Lauren A. Basford is of the belief that there’s one way to do anything successfully: do, learn, think outside of the box, repeat.
This protocol serves her well in her role as executive director of the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce.
Basford’s journey began in Brooks County. She was born and raised in Quitman. She is part of the seventh generation to live in her family’s ancestral home, which was constructed in 1861.
“My parents still live in our family homeplace,” Basford said. “To say we have a family farm is an understatement. It’s actually one of Georgia’s centennial farms. And so, I have very deep roots in Brooks County.”
After graduating from Westbrook School in Dixie, Basford attended Valdosta State University for two years, then ventured to Atlanta to attend Georgia State University. There, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Sculpture.
After leaving GSU, Basford spent some time in Atlanta working at art galleries and helping to curate some art shows in Atlanta and in New York City.
“I really fell into the art world for a time,” she said. “After that, I ended up moving to Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. I just wanted to try the beach lifestyle.
“While I was there, I started selling real estate for a very high-end resort community called Alys Beach. Within four years, I suddenly found myself being their top-grossing sales agent. In those four years, I managed to sell $24.5 million worth of properties. The very first house I sold was a $3.3 million dollar house, and it wasn’t even on the beach.
“Selling real estate there was easy for two reasons. First, it was a very beautiful community. Second, I took pride in my work.”
By then, Basford had a solid background in sales. Her sales and marketing prowess was further expanded by helping her then-husband launch an Italian restaurant called Amore Pizzeria.
“It was a real deal, Italian, gourmet pizza joint — an authentic mom-and-pop kind of place, if you will,” she said with a smile. “We owned Amore for four years and then we sold it before moving back here. I am happy to say that today, it is still up and running,”
Having her first daughter was the reason Basford wanted to return to southwest Georgia.
“Because I had grown up in this small town with a loving family instilling those small-town values in me, I really wanted those things for my child. We dropped everything – the real estate, the restaurant, everything — to move back to Quitman so we could be near our family.”
Newly returned to Quitman, Basfprd quickly got involved with the community through Leadership Brooks — an initiative of the Quitman/Brooks County Chamber of Commerce very similar to the one Thomasville’s chamber has. Leadership Brooks led her to doing a legacy project with the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDED) on a Tourism Product Resource Team. Basford’s team was the first to develop a specialized marketing dossier on Quitman as a heritage and agri-tourism destination under the auspices of GDED. What started as a legacy project is now a very successful tourism model for Quitman.
Basford decided to try something new.
“I launched a 501(c3) non-profit organization with a grassroots mentality and a board of directors,” she said. “It was entirely made up of people who were passionate about making Quitman a better community in which to live. Tourism was the way to do that because it was the driving force. Out of that came Quitman’s ‘Skillet Festival,’ which happens there every October. It won a tourism award from Governor (Nathan) Deal’s office. In fact, Governor Deal was the first person to ever throw a skillet in front of the Brooks County Courtroom.
“Last October, we set a Guinness world record for the most skillets thrown simultaneously in a single place — 266 skillets.”
Basford was contacted in 2013 to determine if she had any interest in working at Thomasville’s Chamber of Commerce. After a closer look, she quickly fell in love with the schools, quality of life and resources the “City of Roses” has to offer.
“We moved to Thomasville the last week of October last year, and we have loved every single second of it,” she said. “That includes Bobo, my dog/office assistant.”
Basford is blessed with two lovely daughters — Dodie, 6 and Lucy, 2.
When she’s not out in the community, Basford enjoys doting on her daughters, yoga, running, woodturning, kayaking, collecting vintage accessories and spending time on the family farm.
“We have focused on increasing value to our chamber members, engaging our community, and partnering with local organizations. I’m honored to serve on the executive boards of Hands on Thomas County and Keep Thomas County Beautiful. I’m also honored to be a brand new member of the Rotary Club. The missions of these groups dovetail perfectly into the chamber’s mission.
“I want to see the chamber become a greater resource for small businesses. We have an excellent legacy of successful seed businesses here. In the foreseeable future, I see this chamber of commerce as a vibrant, active organization out there really making a difference. I see a strong business climate in Thomasville. I see new businesses interested in setting up shop here. And I see this chamber ready, willing and able to serve many new chamber members. And that’s an incredibly exciting prospect for me.”