Experience in-depth presentations and insights from some of the top chefs and catering professionals in the industry. Get to know these pros now and be ready to learn their secrets to success at the 2015 Conference!
Chef, Red Rooster Harlem, New York City, NY
Born in Ethiopia, Samuelsson was adopted at an early age into a Swedish household, where he learned to cook traditional Swedish fare. He later attended the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden and then moved to the U.S. in 1994 for an apprenticeship at Aquavit in New York City. While there serving as Executive Chef, he received a three-star rating from the New York Times … all by the tender age of 23. Samuelsson is the New York Times bestselling author of Yes, Chef, and his upcoming cookbook, Marcus Off Duty, published in October of 2014. He serves as a mentor on ABC’s The Taste, appears on FYI Network’s The Feed, and is a winner of Top Chef Masters and Chopped All Stars.
Chef/Owner, BLD, Fritzi Dog, The Strand House, Neal Fraser & Co. and Redbird at Vibiana, Los Angeles, CA
Chef/Partner at Vibiana, a wedding, events, and performing arts venue, Chef Neal Fraser began his culinary career in his hometown of Los Angeles where he worked as a line cook at Wolfgang Puck’s Eureka Brewery and Restaurant. His experience inspired him to enroll in the Culinary Institute of America in New York, which opened doors for him with positions at Joachim Splichal’s Pinot Bistro, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, and Hans Rockenwagner’s Rox in Los Angeles.Chef Fraser has been seen on the Food Network series Iron Chef America, as well as Top Chef Masters and Hell’s Kitchen, and most recently battled (and beat) Chef Bobby Flay on Beat Bobby Flay.
Event Designer/Florist, Preston Bailey, New York City, NY
Globally-celebrated for his unique ability to transform ordinary spaces into lush, theatrical environments, Preston Bailey is known as the premier event designer for a client roster that includes celebrities, royal families, CEOs and athletes. With 34 years of experience in the industry, Preston is often sought out to create one-of-a-kind, transformative designs that serve as backdrops for some of the most memorable moments of his clients’ lives. His Art Installations have been featured across the world with showcases in New York, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Jakarta, and London.The author of six books–five of them bestsellers—he is often asked to share his experience through speaking engagements, seminars, editorial profiles and television and radio interviews. His sixth book, Designing With Flowers, was published in April of 2014.
Principle, Feastivities Events and Senior Consultant, Catersource Consulting Unit, Philadelphia, PA
Meryl Snow has emerged as a true leader of the special events & catering industry. As co-‐founder of Feastivities Events, along with its subsidiaries OffShoots Decor and Philadelphia’s Picnic Company, Meryl has spent the last twenty-‐six years creating events throughout the Philadelphia region featuring creative and well-‐executed menus, dramatic presentations, outstanding service and extreme attention to detail. Her philosophies have proved successful for not only her own business, but also many other companies and Universities that have benefited from her training and advice. As a Catersource senior consultant, Meryl has worked throughout the US. Her particular areas of focus are in sales and marketing, as well as in the area of design and branding. Meryl has three Style DVDs currently on the market. This collection focuses on design how-‐to, innovation and inspiration.
Co-owner, MMD Events, Tampa, FL
Amanda Allen started MMD Events in Tampa, FL with her husband Matt in 2005. MMD Events is an event design and production company specializing in highly detailed weddings and events. In 2010 Amanda was a finalist for Event Designer of the Year for Event Solutions magazine. In the same year MMD Events launched I Heart Vintage, a vintage furniture rental company that became a finalist for best new product of the year according to BizBash magazine. In 2012 Amanda launched her private design label Amanda Allen Designs and that year had the privilege of designing the private office for the Speaker of the House, along with a 6,000 square foot private lounge for the House of Representatives, (built out by MMD Events) during the RNC. In January 2013 MMD Events designed an Inaugural Ball in Washington DC and was also named a finalist for Event Company of the year for Event Solutions Magazine. Amanda is proud to say the she accomplished much of this with pink hair and tattoos.
