Meet Your Tahoe Merchant: From lemonade stand to media buying at EXL
Special to the Bonanza
What: EXL Media
Location: 803 Tahoe Blvd; Suite 7, Incline Village
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — She started out like most of us, but perhaps Wendy Hummer had a bit more drive with her summer lemonade stand.
With incredible foresight at a very young age, Hummer told her father she would own her own business. So by charging his daughter for lemonade and water expenses, and asking for 10 percent of the proceeds, her father “was steering me that way, he got me on that path,” she said.
Selling sour refreshments during summer months was her start, and now Hummer is CEO and founder of EXL Media, a media planning, buying, placement strategy and analysis company in Incline Village.
“I’m one of those people who always knew what she wanted,” she said.
After securing her lemonade business, the 12-year-old became sure of her profession in marketing from watching the classic TV series “Bewitched” with Elizabeth Montgomery.
As the famous Samantha crinkled her nose and thought up creative ideas for her advertising executive husband, Hummer became sure of her future career. And with each family trip to Lake Tahoe, Wendy knew she would eventually make the lake her home.
“My high school yearbook said I would come up here,” she said.
Since opening EXL Media in December of 1994, Hummer has moved with the changes in industry, changes the Internet has brought to media buying and planning.
Hummer’s office manager and long time friend Aera Newman remembers the business before the Internet boom of the late 1990s.
“When I first started working for Wendy in 1996, the Internet barely existed,” Newman said. “It certainly was not mainstream. We did not even have an Internet connection in her first office.”
Hummer frequented conferences and seminars to learn how to best offer online advertising to her clients.
“In more recent times, both Hummer and her staff have been educating themselves on the growing area of social media marketing,” Newman said.
EXL Media works with big companies and small businesses, local clients and international ones. EXL Media works with 40-50 clients, and Hummer’s staff has grown to 10 full-time employees.
The nature of owning a business, as well as the nature of the business Hummer owns, make for long days and not much time for vacation.
She said owning her own business has two sides of the coin.
“You can’t get fired and you can do what you want,” she said, “But you can’t walk away from it — you’re never off work.”
As George grows up (George is her 12-year-old son and partner in crime), Wendy has shifted her outlook and says she works more towards a balanced life.
“She has gradually been able to achieve the delicate balance of work and family and personal life,” Newman said. “I know it hasn’t been easy for her, but she has slowly been able to delegate more responsibilities to her senior staff.”
Hummer spends more time on her skis, mountain bike and kayak. She practices yoga and swims.
The active business woman says she chooses to work where she lives, not live where she works.
“You gotta enjoy life,” Hummer said. “My whole thing is swimming in the lake every day. I could work 24 hours a day, but I can only do what I can do. I travel more than I used to, I go to music more than I used to.”
Wendy and George saw both the Salt Lake City and the Vancouver Olympics together and the two have plans to go to Brazil in 2014.
“I want to go see the World Cup,” Wendy said. “It would be amazing.”
She said she also wants to travel off the beaten path to watch soccer in little villages and little towns along the way.
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