We’re finishing this semester with an inspirational mini series all about our MCOM alumnae, who we affectionately dub Girl Bosses. I had the opportunity to get to know some of our most successful lady alum, and now I have the honor of sharing the highlights from our conversations with you.
The first interviewee on our Girl Boss lineup is Alyssa Maute Smith. Alyssa graduated from the MCOM program in 2013, and now owns her own communications firm and leads the marketing and communications function for Charleston Wine + Food. Alyssa teaches us to be (immensely) ambitious, creative, and entrepreneurial-minded. Also, she’s passionate about food and wine… so you know she must be a pretty cool cat.
Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I am a native Charlestonian that grew up on James Island. I love being from Charleston and I love that I still call this place home. I married my high school sweetheart (we both went to Clemson together) and now we both live on James Island with our first son, Owen Smith. I am a mom, entrepreneur, feminist, avid learner, and lover of Southern football. I enjoy boating, fishing, crabbing and eating out at all the fabulous restaurants we have here in Charleston.
Tell me about your career.
A: I am the Marketing + Communications Director of Charleston Wine + Food and owner of Vestige Communications. As Marketing + Communications Director for Charleston Wine + Food, I am responsible for the creation and management of all consumer-facing brand marketing, messaging, and communication. The overall goal of the Marketing + Communications Director is to strategically support ticket sales, effectively communicate the organization’s higher purpose, and overall manage + protect the Charleston Wine + Food brand.
As owner of Vestige Communications, I work with several businesses in the Charleston area to develop and executive strategic communication + marketing campaigns, messaging and overall communicate the organization’s mission and purpose. Some clients include and have included Lowcountry Local First Chef’s Potluck, Lowcountry Local First’s Eat Local Month, New Leaf Builder, Melvin’s Barbecue, and Eagle Harbor Ranch Wingapalooza.
What made you decide to pursue your Master’s degree in Communication?
A: I attended Clemson University and received a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis in PR. My minors included Journalism and Spanish. After graduation I returned to Charleston and began to work for a local, small art studio. Working in a small business inspired me to open my own business. I decided to entertain this idea by going back for my Masters. I attended to College of Charleston’s MA in Communication program at night while still working a full time job. I knew a masters degree was something I always wanted to attain. I would consider myself an eternal student. I love learning new things and applying that learning to my daily life.
How did your experience in the MCOM program prepare you for your career?
A: The MCOM program was exactly what I needed at the time I went back to school. The classes were challenging and dynamic. I took several courses in PR, leadership and women + gender studies. I think the most influential classes were my leadership and women + gender studies. As a female entrepreneur and someone who leads a small team, these have been instrumental in establishing my leadership style and workplace practices. I feel lucky that I have the pleasure of working with an all female team and a very much male-dominated industry. The coursework and in depth case studies I was exposed to in the MCOM program greatly set me up for a realistic look at work in the 21st century.
Can you share your biggest accomplishment in your current position?
A: As Charleston Wine + Food’s Marketing + Communications Director I oversaw the marketing strategy for the 2018 festival. This year’s festival saw our largest attendance to date – 29,072. We secured over 200 local, regional and national media mentions totaling 528,333,941 impressions; saw website traffic of 1,002,250 impressions, secured partnerships with 32 media outlets including Wine Spectator, SAVEUR, Tasting Table, Food Republic, Bake from Scratch and Fast Company.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work experience or fond memories of the MCOM program?
A: Through the MCOM program I met Dr. Ruth-McSwain. I was greatly inspired by her and her work. In my current role as Marketing + Communications Director, I reached out to Amanda to see if she would be open to a partnership with her senior capstone class. In 2016, we created the first capstone class at the College that would work with a real nonprofit as their agency of record. The students went through a primary and secondary research phase and presenting their findings to me (AKA “the client”). They then went into an idea generation period where they came up with a full communications campaign that they pitched to me. We worked through the back and forth that often occurs between client and agency and settled on campaigns that they would execute for Charleston Wine + Food. Following the campaign execution phase, they analyzed and reported key findings. She and I have now done this with 2 capstone classes and are approaching our third. We have overseen a total of 40 students who learned more in this one class experience than we could have ever imagined. I still have students thank me for the experience and share the doors that were opened for them because of it. This all came to be from my participation in the MCOM program and meeting Amanda.
Bonus material for your reading pleasure: This is a bio that Alyssa’s coworker wrote about her. We think it’s quite fitting.
“Alyssa is CHSWFF’s Marketing + Communications powerhouse. She is here to get $hit done and make it rain media partnerships and press hits. If there were Guinness Book of World Records for most organized + efficient person ever, Smith would likely hold the championing title. Wonder Woman-esq, there is nothing she can’t do, and we guarantee she’ll do it with a big smile on her face. A true Charleston native, Alyssa was born + raised right here in the Holy City and is all about that #locallove. Alyssa is a mom to Owen and wife to Emmett Smith (no, not that Emmit Smith). When she’s not at Wine + Food, you can catch her boating + beaching or wading in the Folly River with a fishing pole in hand. She believes that Thanksgiving dinner should be served year round and prefers dessert as an appetizer. On Fridays, she wears Orange (Go Clemson!), and yes, you can sit with her. Fun Fact: She once sang “Ice, Ice, Baby” with THE Vanilla Ice. Alright stop, collaborate + listen.”