When Linda Lovgren launched Lovgren Advertising, Inc. in 1978, there were only two women owned businesses in the field locally. Lovgren has since seen many women successfully own and lead advertising, PR, design and media firms, and has inspired at least one former intern to start her own marketing company.
The Emspace + Lovgren strategic counsel and accreditation in public relations-designated professional also represents other “firsts,” including the Greater Omaha Chamber’s first female chairperson.
The real career highlight for Lovgren, though, has been elevating Omaha’s landscape via her communications expertise and considerable experience. She isolated involvement in the group that developed what is now CHI Health Center downtown, work with the Omaha Storm Chasers ownership to keep the AAA baseball team in the metro (and to build a new home stadium), and her role recruiting defense contractors to support the growth of Offutt Air Force Base and Strategic Air Command.
Additionally, Lovgren has played a role in everything from a billion-dollar water quality infrastructure program to the Nebraska State Fair’s relocation to Grand Island.
In retrospect, the path was laid well before Lovgren embarked on a career of communicating newsworthy stories.
“From the time I was about 10, I entered writing contests, speaker competitions and in high school joined the debate team, speaking competitions and took roles in plays,” she said.
At Iowa State University, Lovgren was poised to earn a teaching degree. She ended up taking a communications course in the English department and the rest is history.
“My undergraduate degree is from Indiana University in what was then telecommunications and encompassed journalism, advertising and public relations,” she said.
Originally, Lovgren aspired to be a news director. Her first job was as a writer, advertising producer and news reporter at a small radio station.
“The job put me in touch with many area ad agencies and I was offered a couple creative writing jobs,” she said. “I accepted one of those.”
Seven years later, the opportunity to start her own company presented itself.
“I jumped at the chance to be my own boss with a 1-and-a-half-year-old at home and five months pregnant,” she said. “It honestly didn’t occur to me that this might not work.”
Clearly, Lovgren was influenced by her parents’ work ethic, and her husband’s support.
“Knowing ‘I’d regret it if I didn’t try’ made the decision easy,” she said.
As Lovgren Advertising’s expertise grew and clients requested additional services, the firm underwent its own rebrand to Lovgren Marketing Group.
“Then, closing in on 40 years in business, it was important to me for the business to sell, if possible, to another woman,” she continued, “to build on the business with new, exciting work and to preserve the careers of our team.”
Fortuitously, Lovgren and Elizebeth Murphy knew each other casually and had engaged in a project that required joint communications.
“As we worked through the situation we began talking about our businesses and goals,” she said. “The match was perfect. Elizebeth, herself well-established, made an offer to buy the company, merge our businesses and the Lovgren staff to the new entity.”
On June 1, 2018, Emspace + Lovgren was born.
Inspiration is Everywhere
Lovgren distinguished between knowing one’s craft and learning all aspects of running a business – from legal to insurance needs. She recalled the words of former ad agency exec, Bob Riley: “‘Do what you do well and hire people to do what you don’t know.”
She borrowed some money from her parents, complete with a payment contract (“less red tape than the bank,” she said).
Lovgren further characterized Omaha as an “open door,” allowing her to prove the company’s value.
“And I saw a quote once that said, ‘You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,’” she said. “That’s how I look at problem-solving and business development.”
The firm’s growth necessitated a Colorado Springs office in the late-1990s. Over the next five years, Lovgren said this experience taught her about people management, distance and the importance of trusted relationships.
“As technology’s capability became greater and more sophisticated, two physical locations weren’t necessary,” she explained.
She credits her success to many things; partly, others who gave Lovgren the “shoulders to stand on” while growing up, in business and life. She acknowledges her competitive nature – sports, 4-H or academics – and her parents as “beacons who instilled values, work ethic and life lessons.”
“On our farm there was no gender, everyone pulled together, worked hard and respected each other,” she said.
Lovgren’s husband and children respected that the work invigorated her. Business leaders who served as mentors also made “remarkable opportunities possible.” Lovgren gives a final nod to professional and community passions to create what she calls a “world-class place to live and work.”
Lovgren hopes to hoist others up on her metaphorical shoulders through her experience pursuing professional and volunteer opportunities.
A fixture of the Midlands Business Journal through the decades, Lovgren’s first business story was featured in the fall 1978 issue. MBJ’s late publisher and founder, Bob Hoig, interviewed Lovgren as the business launched.
“It was the beginning of a long business relationship,” she recalled. “I learned a lot from Bob over the years.”
Lovgren further combined passions for fly fishing and volunteerism; a Nebraska volunteer for Casting for Recovery and national board of trustees leadership, the nonprofit holds fly fishing retreats for women with breast cancer.
The mother of two and grandmother of seven looks forward to working on special projects with Emspace + Lovgren and to turning the tables on the percentage of time spent working versus time spent fly fishing, traveling and with family and friends.