Belle Lap caught up with the spirited team at SMACK! Media – A PR and sports marketing team of athletes and entrepreneurs taking innovative and authentic brands to the next level.
This inspiring business model based out of SoCal HQ operates wirelessly throughout North America. The ‘Smackanistas’ as they coin themselves, are made up of runners and rowers, an Olympian and an ironman, plus there’s some serious girl power going on, they’re a team of fearless females.
We caught up with the runners on the team to find out how they juggle training and racing, while pursuing a successful career.
Eli Carlson | Founder |
How did your vision for SMACK! Media come to life? I’ve always been entrepreneurial and wanted to do something on the sports marketing side as I’m passionate about sports, health and fitness. I noticed that many “firms” were promoting and talking about sports, but no one was doing it in a very personal and authentic way. This was before social media was popular and everything that was written on pages and print seemed bland. My objective with SMACK! Media was twofold: 1) To preach more health and fitness to the world via authentic connections and real relationships and 2) to help small companies get on the map in terms of their products and stories. So for example, a company that was well known in triathlon wasn’t very well known to the rest of the world. TriggerPoint Performance is a perfect example of this. I helped launch the original TriggerPoint GRID foam roller back when it was only used by triathletes and some runners and now, so many more people in the wellness space are using it, including yogis and people simply looking for “relief” from working at a desk all day.
What was your main objective behind starting your company? My main objective was to enjoy what I do and use my relationships to help connect incredible and authentic brands with other partners and people. I wanted to help companies grow in this way – via exposure, word of mouth, unique partnerships and ultimately, making more audiences aware of good health and fitness habits.
What sets SMACK! apart from the rest? Our team and our real relationships. We have a very special team of pro and elite athletes who work hard and are respected in the world of health and wellness. We all work really well together. We also value relationships very much and it’s not always about business, rather, also about meeting incredible people along the way and being able to help others.
Morgan Gonzalez | Vice President
Bio: I started running at age 9 when I asked my Mom to run the local 5K cross-country race at UC Riverside with me. (I went on to compete on the same course in college!)
My husband Sergio and I got married on a track and the officiate was mile legend and Olympian Steve Scott (our college coach).
I currently run for Puma and train with the Mammoth Track Club. My coach is Andrew Kastor.
In college I raced the 10K, then I tried the marathon afterwards and hated it! Now I focus on the 5K and 1500 after discovering that focusing on what you love most is not only fun, but also breeds the best results!
Two years ago Sergio and I were going to meet Morgan Uceny for a run, but never made it because we found a box with 4 puppies left outside by the track in Mammoth (it was 5 degrees). We nursed them back to health, found homes for the boys and ultimately kept the two girls whom we named Matty (“Matterhorn”) and Roam.
How did you become the Vice President of SMACK! Media? I met Eli through a teammate in 2011 while I was working in a running store, writing freelance and training to become a yoga teacher and training/racing. What started as a part-time gig to get me out of the running store transformed into a career in a matter of months when I helped with the full launch and branding of PEAR Sports. Eli is an amazing teacher and our work synergy is excellent and she has supported my growth (both personally and within the company) since day one. Each year has built upon the past and I am proud to play such an integral role to SMACK! Media’s growth, team development and future.
What is your main role in the company? In addition to managing individual accounts I play an active role in business development, SMACK! Media internal brand building and blogging, being a team leader and constantly coming up with new and creative concepts and strategies to benefit all clients.
How did you end up in the Cali mountains? I actually learned how to ski in Mammoth with my Dad when I was 7. I fell in love with running soon after, and eventually found my way up here for summer cross-country camps in high school and college (which is where I first met my husband Sergio)! The sierras and Yosemite have always been a special place for me—I just feel so in tune with nature and myself here, energized and at peace. We took our honeymoon in the Eastern Sierras in 2012 and decided we wanted to live here if the opportunity presented itself. By the next summer we were living in a tent in a remote canyon, determined to make it work, which we did, and we have now lived here close to 3 years!
