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Bringing the Networking Pieces Together
Lauren McDanell, Eller Marketing ’08
Retail Brand Manager, TM International

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Lauren McDanell came to the UA from Phoenix, first as a high school student considering her options, then as an honors scholarship student. Though she came from a family of engineers and educators, she quickly found her own niche in business. “I ended up really liking event planning and marketing,” she said. “My honors thesis involved market research, and I made that the focus of my internship goals and job hunt.”

Lauren McDanell, Eller Marketing '08, took a chance at an entry position with TM International that has quickly turned into retail brand manager.

Lauren McDanell, Eller Marketing ’08, took a chance at an entry position with TM International that has quickly turned into retail brand manager.

She completed an internship with sprinkler systems company Rain Bird, where she had the opportunity to design and deliver a survey to independent irrigation workers to better understand their decision-making process when choosing a system to install.

It was a great experience, and should have set her up for her full-time employment search, but circumstances intervened.“My graduating class was totally blindsided by the economic downturn,” she explained. “I had been expecting to graduate with a $50,000 job. Instead, the company I thought I had a lead on announced a hiring freeze.”

McDanell returned to Phoenix and kept herself busy with part-time employment. “I worked for the Special Olympics Arizona to develop an ASU-focused fundraising event,” she said. “They were looking for something that would allow students to give back without the time commitment of training or mentorship of athletes. We ended up doing a Polar Plunge at a water park, where students could raise money according to things like how long they could stay in the water. It appealed to their desire to help and was a different way to get them involved.”

She also taught preschool. “Washing paint brushes and working with kids wasn’t where I’d seen myself,” she said, “but it gave me a chance to get comfortable with kids, and I picked up a lot of skills.”

Lauren McDanell at TM International.

Lauren McDanell at TM International.

Some of those skills have paid off in her current role with TM International, the world’s leading producer of temporary tattoos. “Many of our products are geared towards young kids and their parents,” she said. “That job gave me insight I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”

McDanell joined TM International after her preschool contract expired. “It’s a great networking story,” she said. As a junior, she and a team of undergraduate honors students completed a consulting project with the Tucson Unified School District, under the supervision of an Eller MBA mentor. After her team’s final presentation, Tammy Farris, current associate director of development and previous director of corporate outreach, approached McDanell.

“She introduced herself and encouraged us to contact her if we’d like any help,” McDanell said. “I followed up with her and she introduced me to Stephen Tooker [president and CEO of TM International].” During the spring semester of her senior year, McDanell went on a tour of the company. “At the time, I didn’t think I wanted to stay in Tucson,” she said. “It was a missed connection.”

But in the summer of 2009, she contacted Tooker again, and he told her about an executive assistant position. “They didn’t have a marketing function at that time, but wanted to move in that direction,” McDanell said. “I ended up coming on as a marketing and product development assistant.”

It was a great time to join TM: the company was in the process of a rebranding effort and introduced a more structured marketing mindset. The small team McDanell joined became a new department. “It was a good opportunity,” she said. “Now, going all the way back to my junior year, I can look back and see all of the pieces of the journey and the way they came together.”

It’s given her a special appreciation for the power of connections. “Networking is not about the elevator pitch and not about schmoozing at receptions,” she said. “It’s about building relationships.”

She credits Farris with connecting her to Tooker, but also values her relationships in the Undergraduate Programs office that keep her connected to Eller. “I worked for Dave Wietecha, and got to know Sarah Diaz and Pam Perry,” she said. “They invited me to come back for Career Immersion Day and for Professional Admissions interviews. It’s fun to share the insight that I’ve got.”

Six months ago, McDanell was promoted. “The new role is more active in things like packaging, messaging, and retail,” she said. “Most of our product lines were geared towards kids from preschool to preteen, but we recognized the trend that adults love tattoos, too.” She was part of an effort to launch a new line targeting single women with fashion-forward designs currently sold in Ulta stores and Sally Beauty Supply. She’s also working to expand the non-tattoo offerings through TM’s Savvi brand, including paint and coloring products.

“Savvi is growing so much,” she said. “It’s cool to be a part of it, and amazing to have a first career job where everything — artistic, production, shipping, accounting, finance, operations — all happens on one campus. If I don’t know how something works, I can just walk over and see.”

Learn more about Eller’s Undergraduate Programs.