The Third Degree
Featuring Amanda Slavin
Amanda Slavin is the CEO/Founder of CatalystCreativ, an event-planning company that helps brands reach millennials. It was also one of the first businesses that received funding from Downtown Project in 2012. I sat down with Amanda to discuss her journey to downtown, spilling her soul to the masses in an intensely vulnerable blog post and what’s ahead for her.
Q. I remember meeting you during the summer of 2012 on a tour of Zappos. What brought you to Vegas during that time?
I really came because of a serendipitous encounter with Tony, believing, seeing Vegas and believing that it could really be something very special. It already was, but it just needed a little bit more love and care. So, that is what brought me to Vegas and that whole week changed so many people’s lives.
Q. CatalystCreativ consisted of a two different experiences: Catalyst Week and Creativ Week. Explain what those weeks are about.
Catalyst Week was really about bringing inspirational people doing great things in the world and having them come and experience downtown and share their stories. You know, what was a catalyst in their lives and how they can be a catalyst in other people’s lives within downtown? It always ended up being that downtown was a catalyst for them. Creativ Week came about where it was like, we don’t have any more room for Catalyst Week, what’s this other experience? And we wanted to coincide it with First Friday to really bring creatives, artists, music-kind of like a Life Is Beautiful type experience without the learning-to downtown. So all of the learning could be Catalyst Week and the rest could be Creativ Week.
Q. Who are some of the people that have participated in the CatalystCreativ experience and what have been some of your biggest takeaways from the experience?
Simon Sinek, Sean Stephenson and Harry Shum Jr., just to name a few. These people came on their own dime and spoke completely for free. The key takeaways for me were those moments of confirmation where I received emails from people telling me that Catalyst and Creativ Week changed their lives. Those things say to me, OK, we’re doing something right.
Q. I read your Levo.com article “30 Things I’m Happy I Tried and Learned Before 30” and you wrote that you wanted to look back at those moments with gratitude and grace instead of regret. I thought that was such a positive way of looking at your life up to that point. You wrote about family, being a mean girl, having a broken heart and breaking a heart and also letting go. Of the 30 moments, which was your most memorable?
I wrote that on a plane in my notebook on my phone for myself. I wasn’t going to publish it and then I said, if what I’m all about is being vulnerable and learning from these moments, I should probably share this with others because they’re probably experiencing it as well. The most memorable moment though? Probably the moving moment. When I was 16 I moved three times, and I really hadn’t had a home until here. At the end of the day Vegas, to me, is my home. I feel that, I believe that, I’m committing to it. I have a Nevada ID. That shit’s real.
Q. What is your favorite place in downtown Las Vegas?
So (Chef) Natalie is like family to me, and my boyfriend and I just think that what she has created with Eat and Chow is insane—the shrimp shumei is crack. But the reason why I love her place is because I was in the restaurant industry, and it is really hard to open a restaurant the way that she’s opened these restaurants. She cares so much. She’s so committed and so dedicated to creating experiences that matter for the customer and also for her staff, and I think that, to me, is so unbelievably inspirational.
Q. What’s next for you?
I think I really have to constantly distinguish what are my professional goals from my personal because I love what I do so much that I get totally wrapped up, and if I just put professional goals then I forget about the things that I want for myself personally. So build my organization, find other key people that can help me scale the company, that’s not just me and this small team—which is incredible—but kind of some key partners and brands that will invest in us to grow, as well as start a family.
Q. I read that you’ve expanded CatalystCreativ beyond downtown Las Vegas. What are some of the other cities that you’re working with? What are some of the experiences that you’ve designed in those other cities?
We worked with Coca-Cola on a sustainability initiative with W Hotels in New York, we worked with Dell in Austin around seven citizens changing your local city in the world and we worked with NPR where we did a millennial program with them in L.A.. It’s been three and a half years, so we’ve worked with a lot of different companies. We’ve really kind of taken that model of Catalyst Week, inspirational speakers or influencers sharing stories that are meaningful to them, having this social media element to it and we’ve applied that, but it’s always different per client.
Q. Let’s talk about making the Forbes 2015 30 Under 30 list. Where were you when you got the news? How did you react?
I actually got the news from a friend of mine who texted me, who was also on the list, and said “congratulations.” But the list wasn’t out yet, so I was like, “oh my god he got the list. He’s wrong. I’m not on it.” I was so excited. I was beyond excited. I think it really did so much for us from a credibility perspective. People are like, oh they’re 30 Under 30 or she’s Forbes 30 Under 30, they’re legit. But at the same time it’s like I always have to have this balance of I’m so grateful, but also it’s press. I was so excited and so humbled, but I’m kind of bad at receiving cause I always feel weird.
Q. Do you feel that downtown is still that place of innovation, creativity and inspiration that it was intended to be?
I think that over the next year to two years it will be an evolution of us thinking that we need to depend on one entity to give us the answer, and us taking those answers into our own hands and us creating our own story. I think that is the only way that it will work within downtown. I also think that Downtown Project is an operator. They’re an investment company. They’ve invested in these small-businesses over three and a half years, and now it’s on us. Some people have left because of a plethora of reasons, but I think that now it will be a whole new group of people that are inspired by this whole initiative. They’re inspired, not from a funding perspective, but because they just care and they think it’s just a cool place to be.
Q. I read that you went to India. Tell me what your Zen is.
My Zen is on the weekends, and when I go out at night during the week, I do not bring my phone. Snapchat is kind of ruining that because I’m obsessed with snapchat, but besides that I really try to be super present with people. I also think Zen for me is riding a bike or just walking, being outside and doing something. It doesn’t have to be crazy active, but even a hike, being around nature or trees is so important to me. I think I lost a lot of that in New York. It’s just being present to the people that are really important and showing up for those people and showing up for myself.