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Look Who’s Talking: Lauren Parker Lasater

Lauren Parker Lasater believes in the power of dreams, hard work and a heart that is always open to life’s blessings and opportunities. These values, and all the others that guide her life and choices, are thanks in great part to the love and influence of her parents.

Lauren and her sister, Kathryn, were adopted as infants within four months of each other and raised like twins in Franklin, Tennessee. Her father, Paul, has practiced tax law in Nashville for over 30 years while her mother, Diane, is now retired, but inspired students to appreciate the beauty of the world through her work as an art teacher for 41 years. The girls have always been incredibly close. Not only did they graduate with the same class at St. Cecilia Academy, they attended university together at Lake Forest College. Their parents encouraged them both to dream big, follow their passions and work hard to achieve their goals. It wasn’t until after they graduated in 2008, Lauren with a degree in Studio Art and Communications and Kathryn with one in Art History and Theater, that the sisters’ paths would begin to diverge.

The moment that marked a change in Lauren’s trajectory seemed, on the surface, to be quite unremarkable. The family, on vacation at Yellowstone National Park and enjoying a meal at Canyon Ranch’s iconic 1950s style diner, struck up a conversation with a Japanese tour guide. Upon hearing of Lauren’s love for art, travel and babysitting, the woman suggested she look into the JET Program. It was a suggestion that could easily have been discarded but instead, it germinated in Lauren’s imagination. Once home, further research convinced her that the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program would be the perfect fit for her. She signed on and, with her parents’ unwavering support and encouragement, she was soon on a flight to Tokyo.

She loved everything about life in Japan. She lived about an hour north of Tokyo in a town called Itako and taught English in two nearby Junior High Schools. She found the Japanese people to be warm and welcoming and she spent every free minute soaking in the sights, sounds and tastes of her new home. When it came time to renew her contract, she did so without hesitation.

It was this decision to stay that brought Lauren to the next great crossroads of her life, for soon after determining to remain in Japan, she met the love of her life at an Oktoberfest in Yokohama. Josh Lasater was stationed in Japan with the US Navy and knew when he saw Lauren across the way that he had to meet her. A magical evening ensued, with a long visit to Starbucks and a 4:00 AM round of appetizers at a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo. The conversation flowed easily, and they discovered they had an incredible amount in common, Not only were they both adopted, they were both from the south and shared an interest in business, travel, and health.

In March of 2011, five months after the happy couple got engaged, Lauren found herself in the middle of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. She and her students were unharmed and, though most would have urged her to leave Japan to avoid exposure to harmful radiation, Lauren was determined to see her commitment through to the end. By the time she and Josh left Japan for his next duty station in Philadelphia in August of 2011, recovery was well underway. Though Lauren sometimes worries a little about having been exposed to Fukusima’s aftermath, she does not for one minute regret her decision to stay.

Lauren’s time in Philadelphia was one of transition and joy. She reveled in the challenges involved in planning a destination wedding, making their loft apartment into a home and learning how to be a military spouse. It was here that she began the quest to determine what her professional life post-Japan would look like. Her desire to become an elementary art teacher seemed to be at odds with the reality of being part of a military family, so she began to search for another option.

It was a sip and paint event that couple attended at a wine bar in Philadelphia that planted the seeds for what would eventually become a thriving new business for her. Lauren was impressed with how relaxed and happy everyone seemed as they sipped a drink and expressed a little creativity. She was poised to join the company that hosted the event when Josh received news that he was being transferred one year early and the couple had a mere eight weeks to pack up their life in Philadelphia and move to Virginia.

Determined to turn the spark of inspiration from that night into the career of her dreams, Lauren set right to work upon their arrival at their new home. In February of 2014, she launched Colors & Cocktails: The Mobile Art Party. Through the power of social media, the support of friends and a successful GROUPON campaign, Lauren built a solid clientele base with great momentum. She taught both canvas and glass painting and was doing multiple parties each week. She was thrilled with the growth of her business and optimistic for continued success.

While Josh was deployed, the orders came for a move to Battle Creek, Michigan and Lauren began looking in the area to find the best fit for the couple’s lifestyle and needs. She settled on Kalamazoo, convinced that it offered everything the young couple needed to enjoy life. The only challenge that Kalamazoo posed was the fact that the sip and paint market for canvas was pretty well saturated. After some extensive networking and research, Lauren decided that drinkable, painted glassware offered a perfect niche for an area with so many incredible breweries and wineries.

Lauren is thrilled with this new direction for Colors & Cocktails. She’s worked hard to develop relationships with several local establishments where she consistently holds events. She’s built a client base of customers who paint with her on a monthly basis and she enjoys the friendships that have grown from her career. Mostly, she loves watching the joy in the eyes of people with little to no training in art when they create beautiful and useful pieces.

Lauren and Josh are so in love with southwest Michigan that they have decided to make it their forever home. The couple recently bought their first home, a 1930s Tudor, in the beautiful Westnedge Hill area of Kalamazoo and Josh has recently separated from the US Navy and has started a wonderful new career at Stryker. No matter where he ends up, his job as Lauren’s number one fan and supporter will always be his favorite role. And Lauren will continue to do what her parents taught her to do: Dream big, work hard and enjoy life!

The Colors & Cocktails studio is located in the Park Trades Center – 326 W Kalamazoo Avenue, Studio 309. Studio hours are currently Thursday and Friday 12:00-6:00 and by appointment!

Follow Colors & Cocktails on Facebook and Instagram!

To book a party and for more information on Colors & Cocktails, visit us at www.colors-and-cocktails.com!

Visit our online store at Etsy.com – search colorsandcocktails!

Tell us about a woman who truly inspires you: My Grandma Parker was a woman of grit. She survived the Great Depression and went to college to become an English teacher at a time when women, in general, did not attend university. She and my grandfather were kind, humble, and grateful people. She set an example for each of her grandchildren. She and my grandpa set up trust funds for each of their grandchildren. It allowed all six of us to graduate from college and continue our education how we saw fit.

Favorite guilty pleasure? I believe that life’s too short to feel guilty about enjoyment. Whether it’s sending my husband cute dog videos, working up a sweat in Zumba class while listening to Pitbull or enjoying a (gasp) glass of wine at lunch, my motto is: Everything in moderation.

Favorite hobby: Reading. I try to read at least 10 pages every day. I really enjoying listening to audiobooks as well. I really like motivational or self-help books. Some of my favorites are, “Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod, “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero, and “Girl, Wash your Face” by Rachel Hollis.

Best advice: Don’t wait until everything is “perfect”. Start today! Get into action before everything is in place! There will never be a “perfect” time!

Photography by Grace Photography

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