[Photo by: Chris Chen]
Re-posted from Forbes.
Continuing on my mission to tell the story of where we are going, who is going to get us there and what lessons we can learn from one another to get there even faster, I’ve had the pleasure to interview another amazing woman I’ve admired for years: Svetlana Legetic. Like my first interviewee, Cindy Gallop, Svetlana has a sort of hipness, style and success that is mesmerizing.
Svetlana is a former Architectural Designer who co-founded the DC-based BYT Media Inc. BrightestYoungThings has made Svetlana and team the go-to place for the hippest trends, spots and all around fun events occurring across DC. Her DC pop culture knowledge is un-surpassed. I spoke with her on how she is making a sizable seat at the table for herself by building a media empire, what it took to get there and what she would change if she had to do it all over again. Oh, and as a fellow DC resident and longtime BYT fan, I managed to get the scoop on her favorites in the District and what’s next for BYT.
Name: Svetlana Legetic
Hometown: Novi Sad, Serbia
Where You Live Now: Washington DC
Employer & Job Title: BYT Media Inc, co-founder and editor-in-chief of www.brightestyoungthings.com
Educational Background: B.Arch and M.Arch from Savannah College of Art and Design (with previous educational stints in Serbia and England)
Previous Work Experience: Architectural Designer from 2003-2009, in charge of editorial content and community outreach at BYT since 2006, full time with BYT since 2009
LB: Going third person here for a second, what about Svetlana has made her successful?
SL: I always say that “there’s not an ounce of quit in me,” which is a pretty accurate description of my personality. But, good work habits aside, I think being genuinely personable goes a long way when you’re in the people business (as long as you don’t lose sight of your primary goals).
LB: I believe a big part of women gaining more seats at the table starts with role models and encouragement early. What did your early life look like? Any key women play a role (model)?
SL: I grew up in a family of extremely strong women and never really sought role models outside of it. My grandmother was a professor and a principal at the oldest college prep school in Serbia, that I actually attended. My mother somehow managed to get a medical degree and a PhD, while working two jobs and raising two small kids. And, my aunt was the first woman on the board of directors of the biggest architecture firm in Serbia…as a kid, I saw them running in and out of the house, always looking great, always with great purpose, always getting things done while NEVER neglecting their family and friends.
LB: As a fellow female entrepreneur, I am always curious to know what makes other get-it-done women tick. So, on that note, what drives you?
SL: BYT is my baby and in many ways very reflective of my tastes and personality. I only have self-imposed deadlines but I want it to be the best thing it can be: editorially, events wise, consulting wise…we never stop because there is always something else that we want to share with our audience. It is not just a job, in a way, it is a way of life.
LB: In your experience, do women bring distinct traits to the workplace?
SL: Women seem to be a little more disciplined and better at time management (but just a little).
LB: Take us back. What was your first job? Anything stick with you that has been key in what you do today?
SL: I used to work at a video store (remember those?) and tutor English as a second language in high school. As a result, I am still pop-culture obsessed, a walking IMDB resource (which definitely comes in handy with BYT) and very didactic.
LB: Take us forward. What do you like most about what you do now?
SL: I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT WHAT I DO. I made a picture perfect job for myself and now I get to do it and know for a fact no one else could do it quite like me. Sure, maybe someone could do it better, but no one could do it quite like I do.
LB: Let’s get a little 80s feminism. Have you ever encountered the “Glass Ceiling”? Was it possible to overcome it? How?
SL: When BYT started it definitely was perceived as a very youth oriented, “hipster” operation. It seemed like we’d never be able to overcome that first impression, but we rolled up our sleeves, kept knocking on every door, took a bunch of meetings, wrote a million proposals and then over-delivered on everything we ever promised. Before you knew it- people were taking us seriously.
LB: How do you think the D.C. area has changed since you’ve lived here?