General Manager, Song Division (Americas), New York City, NY
With guitar credits on numerous Grammy-nominated and platinum-selling albums, Angus Clark is the general manager / music director of SongDivision, U.S.A. In this role, Angus oversees the North American business and uses his considerable connections in the music industry to recruit top musicians across the country. A natural performer, Angus receives rave reviews as a SongDivision emcee, building energy and enthusiasm among groups large and small. A rare breed of rock star, Angus has a unique ability to connect with corporate audiences, taking the time to understand a client’s needs and business so that he can help communicate key messages in song. For the last 10 years Angus has been a guitarist for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a Grammy-nominated, holiday tour-de-force that plays to sold-out audiences nationwide. Angus has graced the stages of some of the largest arenas in the country, winning over legions of fans with his polished technique and radiant charisma. Angus holds a masters degree in music from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California.
|Bernadette Coveney Smith
President, 14 Stories Gay Wedding Institute, New York City, NY
Bernadette Smith’s life work is to integrate the global wedding industry to be fully inclusive of all couples, including LGBT couples. She is founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute and the nation’s leading same-sex wedding expert. In 2004, when the marriage equality came to Massachusetts, Bernadette created a wedding planning company for engaged same-sex couples looking to navigate the traditional wedding industry. Bernadette and her team have produced hundreds of gay and lesbian weddings since then, working with couples from nearly every state and around the world. 14 Stories has planned more legal LGBT weddings than anyone else in the country — and was the first business to do so. Bernadette is an experienced facilitator known for her candid, practical approach who has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on the nuances of LGBT weddings. The Gay Wedding Institute Certification course she created has graduated more than 500 students from 9 countries. She is the author of three books on same-sex weddings, including the new book, The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals.
Speaker/Stress Management Coach, USMC Veteran, Carlos The Speaker, San Diego, CA
Carlos Laguna, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, served in the US Marine Corps for 8 years. Through his experiences in combat and in training Marines, plus his personal experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Carlos is in a unique position to teach others how to navigate hostile environments and make decisions under extreme pressure, and how to identify stress triggers and manage stress for a healthier life and business. As an instructor, Carlos has taught over 5,000 Marines. Carlos has PTSD and TBI and in 2010 found many therapeutic methods to identify triggers and manage stress to live a fuller, calmer, healthier way of life. Along his quest, he led two self-help groups for veterans with PTSD and participated in panels to show doctors and counselors how to better approach combat veterans. Through this work, Carlos feels called to serve combat veterans how he can, especially through speaking and sharing resources. Carlos is a Stress Management Coach for Pegasus Rising Project, an equine therapy non-profit serving those with PTSD and TBI. Carlos speaks weekly to the groups of participants about equine therapy, PTSD and TBI, teaches interaction with the horses and helps participants to identify triggers. Carlos is spokesperson and MC for Pegasus, does speaking engagements about veterans issues and leads event planning for their fundraisers.
Public Relations Manager, Social Tables, Washington, DC
Claire is the public relations manager at Social Tables. In this role, she is responsible for increasing brand awareness through education, content curation, thought leadership and community partnerships. Prior to joining Social Tables, Claire served as director of events for a Congressman and worked on the national events team for a D.C.-based lobbying firm. Educated in event management at the University of Illinois, George Washington University & the Smithsonian Institution, Claire is a certified meeting professional (CMP) whose devotion to the hospitality industry has seen her work with NPO’s, federal & local governments, political organizations, startups and corporations to develop dynamic and memorable events and campaigns. She serves as a membership committee member for Women In Travel (WINiT), and is actively involved in the MPI, IAEE and PCMA communities. Claire resides in Denver, CO with her husband, Chris.
Owner, Le Fete Weddings, Santa Barbara, CA
Colette Lopez of La Fete Weddings is a Southern California based wedding planner and full service event designer who is passionate about, and committed to providing the utmost in service to her clients. When Colette Lopez founded La Fete Weddings, it seemed the natural evolution of the things she truly loved: design, entertaining, and love. Years later her daughter has joined her and their chemistry sings of a match made in heaven. With over 15 years of event planning experience and building quality relationships with other professionals there is no doubt that La Fete Weddings is the best mother-daughter wedding planning team in Southern California. La Fete customizes every event with the client’s taste in mind, working hand in hand with them to create an event that embodies their personalities and embraces their traditions and style.
Owner, A Magical Affair, Franklin, TN
Along with orchestrating over 200+ weddings and events across the globe annually, A Magical Affair is also the Preferred Wedding Planning Vendor for world renowned Gaylord Entertainment. When a wedding or wedding reception is booked at one of Gaylord’s seven entertainment venues in Nashville, Courtney Hammons and her event planning team from A Magical Affair will make sure every detail is taken care of in the same style that has made the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry household names. Those seven venues include the Gaylord Opryland Hotel; the Ryman Auditorium; the General Jackson Showboat; the Wildhorse Saloon; the Music City Queen; the Grand Ole Opry and the Gaylord Springs Golf Club.
