Laura Caprara is putting Grand Rapids on the map one event at a time. Her business, Stellafly Social Media, is taking off, and with photography and video coverage of happenings throughout West Michigan and even beyond the state lines, Laura hopes to inspire her social network followers to travel and see things outside of their comfort zones.
From dog shows to celebrity appearances, the Stellafly crew mixes and mingles with the community. Doing brand management and social networking for clients like the Grand Rapids Public School District, Stellafly works behind the scenes to bring awareness to local events and organizations.
Laura was the majority owner of the Grand Rapids Social Diary, but she wanted more. In September 2011, she worked with her colleagues to rebrand and launch Stellafly. In a sense, she gave the Social Diary wings to expand its coverage outside of Grand Rapids.
"I love to travel, and ultimately, I'm a bit of a wanderlust. I love my city, and I love showing people what a great place it is. I also think it is important for people in Grand Rapids and West Michigan to get a glimpse outside of our city and travel to places like Detroit or New York," Laura says.
In fact, Stellafly photographers were in New York City recently where they covered events and picked up followers. NYC is second only to Grand Rapids in number of Stellafly fans. Laura is making it her "lofty" goal to familiarize Stellafly in major cities throughout the United States, but being that it is based in West Michigan, she thinks the attention will be beneficial for her hometown.
"Grand Rapids gets to be more and more on the radar nationally with the things we do here…That's the really near future goal–to grow who we are as a city," Laura says.
Laura went to East Grand Rapids High School, and she graduated from Calvin College with an art degree. True to her personality, she moved to Oregon to pursue a career in graphic design, her ultimate goal was to become an art director.
"I moved to Oregon when AOL first came out, everything was on floppy disks," she says.
Stellafly was Laura's first AOL user name, and it stuck. She used the moniker for her freelance business where she developed her love and talent for design. With the rise of the Internet and social networking, Laura jumped on board. Where MySpace failed to pique Laura's enthusiasm, Facebook shined, and so came the birth of the Grand Rapids Social Diary. By putting pictures on Facebook and attending events based on her Facebook friends' interests, she grew the concept into what it is today.
"I love the way that it allows people to engage and have a marketing voice, but at the same time communicates in a public relations sense," Laura says.
What is key is making Stellafly successful is listening to her followers and delivering on their interests.
"Taking time to really know the audience and know what they like…try to make sure inclusive as we can possibly be," she says.
Being a woman in the design and marketing business never slowed Laura down. Although she works mostly with men at Stellafly, she says she knows many women business owners and feels respected in her professional community.
"I wouldn't say it's hard," Laura explains, "I think there is a challenge to it, when I present or pitch, you have to take a much different approach, particularly dealing with male employees. Men have a different way of communicating, and women have to get a thicker skin. When I started, I was like, I'm not cut out for this, but they taught me how to be a boss."
Laura was born in Alaska and moved to Michigan in 1971. She loves to travel, but "there is a comfort for being around your people," West Michigan people, she says.
Written by: Erika Fifelski was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, sewing, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photo: Laura and her husband Tony. Photographed by Tim Motley.