SL: I think DC has blossomed so much. It has become a true foodie town, it is a place that national brands are focusing more and more on in terms of exposure, it has seen a lot of smaller grassroots organizations truly blossom in the last couple of years, and this just makes us all the more excited to be here. Some say that this came with the new administration, but we feel these people were here all the time, they just needed more platforms for their work to be visible and therefore sustainable.
LB: Okay, slightly off topic, but as a District resident, I am dying to know: What are your D.C. picks for: food, bar, music, art, film, fashion, hair?
SL: My favorite places in DC to eat at are neighborhood joints like Saint-ex, Room 11 and 2 Amys, while KOMI, Proof and The Oval Room are still my go-to big ticket dining picks (I’m about to go to Rogue 24, and am curious to see how it shapes up). Music wise, we’ve been very excited about Bluebrain’s geo-sensitive soundtrack apps. On the arts front, we’re thrilled for the (e)merge art fair and 30 Americans opening @ The Corcoran, both of which extend the Rubell family influence on the city, and so much more. Oh, and Ian @ The Shop Salon has been cutting my hair since 2006, and is a personal hero.
LB: Why has BYT made D.C. its homebase? Does BYT have any plans to expand into new cities?
SL: We picked DC because we loved it and we also felt that there was a true void for this kind of coverage we could fill in this city. We toy with expansion (and have done events in Baltimore, LA and some other locations) but for now, we’re focusing on the Mid-Atlantic.
LB: What do you think has been BYTs most successful event to date and why?
SL: The hardest we’ve ever worked was for vitaminwater’s uncapped LIVE project we did this spring: we literally built a music/art venue in an abandoned government building (talk about making the most of DC’s resources), and programmed 56 events over 28 days that emphasized the brand’s passion points for 2011: fashion, music and action sports. BYT worked on the event top to bottom, from the build-out, to programming to running the day-today operations and we saw 30,000 people walk through the space over the course of that month. The Washington Post called it “the hippest cultural venue in town” and we have to agree. We have a full-time team of four, so this was an INSANE amount of work, but worth every second of sleep we lost over it.
LB: A chance to plug what you are working on and share with your fans…so, what’s up next for BYT?
SL: Well, we’re launching a new umbrella website BYTMedia.com, which will emphasize both our editorial platform (www.brightestyoungthings.com) and our experiential marketing operation, and then we hope to shop it around to some awesome brands and bring them to DC (call us!). Plus, we’re helping out with Fashion’s night out, launching the fall arts/culture programming for the Embassy of Spain and a bunch of other stuff. KEEPING BUSY.
LB: A mantra you once said people living in D.C. need to repeat is “work to live, don’t live to work.” Do you still take this advice to heart?
SL: Absolutely. I was raised with that notion, and I will take that mantra with me to my grave (of course, making your work be about ONLY the things you enjoy doing in life blurs that line a little in our case).
LB: What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
SL: Things will find a way of working themselves out. (No they won’t- if you don’t help yourself, no one will).
LB: What have been the main challenges you have had to overcome in your career? Has gender played a role?
SL: Perception. You’re always fighting that first impression whether you’re a 25 year old girl on a construction site demanding respect or a “kid” trying to land that big, national contract. But, for what it’s worth, I feel that youth, more than gender, results in initial questioning. (LB: I would agree wholeheartedly. Youth has been my only barrier to overcome. But as soon as I cross over into my thirties, I am doubtful that I will exist anymore!)
LB: Let’s bring it home. What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again?
SL: I would have had a branding and communications consultant early on. We just did stuff and it is amazing people responded to it well, but a lot of stuff could have backfired.
Tags: 2 Amys, 30 Americans, balance, Bluebrain, BrightestYoungThings, DC, Fashion's night out, ForbesWoman, IMDB, JESS3, KOMI, leslie bradshaw, Proof, Rogue 24, Room 11, Saint-ex, Serbia, Svetlana Legetic, The Oval Room, The Shop Salon, Vitaminwater, washington post