Founder/CEO, Social Tables, Washington, DC
As the CEO of Social Tables, a fast-growing, DC-based, hospitality technology company, Dan has been described as a “relentless and focused entrepreneur” and recognized 40 Under 40 in the meetings industry by Collaborate Magazine and Connect Magazine. Dan started developing websites in his teens and through college for organizations including MTV Networks, Glaxosmithkline and the United States Tennis Association. After graduating from Hunter College in 2004, he became a Special Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives where he was described as “bright, energetic and hard-working” by the Congressman he served. Parallel to this role, Dan ran a national advocacy group where he organized 30 special events a year. He got his MBA from Georgetown in 2010, did a short stint as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, and started Social Tables in mid-2011. Today, the venture-backed company has 16 employees and is growing at a rate of 25 percent month-over-month. The company’s 300 enterprise customers include Forbes, The Recording Academy, and The Whitney Museum.
Owner, Dan Nelson Productions, Las Vegas, NV
Dan has produced hundreds of events, written scripts for trade show booth and stage presentations, composed over 200 songs, produced and starred in a video for MTV, written a television treatment for Paramount Studios, and produced entertainment for every major strip hotel in Las Vegas. For nine years he created all special event shows for The Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas, including creating the Downtown Hoedown kickoff party for the National Finals Rodeo and more recently an event for the Carpenters Union and the United States Air Force 60th Anniversary Air Show – A Taste of Freedom, which drew 150,000 people.
President/Creative Director, AOO Events, Inc., Los Angeles, CA
Since David Merrell opened AOO events in 1989, he has earned a reputation as designing some of the most innovative, cutting edge events in the business. Honored as “Designer of the Year” by Event Solutions in 2008, Merrell has also earned nine Gala Awards from Special Event Magazine; the event industry’s ”Oscar.” He is also the recipient of seven Esprit Awards, a BizBash and a Crystal Site Award. Merrell is the former President of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the International Special Events Society (ISES), and has served in numerous positions of international boards of ISES. A member of Event Solutions and BizBash Magazine’s Advisory Board, Merrell is regularly featured in numerous trade and consumer publications and is a popular industry speaker both nationally and internationally. He is also the “Big Dawg” of AOO’s award-winning blog, www.designdawgs.net.
|DJ Jason Esquire
Fort Worth, TX
DJing is about two things – music and people. Jason brings the two together and sets a mood few forget, while creating an atmosphere and control the evening with every scratch and needle drop.An excellent party starts with a great group of people, then you add music and watch the fun, and Jason brings that fun with him everywhere he goes. From Fort Worth, to Seattle and everywhere in between, Jason has entertained corporate executives, celebrities, and has played in venues as diverse as his musical selections.
Lead Designer, Perfect Surroundings, Int’l, Newport, RI
An prominent member of Perfect Surroundings for over 10 years, Dwayne’s design sense and pulse on design culture and industry trends have made him an invaluable asset to the PS Int’l team. Apart from to his lead design and floral specialist role at Perfect Surroundings, Inc., Dwayne Ridgaway is a published author of 9 commercially available cookbooks. Ridgaway is a food and beverage consultant, stylist and private caterer, and has worked as a chef in the San Destin Beach Resort and the Elephant Walk in Florida, and currently adds to his resume a managing role for the Newport Hotel Group.
Owner, Get Polished Events, Metairie, LA
Emily Sullivan is a firm believer in having roots and wings. “I can’t see living anywhere else. My roots may be in Mississippi, but my heart will always belong to New Orleans.” Her early career path nearly led her to become a lawyer, but this self-described “entertainer” pursued wedding planning instead, and has since happily produced events for over seven years. Emily’s candor and affability make her popular amongst brides and vendors alike. She is a “relationship” person and uses her intuition and attention to personal details to personalize the wedding planning experience. She also takes great pleasure in welcoming and educating novice wedding planners within the industry. Over the years, Sullivan has demonstrated faith and balance, ingredients essential to achieving greatness both in business and life. She has been recognized by several wedding industry publications for her achievements, including The Knot, Weddings Unveiled, Southern Living Weddings, Style Me Pretty and The Wedding Channel. She considers her “game face” and innate ability to make people feel comfortable half the battle to planning a successful event. “The other half lays in getting to know your clients, growing when necessary, and believing in yourself day-in and day-out”. In essence, Emily and Get Polished Events can be summed up as “nothing borrowed, never too blue, elegantly old and refreshingly new.”
