COMMUNITY LEADERS GUIDING OTHERS, BRINGING A SENSE OF HOPE DURING THESE CHALLENGING TIMES.
By Britton Griffith
In the world of marketing and advertising, we demand to see the best highlights and positive representation of our favorite places, people and products.
It’s hard to remember what life was like before COVID-19 brought darkness to each corner of our lives. From health scares, to business shut downs, to financial distress and emotional turmoil, it seemed impossible to find hope.
So, in a time of turmoil how do you shine light on the shadow?
I sat down with Courtney Meredith at Wild River Grille in the Riverwalk District, (a district she founded with a group of community members) and asked how she gave Reno the silver lining we were so desperate to find.
Courtney is the co-founder, senior design strategist and creative director of Reno-based boutique agency, Design on Edge. Over her 23+ years in the industry, she has been the well-deserved recipient of over 50 awards both locally and nationally. She has dedicated endless hours to community service, is a published author, and the true heart and soul of the Biggest Little City.
This Irish maiden has branded and designed for critically acclaimed companies like Masters of Illusion, DC Mob Museum, Saint Mary’s hospital, Reno eNVy, GlitzyLips, and Riverwalk District, among countless others during her career.
As we sipped on our favorite wine and ate appetizers along the river, we observed this area we have dedicated years to brand, diversify and develop was now a lonely sight to see. Usually the buzz and vibrancy along the downtown corridor of the Truckee River is electric, people of all ages are walking around, music can be heard, and tourists come to see what the hidden gem of Reno has to offer.
I asked her, “Courtney, when I look around, I feel like we are in the beginning scenes of an apocalyptic film. How did you see this and find ways to bring life back to all these businesses and people plagued by defeat?”
Courtney, smiled, with the confidence and kindness that she is known for and replied, “I have always worked with purpose and the personal mission that everything we do should serve the greater good. We may not be able to provide money, but I have a unique skill set in the field of creative communications and it’s through that skill set that I am able to find the heart and truth of a story and share that message with others. Through this event, I have been reminded that helping people is more powerful than any award. We can change lives through our ability to adapt and pivot messages and provide creative solutions in times of a crisis. This crisis wasn’t just about springing people into a state of chaos, but an opportunity to rebuild, rebrand and start over.”
Her positivity and dedication have never faltered, even in the dreaded year of 2020.
“What inspired you to not give up and have the energy and faith to do all of this work?” I asked.
I asked this question, but I didn’t need to. No matter the challenge Courtney faced over the years, including the great recession, a non-existent downtown and constantly changing industries in the Northern Nevada region, her team has come out on top and lifted the spirits of those lucky to be around them.
“I have been asked this before and I would say compassion is the most important. A dear friend of mine and fellow business owner Todd Poth said to me once, ‘We are all in the same storm but we are not in the same ship.’ This couldn’t be truer and has become a personal mantra to me. I have experienced loss in revenue, health assistance, and family loss during COVID-19. The patience and compassion I have received has been vital to my personal drive and ability to overcome. It’s important we are compassionate to everyone’s personal scenario as we continue to recover, and survive, and ultimately heal from this difficult time.”
Marketing and public relations is often thought of as the ‘fun job’ and mischaracterized in hit shows such as “Mad Men” and “Sex in the City.” When I asked her what makes marketing a platform to inspire and promote, she responded, “Design brings content into focus, it’s a formal response to a strategic question, its function is visible.”
This has never been truer than now, her efforts to design a better tomorrow is more apparent and tangible than ever. During COVID-19 she responded immediately to the crisis; she represents the marketing efforts of the Riverwalk District and raised thousands of dollars for the merchant association, a coalition of more than 75 businesses directly affected by the business shutdowns, in addition to two-dozen other companies in our area.
She has become a resource for her peers, the media, and small businesses.
She founded the development of the Reno Resilient project, a partnership with the MUSE Group. This online platform introduces the community to local experts, through free online courses, while empowering individuals to learn new skills and help meaningful causes during the crisis.
She has been instrumental in migrating organizations and businesses to a virtual format. The Design on Edge team helped participate in campaigns for Community Caregivers Initiative, Stay Home for Heroes, #TogetherWeAreOne, COVID Nevada Strong, #VirtualGiving, and Small Business Strong. They also collaborated with other industry peers to help activate programs to support the arts, and assisted with the Feed Our Heroes & Rounds for Heroes Program.
In addition, she significantly contributed to the development of several local podcasts, and virtual media platforms to help local business owners share their current experiences.
She worked with groups such as the Pioneer Center for Performing Arts, Sierra Arts Foundation, and more to keep the arts and culture community supported during times of financial uncertainty.
While talking to Courtney I got goosebumps. I was reminded of how much good there is in the world, even when things seem to have no positivity in sight. She proved this on one of Reno’s darkest moments. After a peaceful protest for Black Lives Matter, where the community came together to show their support of change, solidarity and positive solutions to grievances happening nationally, the tides changed at nightfall.
Our downtown, right where we were sitting for this interview, was flooded by angry rioters (not associated with the protest). These people showed up and attacked the buildings, businesses and beautification efforts that she had spent most of her career creating. Including the building housing her office that was lit on fire and broken into.
At the gravest hour, in the middle of the night she did not panic, or get angry, or add fuel to the quite literal fires downtown. Instead she united others, creating a social and phone tree campaign that brought people from all over the city together the next morning to sweep up broken windows, remove graffiti and heal the heart of our city. Hundreds of people arrived, including elected officials, patrons and people that wanted to show their hometown they cared.
How in all of this fear and anger in the community was she able to bring people together and change the story line to proving this isn’t just a town, it’s home?
It is her unwavering reputation. She has run numerous political campaigns, been spun into webs of drama in media platforms, and had her share of witnessing scandals in our small town. However, everyone knows her name and word mean everything. She holds herself, her team and her company to the highest of standards.
When Courtney Meredith calls you, you answer, because it’s important and it’s for something good.
At only 5-foot-4 this incredible woman has broken every glass ceiling, lifted others out of despair, and went from selling this city’s greatest attributes to saving it in our time of need.
We want our clients to succeed in not only business but in their individual lives. It’s important to us that our families and the community have the resources and support they need. At Design on Edge, we strive to be a collaborative force, and responsible member of our community while remaining committed to the organizations we love.
She notes, “We want our clients to succeed in not only business but in their individual lives. It’s important to us that our families and the community have the resources and support they need. At Design on Edge, we strive to be a collaborative force, and responsible member of our community while remaining committed to the organizations we love. We feel that by supporting our community, they will reciprocate that and support us back in times of crisis, times of transition, and even in times of success. We built a company we can be proud of and have aligned ourselves with organizations, causes, and individuals that share the same values.”
Getting to sit at Wild River Grille for a glass of wine and hear the Truckee River glide by, was a pleasure I had forgotten about. More heartwarming was hearing Courtney’s voice recall all she has done in COVID-19. She reminded me in just one hour, what hope feels like. Courtney was a true leader, marketing guru and miracle worker all before chaos struck. Now more than ever I am so proud she is my friend, my colleague and a true community hero.