Liz Richardson ’04 took her professional vocal training in conservatories and pivoted to a career in tech, going on to launch her own customer advocacy company in 2020.
Words: Marisa Foxwell Duttweiler ’13
“I put so many years into studying one craft that is not how I make my living today, but none of that time was wasted.”
Although Liz Richardson ’04 had been singing since she was a young girl, she hadn’t considered pursuing music professionally until she joined a musical theater group in high school and fell in love with the art.
Born in San Diego and raised in Dallas, Richardson became fully immersed in the musical theater life as she took courses at the community theater and participated in their productions. When the time came to choose a college, the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music stood out to Richardson among her options because the faculty and staff showed her personal care through the admissions process. Former vocal department head, Dr. Carolyn Hart, even took the time before Richardson’s audition to ask about her personal hopes and expectations in a college education. An admissions counselor for the Conservatory also encouraged Richardson to trust that God would place her exactly where she needed to be. Those early affirmations have inspired Richardson through each life change.
Richardson took to Wheaton immediately upon arrival. Outside of classes, she sang in concert choir and opera music theater, acted in an Arena Theater production of “Into the Woods,” and spent time working in the Conservatory ticket office. She still has dear friends from the Conservatory to this day.
“I loved being part of a community of Christians that had a lot of variety in how we approach things and all different styles of worship,” she reflected.
After taking her passion for music all the way through grad school at the University of Southern California, Richardson jumped into an unplanned but exciting career in marketing and customer advocacy at a tech startup where her sister worked. Richardson gradually worked her way from the front desk to marketing and eventually to customer advocacy, which was an area she immediately clicked with. She is good at building relationships, thinking creatively, managing people, and making connections. All these skill sets soon came together to plant an entrepreneurial seed in her mind.
After over ten years working at tech companies, Richardson and a fellow colleague started their own customer advocacy company in 2020. The lead-up to the transition was fraught with challenges: Richardson was eight months pregnant, and the week before they planned to launch, businesses started shutting down in response to the onset of the pandemic. Richardson recalls telling her colleague, “If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything.” Despite all odds, they forged ahead with launching “Captivate Collective” and have not regretted the decision.
Balancing a thriving career with care for her family has been a joy for Richardson but also comes with its challenges. She had three boys in a row, the oldest of which is 12, and after two pregnancy losses that followed, her 2020 COVID baby was a miracle little girl. As her business takes off, she and her husband are learning flexibility and partnership.
“It’s a constant battle to re-prioritize,” she explained. “My personality drives me to always be the best and go as hard as I can. It’s easy to get caught up in work. I have to constantly ask myself: Why am I here? What is my priority? What is my true purpose? You need the perspective of greater meaning as a Christian and as a mom.”
When Richardson considers the future, she hopes to continue growing her business and working out the kinks of work-life balance, but also continuing to grow and mature in her understanding and security of who she is in Christ.
“I hope to not get too caught up in the hamster wheel of everyday life and career success, but to consistently think beyond that to the bigger picture and our underlying purpose,” Richardson mused. “I want to see my skills and resources creating more of an impact on bigger picture causes and use my success and platform to help others.”
Over time, Richardson has learned to embrace her tech career as a new passion rather than a mere day job to support her family. Although she moved away from pursuing music full-time, she has performed with the Mississippi Opera and semi-professional musical theaters in Jackson, Boston, and Birmingham; taught as an adjunct professor at Belhaven College for several years; and loves helping to lead worship at her church.
Reflecting on her career change, Richardson does not regret the time she originally spent pursuing music.
“I put so many years into studying one craft that is not how I make my living today, but none of that time was wasted,” she said. “The advice I received, to have faith that I would end up on the path God had lined up for me, applies to today as well. It’s all part of the story and everything I am and do now is impacted by the twists and turns along the way.”
Richardson recently returned to campus in November 2022. Ironically, she was invited not as a musician, but as an entrepreneur at The Fall Executive Forum hosted by Wheaton’s Center for Faith and Innovation. “It was a lovely reminder that God weaves the threads of our life together and no threads are wasted in his tapestry,” she said.
To learn more about music at Wheaton, visit wheaton.edu/conservatory.