What do you love about it?Life in Mammoth is simple (we only have one grocery store and 3 stop lights), but that simplicity allows us to accomplish so much in the space of one day which makes balancing work and training possible. The town is literally in the middle of a national forest surrounded by towering granite peaks, endless desert with natural hot springs and Yosemite is just up the road. There are endless opportunities to explore, go on new trail runs and try new sports like rock climbing, backcountry skiing and fishing. The cherry on top is training with the Mammoth Track Club—we meet 6 times a week and travel to a new location each day to train with each other. The group atmosphere makes training at 8,000 feet elevation and in often temperamental weather more fun, more rewarding and more effective. I literally pinch myself everyday!
The Run/ Work Connection
How do you and your team at SMACK connect with each other?
We host a weekly google Hangout to see each other “face to face”, catch up on running/life and to get a jump on our weekly goals and objectives. We also frequently jump on the phone to collaborate and help each other, and we connect in person at various events/expos/meetings throughout year. Some team members live in the same area and can connect with each other in person weekly and monthly. It’s also very common for the runners on the team to race at the same track meets, so it is always fun to connect at the races and cheer each other on.
How do you balance your run life with your work life? I am extremely focused on good time management. I seriously just do not waste time. If I’m running, I’m running. If I’m writing, I shut off my phone and lock myself in my office. If I’m sitting face to face with someone, I give them my full attention. Living in Mammoth has greatly improved this because there are minimal distractions up here and I never have to waste time sitting in traffic. On top of it all, my husband Sergio, who is also a professional runner and model for Puma, is the best teammate in the world. We constantly work together to ensure that everything gets done whether it’s training, me having quiet time to work, or getting a healthy meal on the table before we get hangry!
How many hours do you work a week? I honestly don’t count! Each week I have a clear outline of projects, objectives and goals to accomplish in addition to being ready at a moment’s notice to jump on a project or address something new. My number one priority is delivering quality results to my clients and I make sure this happens no matter what. I typically work Monday through Friday, unless I have a specific project or an event to attend on weekends.
What did being a student-athlete prep you for in the real world? Time management! Balancing schoolwork and training is such great prep for this. In fact, I feel like the two are extremely similar, except that I now have skype meetings with my clients instead of attending classes and the work that I do actually transforms into published articles or online content. It’s extremely rewarding to see a project come to life!
How do you switch your mind off work and running to get a good life and mind balance? I care deeply about my work, running and personal life. To fully enjoy and reach my goals in each area I focus on the present moment which is something I learned in yoga. It’s not always easy and I’m not always successful, but I do find that handling one task at a time will get the job done most effectively and efficiently. However, I often come up with some of my best ideas while I am out on an easy run. I also feel more motivated to nail a workout after I accomplish a work goal. I feel the two endeavors feed each other and also provide me the mental/physical balance to perform at my best.
Joanna Murphy | Senior Account Manager
Bio: I was primarily a soccer player through high school, but somehow got talked into going out for track. It turned out that I was way better at running in circles than I was at scoring goals. I decided to focus on running in college, but didn’t experience much success until I focused on the Steeplechase…turns out some soccer skills occasionally come in handy. After college I moved to Germany to work for Adidas and took some time off training (opting instead to train for beer festivals – german beer steins are heavy and you need good biceps for those!) I moved to Boston a couple years later and started running again, then got talked into competing again….and then got hooked on running fast. Last fall I moved to Boulder so I could look at the mountains every day (and not be stuck in Boston traffic)…and also to train with Brad Hudson. My path to running is super random, but also very similar to how I generally navigate places on a daily basis.
How did you get started at SMACK! Media?
I was freelancing for a former SMACK! Client, Believe I Am (love those journals!). When Eli advertised that she was looking for an additional account manager, Roisin of BIA suggested she contact me. The rest is history!