Designer/Owner, Perfect Surroundings, Int’l, Newport, RI
After graduating Wheaton College (MA.) with an English and creative writing degree, Evan soon found ways to utilize his creative and writing talents. As the third partner of Perfect Surroundings, Evan works to develop innovative event design concepts in addition to his marketing role. In addition to being published in several industry magazines, in 2009 Evan self-published his first book (available on the perfect surroundings website), with a portion of all proceeds going to the SEARCH Foundation of which he is currently a board member. Also, as a co-founder of Spero, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit, Evan has harnessed his many industry relationships, working along side numerous special events industry partners to produce amazing events that have raised tens of thousands of dollars for local children in need.
|J Damany Daniel
Chief Imaginator, The Event Nerd, Dallas, TX
J. Damany Daniel is an experienced and award winning event producer who has planned scores of events for clients across the nation, always bringing a unique flair to everything he touches. An avid student of emerging trends in technology, this proud nerd firmly believes that technology can do more than just amaze people at events. If used properly, technology can and does provide opportunities to connect people, extend the reach of events far past the closing curtain, and create immersive experiences that have guests and clients alike connected with the cause and experience in ways they never thought possible. A humorous and engaging speaker, Damany has been privileged to bring his passion for experiences and his love of people to everything he is a part of, and was honored to be selected as one of Special Event Magazine’s 2012 “30 Under 40,” which recognized him as a rising star within the global special events community.
Senior Special Events Manager, Catalina Island Conservancy, Long Beach, CA
With over 10 years of experience working with non-profit organizations in the areas of operations, development, sales, and events, Jen Poyer, CSEP truly understands the importance of strategic partnerships and their vital role in producing successful events. Her artistic vision, outstanding commitment to service, desire for success, and ability to create, enable her to stand out in the creative event industry. In addition to her professional career, Jen is actively involved in the International Special Events Society (ISES) as a Past President of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of ISES and Immediate Past Chair of the ISES International Certification Committee which oversees the development and advancement of the Certified Special Events Professional Designation (CSEP). She currently serves as a member of the ISES International Education Council.
Partner/Designer, Perfect Surroundings, Int’l, Newport, RI
As the oldest son and partner of Richard Carbotti, it seems Jordan has always had a place in the special event industry. Born into the business, Jordan has had the opportunity and good fortune to grow up and work with the top industry professionals. As a lead designer, he takes an active role part in all conceptual and developmental stages of the event design and production. His creative input and innovative visions are indispensable resources for Perfect Surroundings, and his onsite presence plays a vital role in each event’s completion. After more than a decade working along side his father, Jordan’s creative and artistic efforts have been recognized by Event Solutions Magazine. In 2005 Jordan was named Event Solutions Magazine’s Rising Star at the Spotlight Awards held in Atlanta, GA. This marks the first time in this industry’s history that a father and son have been nominated for a prominent industry award in the same year!
Executive Director of Sales & Marketing, Creative Coverings, Sparks, NV
Executive Director of Sales & Marketing, Kate joined Creative Coverings with over 15 years experience in F&B design, hotel/casino catering sales, special events and convention services. In her current role, Kate oversees the growth of the rental and sales division, as well as brand integrity; specifically through marketing efforts, customer relations, company trainings and overall client experience. Working closely with the design team to stay ahead of fashion and décor trends has contributed to the rapid and successful growth of the company. She was an integral part of Creative Coverings receiving Emerald Green Certification in 2012, giving them the distinct honor of being the only national linen company with this coveted eco-friendly designation. As Executive Director of Sales & Marketing, Kate helps represent Creative Coverings as NACE National Secretary/Treasurer, a NACE National Business Partner and Social Media & Trend Expert. She is also a founding member & Immediate Past President of the Reno-Tahoe Chapter, Experience 2011 Co-Chair and immediate past National Chapter Presidents Council member. She is also an active member of ISES, ICA, ACCP, ARA, GPSWA and the EPA. She has been a featured educational speaker at Catersource, the NACE Experience conference, ISES Eventworld, the ARA national convention and numerous organizational meetings around the country.
Owner/Principle Designer, Kristin Banta Events, Los Angeles, CA
With an extensive background in fashion, entertainment, and event production, as well as experience in catering and interior design, Kristin creates unforgettable celebrations while bringing a fresh perspective to the mix. Kristin is passionate about helping her clients find their own voice for their wedding day.
