Former Cheerleader Turns Hobby Into Career
Growing up in southern Florida, Nicole Lauchaire had a passion for school spirit early on and loved being a part of her school cheerleading team. Her summers were spent at cheer camp, and while the energy was palpable there, she never imagined she’d be able to turn it into a full-time career – especially since she admits with a laugh that her high school team wasn’t one of the top competing teams.
As the vice president of corporate marketing and communications for Varsity Spirit, she handles everything from branding and PR for the “ecosystem” of cheerleading and dance brands under Varsity, to charting the strategic plans and producing television programs with partners like ESPN and CBS Sports.
Over the years, she’s worn many hats for the brand and had the opportunity to learn from the best in the business – her mentors, Kris Shepherd, Varsity Brands’ former executive vice president, marketing & communications, and Jeff Webb, Varsity Brands’ founder and chairman.
“When I was given the opportunity to be on staff [in high school], I thought it was unbelievable. I was sure they’d made some kind of a mistake,” she says. “Then I went on to teach summer camps through college where I was a cheerleader at Florida State. Really, being on staff helped me to become a college cheerleader because I learned so much being around so many talented cheerleaders.
“Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) and Varsity saw something in me that I’m not sure I saw in myself. That gave me the confidence to take the leap and try out for a college team.”
She knew she loved being around the kids at camps, so she assumed the logical career path was teaching and coaching a cheerleading team, though she realized quickly that the enthusiasm and vigor of the Varsity and UCA camps couldn’t be matched.
“So I finished the school year and taught a full season of summer camps – 18 camps, gone for three months,” she explains. “Somewhere along the lines I had gone to higher-level camps and there was a position open in the home office writing for their website, which was a new concept at the time.”
In September 2001, Lauchaire accepted the position in Memphis from a campground payphone and never looked back.
As she continued to succeed in her roles, her mentors played a large part in steering her in the right direction. Her advice for leaders and mentors is to take the time to listen, and share the knowledge of experiences.
“Early on, Kris and Jeff started bringing me to as many things as they could,” she says. “From meetings to trips, I would just go to take notes, but it exposed me to so many situations. I learned to always say yes to those opportunities to absorb and have those conversations. So much of what they did [in founding the company] was a combination of instinct and intuition. The time spent learning from them was stuff you can’t learn from a book or in a school.”
Her hope for the work she and her colleagues do is to create the same experiences that influenced them.
“Everyone here is so passionate about what we’re doing because for the most part everyone was touched in some way by the camp, and we’re passionate about creating those experiences for others. There’s this wonderful feeling of purpose and passion. [My co-workers are] the hardest workers I know, and they’re so dedicated to great work. Every day is a whole lot of fun, even when we don’t know how we’re going to get everything done. We’re obviously pretty positive people around here, lots of encouragement,” she says with a laugh.
“I hope that we can create experiences that the participants will remember the rest of their lives – that they come out on the other side feeling confident, like they belong, and know that they can do some really difficult things. And we want them to have a lot of fun. We bring joy to people. These kids are so excited, and it’s a moment that will forever be something that was really important in their lives.”
Nicole Lauchaire is a graduate of New Memphis’ Leadership Development Intensive. Learn more at newmemphis.org.
*This article originally ran in the Memphis Daily News.