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Meet Maria Gonima of Big Smile Co in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Gonima.

Maria, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a Colombian-American gal who lives for creative expression and building mind-blowing experiences. I’ve lived in Rockville, MD, San Antonio and Austin, TX, and San Francisco, but have considered LA home since 2007.

As an extreme enthusiast, I’ve involved myself in publicity, corporate communications, radio music direction, indie label management, film festivals, a non-profit digital art museum, a 360-degree audio/video space, gallery curation, youth media instruction, new media education, production, event promotion, talent buying and DJing.

Two years ago, I founded Big Smile Co., a marketing communications practice at the intersection of technology, entertainment and social good. I have more than 15 years of experience telling burgeoning stories, from video streaming disrupting TV at Hulu to influencer content changing advertising with Fullscreen, virtual reality transforming content experiences with various studios and social good merging with tech innovation with the Annenberg Foundation. I’ve worked a lot in the bicultural Latinx space with businesses and organizations that focus on representing the LatinX diaspora while providing information that can entertain and educate the community to help us rise up as, especially NBCUniversal’s mun2 and “East Los High” from Wise Entertainment. I’ve also had the privilege of launching talent and athlete’s social channels in their early days online, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid.

I speak as often as I can, and have had the chance to participate in ArtCenter’s BOLD conference, Harvard Business School’s Entertainment and Media conference, and speak as a guest at UCLA and USC marketing and communications classes. As a DJ, I’ve made appearances at MIDEM, SXSW, Transmediale and other music trade events. Witness my brief rapping career on NBA2K9. 😀

Has it been a smooth road?
I’m not one to take smooth roads, but I always hope the risks I’ve taken have been worthwhile. Struggles have included being a Latinx woman in tough environments, from nightlife to corporate America. Being seen and heard is not always the easiest in a world that hasn’t traditionally represented your diaspora very well in its media. Most of the time, the real challenge on my road has been knowing whether technologies or ideas will be embraced by the masses or not. Fortunately, most things I’ve participated in have caught on and changed culture. That’s what makes the climb up the mountain worthwhile.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Big Smile Co story. Tell us more about the business.
We’re known for connecting content and cultural experiences to the audiences that love them most. We’re not afraid of the future and know what it takes to reach the right people who can bring new and exciting concepts to wider audiences.

Big Smile Co Clients include LA companies such as Wevr, a VR studio launching “Gnomes & Goblins,” a breathtaking game created by Jon Favreau and directed by Jake Rowell; The Forecast Agency’s retro-future fashion brand Select Start, which will soon launch capsule collections featuring fun pop culture IP like Dungeons & Dragons, Crash Bandicoot, and Castlevania, among others; a LatinX-owned and woman run production house called Mad-Man Inc. who create incredible live event and broadcast designs for the NBA and numerous pop stars; the indie game development platform AcceleratXR; and awesome bands OYLS and PIERA. Outside of LA, we collaborate with Austin’s mega content hub Rooster Teeth, the Tribeca Film Festival, a voting campaign called #VoteYourHeart2020 (VOTE!) and Safe2, a COVID exposure app soon to launch.

In my spare time, which is sparing, I am working to launch a community platform that aims to diversify all panels, the UpStage Directory.

Most of the time, the secret sauce is starting small, communicating directly and frequently, and making things fun, even if the content is challenging. Hence, the focus on a Big Smile. It doesn’t all happen overnight, but it takes creativity and grit.

The Big Smile “brand” actually started in the early 2Ks as a nomadic party series in San Francisco that blended rock bands and dance music. Fun is key! I thrive in knowing that we’ve given communities something they never knew they needed or wanted, but end up loving and wanting more.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Marketing changes every day. It’s a thrill ride that requires on-a-dime thinking and experimentation with whatever it takes to reach a community. Content is moving more toward direct-to-consumer products from innovative thinkers, and I’m excited to hitch a ride on the wagon to promote future-forward content and experiences. Audiences are more in control than ever before and I’m here for it. We’ll see more immersion, more emotional connections, new screens, more screens, and new ways we can connect–both at a distance and in real life.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: oonceoonce
  • Twitter: oonceoonce

Image Credit:

All images other than the last image are from Big Smile Co; the last is courtesy of Wevr

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