President, Lead Across Cultures Intl., Atlanta, GA
Lan Bercu is the founder and president of Lead Across Cultures Intl, an Atlanta- based company with a focus on cross cultural competence and global leadership. As an international speaker and expert in her field, Lan has nearly two decades of experience working with multinational corporations in Asia and North America; among those are Intel, Bayer, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and a variety of business and education associations.
Designer/Account Manager, Images by Lighting, Los Angeles, CA
As a Lighting Designer for the award-winning lighting firm, Images By Lighting in Los Angeles, Lonnie Thompson has been illuminating top events and weddings since 1997. Coming up through the ranks of this well-regarded company has enabled him to know and understand all aspects of the business – both the emotion of designing with light and the technical know-how needed to make it happen flawlessly. His forte is to find creative solutions through lighting, something he has done now for the annual galas and events of many repeat clients, from top wedding planners from Santa Barbara, San Diego and Los Angeles to large galas for planners from the California Science Center, the Los Angeles Zoo, University of California at Southern California (USC), Virgin Galactic and the Huntington Library. His work has been featured in Style Me Pretty, California Wedding Day, DesignDawgs, Event Solutions and more.
CEO/Director of Publications, Calgary Bride, Calgary, Canada
Lynn Fletcher CSEP (Certified Special Event Professional), is a multiple international award winning wedding planner & designer who, with her talented team, produces over 60 high end weddings per year in the Rocky Mountain Region of Canada. Recently, Lynn has also acquired Calgary Bride; a company that designs and publishes two locally produced wedding publications in the Alberta Region; The Calgary Bridal Guide and Luxe by Calgary Bride. As the CEO and Director of Publications at Calgary Bride, Lynn is now able to lead other wedding professionals and help to elevate their level of expertise and talent by collaborating on creative aspects in the magazines.
Owner, MMD Events, Tampa, FL
Matt and his lovely wife Amanda started MMD Events in 2005 and have methodically made a name for their company in the wedding and event industry. Matt, is best described as the strategic director behind the company taking on the tasks of financial management, business planning and future growth. Additionally Matt is the senior event producer managing the logistics of over 150 events a year. In 2012 those events included week long events for the Republican National Convention and an Inaugural Ball in 2013. MMD Events is most well known as a finalist for many industry awards including Event Company of the Year, Event Designer of the year and the Best New Product of the year. Despite the economic downturn they have increased their company’s revenue every year and have continued to hire employees resulting in a great team, allowing them to deliver the very best in industry standards. Matt’s passion for the event industry has prompted him to become a trusted industry source for reliable business advice. In 2012 & 2013 Matt was a speaker at the Event Solutions Idea Factory.
President, OFD Consulting, Richmond, VA
OFD Consulting owner, Meghan Ely, combines in-the-trenches event experience with a love of wedding marketing and wedding PR to empower her clients to take their businesses to new heights. Meghan is a WeddingWire Education Expert, and a regular contributor to the Knot’s B2B Blog. Meghan was recently selected to serve on the 2014-15 advisory board for the Weddings and Event Institute, and is a sought after speaker in the industry. She is an adjunct professor at The Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in Public Relations Writing and Branding. Meghan has garnered press for clients on a national and regional level including The New York Times, Good Morning America, HGTV Gardens, Apartment Therapy, and the CBS Early Show, among others. She recently launched a series of wedding marketing wedding PR products on her site, and more information about her consulting services can be found at OFDConsulting.com.
Owner/Designer, Uncommon Events, Philadelphia, PA
Like an artistic director in a world-class ballet, Melissa Brannon knows how to orchestrate an event with style and grace. Her timing is impeccable. Her ability to synchronize a million moving parts with a quiet confidence is a site to behold. And her talent for motivating her event staff to serve a multi-course feast or an intimate reception with warmth, knowledge, and the most gracious hospitality, is a skill that has made her company one of the best event planning companies in the United States today. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Melissa has worked in the event industry since 1980 and started Uncommon Events in the year 2000. As the first point of contact, she will work with clients to obtain a vision and an understanding of the events purpose. She questions the message, what guests should walk away thinking, and then develops a concept and action plan accordingly. Planning and good communication are key. Each Uncommon Event is individually personalized.
