament director but it meant I would have had to move, and I decided to stay here instead.
What motivated that?
I’m really energized by working with other people and was excited to have a team to work with. I knew exactly what we needed to do and I knew I needed people with a variety of skills to offer companies the option of handling all their marketing needs.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
It doesn’t sound like it applies at first, but it does! My dad used to always say, “Don’t let your academics interfere with your education.” He told me that before college. Don’t let school get in the way so much that you don’t experience life. I really apply that to my work. I try not to get stuck doing things based on a formula or because that is how it has been done in the past. I like to see how things have been done in the past and then find a completely new way of doing things. I think there are areas where we are operating differently than other marketing companies because I never worked for an “agency” before. We constantly try to deconstruct a business platform and the way they did it in the past. There’s always a new way to do things. I try not to let marketing academics interfere with my education in the now.
Also—don’t talk about it, be about it. Instead of trying to talk through all the reasons why we should or shouldn’t do something, let’s just jump in! Let’s be about it. Implement today and edit as we go.
Looking back on yourself as child, were there things that make you perfect for your career now?
Definitely! I was called into the principal’s office a couple of times when I was in middle school because I would bring my caboodle to school full of trinkets. At lunch I would open it up and sell pins or stickers out of it. I was one step away from being the guy selling fake Rolex watches on the streets of New York. I was always hustling and selling something in the school yard. And my parents say when I was a toddler I would talk during the TV shows but make everyone be quiet during the commercials.
Did you have a moment of panic when you decided not to be what you thought you always wanted to be?
There’s always a moment of panic. If you are growing, there will always be those moments. But I think all entrepreneurs are motivated and excited by risk, so I thrive and secretly enjoy moments of panic. But I understand a lot of people would be terrified by those moments, and rightfully so.
What has been your greatest professional hurdle?
I think the thing that has served me best has also been my greatest hurdle, and that is not having a strong business foundation or marketing agency experience beforehand. I am so grateful for it because I look at everything with fresh eyes. If I were a client, how would I want this to be done? But there are moments even five years in when you realize, “Oh, there is a reason people do it this way.”
What has been a personal hurdle in relation to your work?
I think I am very fortunate that my husband is also an entrepreneur so we have a complete understanding of each other’s worlds. It produces the seemingly unachievable work/life balance because if I have a really crazy week, he steps in and figures out the family life. He knows he can count on me for the same. It's also kind of like having a silent business partner, spiritual coach, and motivator living in your house. That has helped me acheive great balance. It’s a constant conversation here because we want to take on bigger challenges, but we both want to make sure we keep enough time for ourselves, our friends, and our families. Something you always have to be aware of is making sure the pendulum doesn’t swing too far either way.
What’s your spirit animal?
Dolphin! They are happy, they swim in packs, and they love the ocean. But, truly, it’s probably a squirrel. I’m always moving and darting all around.
Who is your Charleston fan girl?
There are so many! Anita Zucker for her business acumen, but mainly for her dedication to philanthropy. I recently heard her give a talk on entrepreneurship and she mainly focused on the importance of youth education. Her passion for giving back and improving our community is paramount. And her journey from the child of Holocaust survivors to CEO of multiple businesses and a large international company is incredible.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
It makes me really proud to work here. I think I am enamored with everyone on our team. When you are surrounded by people who think differently than you, who are often smarter than you, everyone is quick to jump in and we learn so much from each other. We also help each other out personally and professionally where needed. We always have each others' backs. More than any of the business accomplishments I am most proud of the family atmosphere we have built at OM.
In addition to leading her team of creatives, strategists, and all around badass marketers, Lee continues to actively pursue ways to enrich and expand the Charleston creative scene, mainly working with Charleston Creative Parliament and a newly launched site geared toward recruiting top talent nationwide, Open Source.
Want to learn what Lee and the big guns at OM are looking for in a new hire? Check out my interview on Creator's Clubhouse!