Two days after Lauren Hug moved to Colorado Springs, she was volunteering at the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center to assist those affected by the Waldo Canyon fire. Hug, who founded the marketing and integrated communications company, HugSpeak, had just moved from Austin, Texas, and was in contract to buy a home in Mountain Shadows, one of the neighborhoods devastated by the fire.

Despite arriving during one of the greatest disasters in the city’s history, Hug said this is where she belonged.

“I got here, and it was home,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

Hug, who recently led the campaign for the Friends of District 11 coalition to pass a mill levy override, grew up in Austin and earned her undergraduate degree and her master’s in law at the University of Texas at Austin. She went on to work for a market and research firm out of college before stepping away to have her first of two children. She has since made a name for herself after launching her business in the Pikes Peak region.

“Lauren has had a fantastic presence across the community, whether that be the nonprofit or for-profit sector,” said Sean Gullixson, vice president of Vectra Bank Colorado. Gullixson is also a D-11 board member and he recruited Hug to lead the campaign. “Her team has done incredible work in the community. Thanks to them, there’s more conversation happening around D-11 than I’ve ever seen.”

Hug also teaches communications and professional development courses at UCCS, and recently hired a student last year as her company grew. She was intentional about hiring a woman.

“I did seek a female employee. I feel like women need opportunities,” she said. “There was an article a couple years ago that talked about how men proactively seek and mentor men where women will mentor both sexes. That means women are at a disadvantage.”

But Hug said women in Colorado Springs have created a supportive network unlike any other she’s seen.

“I think this community is amazing and the women here are awesome,” she said. “They are so willing to open doors and networks to anybody. I know so much of the work I’ve gotten is because of women saying, ‘This is someone you need to know,’ or ‘Come meet this person.’ I think there is something special in Colorado Springs about how women interact.”

Having an employee, who has since moved on to another career, allowed Hug to learn about her leadership style.

“It was an experiment for me because I don’t like managing people,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure out what works for my business model and me. … I’m more of a mentor and encourager type. I like to empower people to do the things they do well. I’m not great at telling people what they’re terrible at.”

Growing up in a progressive city like Austin with a supportive father, Hug said she was late to realize how much of a role gender plays in professional environments.

“My dad was very empowering and said I could do anything I wanted to do. … I think I grew up almost gender-blind and didn’t realize there were issues with women and business.

“It’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve really understood the value of women-to-women mentoring and relationships,” she said.

So what does it mean to Hug to be named a Woman of Influence?

“I don’t think of myself as influential. I just like connecting people and helping people find ways to get involved and see the kind of impact they can have in this community,” she said. “I love empowering others to speak up and explore their potential, because community-wide collaboration produces rich and effective solutions.”

— Bryan Grossman