The Run/ Work Connection:
What have you learned in your running career that you can apply to your work?
To relax and have fun – performance of all kinds is best when you are enjoying what you’re doing.
How do you structure your days around running and work to get the most out of both?
I’m more of a ‘go with the flow” kinda person as opposed to a rigid or structured person. We have organized practice 2 mornings per week, and those days I will fit work around practice. On my easy days I like to have the freedom to run when I feel like it or when it makes sense for my work day.
What advice do you have for athletes who have a strong passion for a career both on and off the track?
Different situations work for different people – don’t let anyone tell you the type of environment you need. Feeling balanced, fulfilled and inspired by your life as a whole is the most important thing. A happy runner is a fast runner!
Tell us a Secret…
I grew up home schooled on a farm without a TV. I therefore write completely in cursive, have a stupid good understanding of random subjects like geography and have zero understanding of pop culture before the mid 2000s. However, if you’re ever stranded in the middle of nowhere and need to fix something using only a hand saw and rope I’m your girl….that’s not creepy at all, is it?
ROO podcast with Joanna.
Stephanie Schappert | Junior Account Manager
Bio:Professional runner for Hoka One One and the New Jersey New York Track Club
Proud alumni of Villanova University and the Villanova Cross Country and Track Teams – Go Wildcats!
South Florida Native living in NJ by way of PA
Link to SMACK! Blog: click here to find out more!
Graduated #1 in my major (Marketing) from the Villanova School of Business
Represented and competed for team USA at the 2015 World University Games – finished 4th in final of 1500m
NCAA Division I Outdoor 2015 First Team All-American in 1500m – 6th place
2 x NCAA Division I Indoor Mile All-American- 2015, 2014
4 x Penn Relays Champion of America
8 x Big East Conference Champion
Stephanie just ran a cushy PR in the 1500m this weekend 4:11… At the HOKA MDC!
Both of my parents competed in the Olympic Trails – Mom for Swimming and Dad for Track
I love Coke Slurpees, to the point where friends drive by a 7-11 and it prompts them to think of me and text me
Once I lied about a fun fact in college. I said I was on a Kidz Bop CD because I thought it was funny, but I promise all the above facts are true!
How did you get started at SMACK! Media?
I was introduced to SMACK! Media after my sister, Nicole ‘Schappert’ Tully, won 5k at the 2015 USA Track and Field Championships. Nicole took over SMACK! Media’s Instagram account to show how she balances being a professional runner and working a full-time PR and Marketing job. During college, I grew accustomed to juggling a challenging course load and running. At practice I was focused on running, but once I left the track I was thinking about school work (and occasionally trying to have a social life!). After graduation, I realized I missed the ‘distraction’ of school work. Mindlessly scrolling through Twitter over Christmas, I saw SMACK! Media was looking to grow their team. After a string of emails and a few phone calls with Eli, I was lucky enough to call myself a SMACKANISTA!
How have you adapted to your new role?
With the help of an amazing team of women who know all too well how to seamlessly balance professional careers and athletic careers, I believe I have adjusted well to my new role. I have learned so much over the last two months working for SMACK! Media and I am beyond excited to continue this journey. As a Junior Account Manager, I have been collaborating with Nicole Smith, a Senior Account Manager, on a daily basis. I owe Nicole a major thank you for showing me the inner workings of SMACK! Media and sharing essential tips on how to navigate the world of PR.
How do you structure your days around work and training?
The flexibility SMACK! Media has given me to work from home and accommodate my training schedule is incredible. Typically, on week days I wake up flip the Today Show on while I make my breakfast and coffee, and then it’s “off to work” for an hour or two. Getting some work done first thing in the morning before I run or cross train is great because it gives my body a chance to wake up. After fueling up post workout, I am back to my computer firing off emails or on the phone with our clients and media contacts.
Where do you prefer to work?
