Q & A with Quantum Collective Co-Founder Liz Leahy
The SEVENTH Annual Southwest Invasion! When do you start your planning?

We start planning right after the sixth annual! We look back at what worked well and what could be improved, and that goes across all we do: the artists, the audience, the brands.  The first three months after Southwest Invasion is strategy, then we start reaching out to brands after updating our decks. By nature of this particular live event, booking artists are the last step in the process. January and February are full on for this event. All hands-on deck!

What would you say is the key component to launching an event like this every year?

The key element is the team that we bring together to make this happen. People have been with us for 5 to 6 of the 7 years, and it’s really special. There is an element of creativity, collaboration, enthusiasm, and a “get it done" attitude that goes in to the magic that pulls this event together. Everyone on this team, from Whole Foods to Whole Planet to the brands to the artists…they are all passionate about the different aspects of this event. Whether that be Whole Planet Foundation or new brand entrepreneurs or music curation, this team pulls from expertise in different areas. The “spoke and hub” mentality - expertise comes together in the center and makes it work. 

What gets you most excited about the event each year?

There is a lot that goes in to making the event happen over the course of the year. You work and work and work, and you don’t really think about how it will all turn out until you’re there. Then the stage, sound and lights all go in, brands, tents and activation come the day before the event, artist green room is prepped, signage is set up and BOOM, it’s happening! That’s what I look forward to each year – the event itself. While you’re working to get there, it’s hard to envision it coming together and when it does, it’s incredible.

We also have a very remote team – all over the US – so when we all get there, it’s the first time we are all together and that’s a great feeling. The excitement is contagious. 

Tell us about some of your favorite brand activations over the past few years.

Last year, Schwinn was just amazing. They brought a huge set of bikes that had non-alcoholic margarita makers strapped to the back. People would get on the bike and compete to make the fastest margarita. Adults and kids were so into it, it was super-fun, plus the bikes were beautiful. And Schwinn is near and dear to my heart as it is the bike I grew up with. 

Califia Farms has been a sponsor for 3 years now. Most consumers know them as the premier almond milk provider in the market place. Recently they’ve added cold brew and juices, so now people who know the brand can get to know the product extension as well. 

Another one would be Health-Ade Kombucha, who did an amazing photo booth activation last year. Attendees would take a photo, post it on Instagram and get the chance to win something. They were right near our Second Stage and people loved doing it. 

These brands become integrated in to the fabric of our event. It wouldn’t be the same without them.

For the first time, you have an Artist Ambassador representing Whole Planet Foundation. What drew you to work with Whole Planet Foundation in this manner?

What Whole Planet Foundation does is meaningful to me as it focuses on micro loans to predominantly women-owned startups around the world. As an entrepreneur myself, I focus on mentoring emerging entrepreneurs and innovators, particularly women who I believe will do amazing things to change the world. So that was an immediate pull for me. I do a lot of work in New York City in the startup environment but getting to combine all the things I do with Whole Planet Foundation, who reach internationally, is so rewarding. We want to keep pushing the envelope to increase brand awareness for Whole Planet Foundation and what better way to do that than music?

Why did you select singer Jenn Bostic for your Artist Ambassador?

This year while thinking about an artist that had the same feelings we had about Whole Planet Foundation, a light bulb went off in my head when I thought of Jenn Bostic. She is a perfect fit for bridging the gap between the event itself, Whole Planet Foundation and has the ability to increase awareness for the foundation. Jenn will release her new single “Faint of Heart” – which is about being an entrepreneur of her own music company - and will perform, but she also wants to educate this community about Whole Planet Foundation in a much deeper way then we’ve been able to do in the past. Jenn will be donating half the proceeds of her song, “Faint of Heart” to Whole Planet Foundation during the month of March.

Since Whole Planet Foundation is focused on both female empowerment and entrepreneurship what does this mean to you personally?

When I was a young girl growing up, there was a dichotomy about what I was being taught. My parents were both entrepreneurs, and that was great to see. I was always told I could compete on any playing field – sports, school, business, etc. - and succeed if I worked hard enough. However, there was still another side of that coin in the media that showed women working but also coming home to cook and clean. There was not equality.

I have two daughters and a son, and it’s important that their generation knows that women are empowered to succeed in all the same ways as men. In addition, I like to encourage women to control their financial destiny and find a community that supports that.

The other piece of this is the positives that come with learning, building and giving back, being part of something bigger than you are. That engagement makes a difference in so many different ways.

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned in all the years of doing this specific event?

An unshakable confidence that it will all come together. Things come up left and right, and you have to be able to adapt quickly and be flexible. It isn’t like a marketing campaign for a brand launch where there are specific target dates to hit. One artist could shift their day or time and that could change your line up with no time to spare. You have hours, not weeks, to make it work. 

Here’s my advice: don’t do a live music event like this if you only want to book cool bands or reap sponsor dollars. Do it if you’re excited to bring amazing artists, brands and socially responsible organizations together to determine how to provide an incredible experience for them and the audience. You need to be thinking long term if you want to create something sustainable, and as important, memorable.  

About Liz Leahy

Liz is a co-founder of Quantum Collective an innovative marketing group that aims to expand awareness by building complementary communities to support artists, musicians, artists, celebrities and consumer brands through original programs, live entertainment and experiential events. Quantum Collective is presenting their 7th annual Southwest Invasion lifestyle event in Austin, TX.  She is also the Founder of Section 101, a New York City based company that provides a premier website platform for the music, entertainment and advocacy industries, while delivering a dynamic web-based platform that presents simple and effective solutions for brands to maximize their online presence.