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All That Glitters: Laura Lee Designs Celebrates Fifth Anniversary at Finnish Ambassador's Residence | Arts & Culture

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All That Glitters: Laura Lee Designs Celebrates Fifth Anniversary at Finnish Ambassador's Residence
All That Glitters: Laura Lee Designs Celebrates Fifth Anniversary at Finnish Ambassador's Residence

It’s not every day that one gets an opportunity to celebrate a professional milestone at an ambassador’s residence, but Laura Lee Williams, owner of Laura Lee Designs, had the good fortune to do so when she celebrated five years at the helm of her handbag business at the home of Finnish Ambassador Pekka Lintu and his wife Laurel Colless.

“What an honor and gift to have the loveliest evening surrounded by advisors, supporters and dear friends,” says Williams. “The Finnish Ambassador and his wife Laurel Colless are supreme hosts and I couldn’t have asked for a better evening.”

The elegant Finnish residence also serves as an exhibition space for works of some of Finland’s most prominent artists with paintings on loan from the Finnish National Gallery. But this recent evening, the residence also sparkled from thousands of beads adorning Laura Lee Designs’ handbags nestled on the living room’s mantelpiece and corner decorative shelves, as well as on the entry tables and piano in the great room. Ambassador Lintu was pleasantly surprised by the display of purses when he arrived home by saying that although he's not much of a handbag man, he admires Williams and her accomplishments.

Williams, who began her career in marketing for Nike, Apple, American Express and Ralph Lauren, ventured out on her own after working in Hong Kong developing international marketing initiatives for large corporations. Williams, a native of Southern California and now a Virginia resident, started her business by designing intricately beaded handbags for special occasions and now her line includes bags for weddings, getaways and even college alumni, such as Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, University of Houston and Texas A&M.

“Five years ago I had this little seedling of an idea to create a sense of uniqueness for women with an eclectic, one-of-a-kind, fun handbag,” Williams adds. Now, celebrities, Miss Americas, Miss Washington, D.C., political figures including the First Lady, and other entrepreneurial women have all worn her designs. She has even designed a doggie handbag for Harrods, London.

Those attending the event included fellow entrepreneurs Kristina Bouweiri, CEO of Reston Limousine, who says she "dresses to match Laura Lee purses," as well as Heidi Kallett, CEO of Dandelion Patch and Joe Landa, CEO of Briartek. Bouweiri and Joe Persichini, former FBI Washington, DC Field Office Director and current DC Police Director of Communication, spoke about meeting Williams and her impact on the small business community. Guests from various local firms included Linda Gallegos of Rill Architects, Nancy Nolting of Intelsat, Laura Clise of Areva and Rick East of Room & Board.

Part of the support Williams gives and gets is as an “accountability partner,” which means helping one another stay on track in business and in life. In fact, Williams and Colless began their longstanding friendship at a networking event and continue to be supporters of each other’s work and causes, which for Colless includes living a sustainable life. The Finnish Embassy is an example of this as it was awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate for green buildings.