That’s a great question and it changes on a daily basis! During the first couple weeks, I tested out every chair in my house trying to avoid tight glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Now I typically sit at my kitchen table on a yoga ball (it’s wonderful!). When I feel like I have spent too much time in the house, I will head to a local coffee shop and treat myself to a latte while working. My sister Nicole will sometimes join me at a coffee shop to work after practice which is always a nice treat!
What drew you to the SMACK! Media team?
When I earned the opportunity to train with the NJNY Track Club and represent Hoka One One, I knew this was something I could not pass up. However, I felt strongly that just because I was pursuing my Olympic dreams did not mean I had to neglect my professional career goals. When I first learned about SMACK! Media, I admired the way in which the women balanced their athletic and professional careers. Beyond learning how to navigate this dual world of work and athletics, I have gained an amazing support group. I love collaborating on projects with these women, asking for advice and learning from other experiences, and of course reading pre-race good luck texts!
What are you goals this year within your new role?
As a Junior Account Manager, my job is to help support the activities of the Senior Account Managers. I am learning a lot in this position, but I am excited continue growing and become a Senior Account Manager and run my own accounts!
Natasha LaBeaud Anzures | Senior Account Manager
Bio: I am a professional runner for Skechers and represent Canada at the international running level.
Additional sponsors include: Generation UCAN, NoxGear, XX2i, Bread SRSLY
I attained my B.A. and Master’s Degrees from Georgetown University, and am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Public Health (will be finished by end of 2016).
I cofounded the youth running non-profit, 2nd Recess, with my husband (www.2ndrecess.org).
How did you get connected with SMACK! Media?
I heard about SMACK! Media a few years ago, and knew that Morgan worked with the company. I had positive things about the work environment and knew that SMACK! had a great team of people working together, so I was interested, and when an opportunity came up to apply, I jumped at the opportunity.
What is your main role in the company?
I am a Senior Account Manager, and resident organizer. I manage multiple clients and work with the team to keep everything as organized as possible. Also, I try to help solve any computer issues that come up with the team—I like trying to figure out IT solutions.
What vibes do you bring to your work environment?
I try to be as positive as possible—that is my style. Plus I love to tell one line jokes for a pinch of fun—Why does a cow have hooves? Because it lactose!
The Run/Work Connection:
How do you balance your work and training?
I have had to balance work and training for as long as I can remember. In college, I also worked in addition to being on the Georgetown XC and Track teams, so my days always have started well before the sun comes up (4am) for early workouts, then work, then more training in the evening. Positivity is key!
What does a regular week day look like for you?
I wake up around 4am for an early morning workout, which is the longer workout of the day. I then work normal work hours with the SMACK! team, and then double in the evenings before dinner.
What are your work and running goals this year?
My major running goal this year is to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics for the Canadian team. My major work goal this year is to secure some additional major press for all of our clients in creative ways.
How does your work life complement your running career and vise-versa?
My work gives me an outlet to think and find solutions with colleagues that are not always running-based. I like having diversity throughout my life so that I am not always thinking about splits, mileage, or what races are coming up next.
What do you get up to outside of your training and SMACK! Media life?
I cofounded the youth running non-profit, 2nd Recess (www.2ndrecess.org) with my husband, Marco Anzures. We teach kids ages 4-13 about how to stay healthy through running, and conduct practices throughout the week. It is extremely important to me to give back to the community, and I am passionate about teaching the next generation the importance of moving through physical activity.
We teach our 2nd Recess kids the power of the 3 P’s: Patience, Positivity, and Perseverance, which I also apply to every aspect of my life.
SMACK! Media Representing innovative and authentic brands: Trigger Point Performance, MarcPro, FINIS, currexSole, Perfect Fitness, Harbinger Fitness, Yoga Six, Handful Bra, Tasc Performance, Zamst, KivaSun Foods, NuttZo and EdgeGear.
Amazing company values, amazing people!
Thank you SMACKANISTAS!