At 23 years old, Brittany Smith ’11 received an offer to work remotely as a community manager for Yelp.
Well, I guess this means I’ll need to get a smartphone, she thought.
It was the spring of 2012, and Smith had just wrapped up the first year of her post-grad career on the communications team at Downtown Indy, Inc., where she helped promote Indianapolis as a leisure destination. It was a dream role she had worked toward even as a student at Butler University, where she completed an internship with the organization that opened doors for a full-time position.
And she loved it. But the chance to serve Indy in a new way, and to help pave the way for the emerging field of community management, was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.
It was a role that, even today, a lot of people probably don’t know exists. Yelp does a lot more than provide a platform for restaurant reviews. Smith spent her days elevating the city she loved by providing free partnerships with local businesses, hosting and promoting events, and being an advocate for Indy. She was the one to spread the word if a bakery added a new kind of croissant, and she told the stories of local parks and other greenspaces. She loved connecting people with their city.
Eight years later, she’s now Yelp’s Regional Director of Marketing and Community for the Midwest. While her current responsibilities expand beyond the city—and even beyond the state—her heart is still in Indy.
It was that love for Indianapolis that first brought Smith to Butler, where she majored in English and Communications. She knew she wanted to pursue something related to tourism or community building, and she knew Butler would give her the chance to engage with the city and gain hands-on experience through internships. She followed through with that goal, completing internships not only with Downtown Indy, but also with Indiana Humanities and Indianapolis Monthly.
“The beauty of Butler is that it’s so well-connected to Indianapolis, which made it an ideal location for me,” she says. “I feel like half my education was in the classroom, but the other half was through boots-on-the-ground, first-hand experiences.”
As a student, Smith was also involved with the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability, helping launch The Farm at Butler. Through Yelp, she’s now built partnerships with some of the same local businesses that had purchased the farm-grown food she helped raise.
During her time with Yelp, Smith has discovered a passion for activating public spaces—turning Monument Circle into a pop-up dinner party for 1,000 guests, or organizing an inner tube float down the Central Canal.
“I like to help people see their city through a new perspective,” she says.
Of course, in the world of COVID-19, that sort of thing isn’t always possible. Her team has shifted to organizing a slew of virtual events, ranging from a Cinco de Mayo celebration with Sun King Brewery, to a lunchtime barre class with The Dailey Method, to an online chocolate tasting with Xchocol’Art. Over the last few weeks, they’ve also been using their platform to highlight the stories of Black-owned businesses. That adaptability has been one of her favorite parts about working at a place like Yelp. And, it’s a quality she attributes to her city as a whole.
“I love the way the Indianapolis community comes together when there’s an idea,” she says. “We find ways to cut down red tape and move quickly to action, working from a collaborative mindset.”
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Indy is full of Dawgs.
“It’s cool to think about how many Butler alumni really dig into the city and make a difference,” Smith says. “They are very present and active in the community. It’s not a huge school, but it’s not hard to find a Bulldog in Indy.”
A few of Brittany Smith’s favorite Indy spots:
- Locally Grown Gardens (especially the sugar cream pie): “That’s where I met my husband, and where I held my first Yelp event. I have so many special memories there.”
- Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company: “There’s so much heart there. Everyone feels very welcomed and invited. It’s just as much about the community as it is about the coffee.”
- Eagle Creek Park: “I love to explore different parks. Our city has so many green spaces, and I love to take advantage of those.”
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