Owner/Event Producer, Significant Events of Texas, Dallas, TX
Meredith Commender, CSEP is the owner and Lead Event Coordinator & Designer at Significant Events of Texas based in Dallas, Texas. She started the company in 2007 and it has quickly risen to become one of the most successful and sought after event coordination firms in all of Texas under her guidance and expertise. Her company produces an average of 40 corporate and social events annually and has produced corporate events from 30 to 1500 guests and for small local businesses to Fortune 500 corporations. She brings a fresh, researched, and unique background and perspective to this topic that we all face within the event industry. Meredith holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Masters Degree from Tennessee State University.
Director of Business Development, Colortone Staging and Rentals, Cleveland, OH
These days the “culture of food” seems to influence everyone with whom we do business. Our clients are bombarded by a non-stop parade of cooking shows, competitions, celebrity chefs, bloggers and social media mavens. Clients today share their dining experiences with their families, friends and just about anyone who is willing to listen, and they want their dining choices to reflect their personalities and individuality (because they are unique…just like everyone else). And what could be more personal and individual than their wedding? In a nutshell, food & beverage is hotter than ever! In this session, we will explore the current and coming trends (and fads) in wedding catering. We will discuss globally-influenced cuisines, locally-flavored items, engaging presentations, and curated cocktails and mocktails. And let’s not forget about our clients’ and guests’ mind-boggling array of dietary requests, requirements and allergies – we will discuss interesting options that keep everyone happy and healthy. Let’s learn about and share what will work – and what will sell – in 2015 and beyond.
CEO/Publisher, The Modern Jewish Life, Austin, TX
Where venerable Jewish traditions meet au courant design, fashion and culinary trends, you will find event planner and popular writer Michele Schwartz, creator and editor-in-chief of The Modern Jewish Wedding. Known as “the Jewish bride’s guide to the Chuppah,” Modern Jewish Wedding elevates the newest trends, provides time-tested advice, and inspires couples to design an event that reflects their style and their faith. The Modern Jewish Wedding (MJW) inspires Jewish brides, grooms and the professionals who serve them and encourages them to create the Jewish celebration of their dreams. Michele’s Modern Jewish advice and ideas have been featured in Chicago Bride Magazine, Moment Magazine, One Wed.com, Big Fat Cake.com, Survive Wedding Season.com, Texas Jewish Post, The Jewish Journal and Caribbean Bride Magazine, among others.
Marketing Director, Rock The House, Lyndhurst, OH
Nick Borelli is the Marketing Director of Rock The House in Cleveland, Ohio. He holds multiple positions with the International Special Events Society (ISES) including Midwest Brand Champion, International Marcom Committee and is the Incoming President for the Cleveland Chapter. Nick is also the Chair of Public Relations for the SEARCH Foundation. In 2013, Nick won CBC Magazine’s Connector’s Choice Award for Networking Star, ISES Ohio WOW award for Marketing Campaign over $25,000, and the SBN Magazine SoMe Impact Award for Social Media Expertise. Nick has spoken at Catersourse, TSE, and various ISES and NACE events.
Founder/President, Engaging Concepts, Celebration, FL
Rebecca Grinnals is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on the business of weddings & honeymoons. She is the founder and President of wedding and honeymoon industry consulting firm, Engaging Concepts based in Celebration, FL and co-produces the renowned engage! luxury wedding business summits twice each year. Rebecca is a sought after industry consultant, speaker, trainer and business trend expert. She was named as a BIZBASH Event Innovator 2014: Most Innovative People in Events and Meetings and was recently named as one of the “Top Ten Social Media Influencers in the Wedding Industry” by WedBiz Journal.Prior to creating Engaging Concepts, Rebecca co-founded Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons for The Walt Disney Company, and spent ten years developing the concept into an unprecedented success. She has been quoted in scores of wedding & honeymoon related articles including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today and Forbes to name just a few. Clients of Engaging Concepts include top global hotel brands, developers and many leading luxury wedding and event professionals worldwide. She speaks and consults around the world on the business of weddings.
Director of Business Development, Colortone Staging and Rentals, Cleveland, OH
Rick Turner has spent the past Fifteen years working in various roles within the Hospitality, Culinary and Special Events industries. He is currently the Director of Business Development for Colortone Staging and Rentals (CSR), the region’s premier Audiovisual Production company. His role at CSR allows him to market the company in a number of regions and cities, and share product ideas and solutions with a wide array of customers and colleagues. Rick is very involved with a number of civic and industry associations including ISES and recently served consecutive two-year terms as President of the Cleveland Chapter of HSMAI. His passion for the industry is best represented by his involvement with the SEARCH Foundation. Rick currently serves on the Chairman of SEARCH, and works to make the industry aware of how SEARCH strives to “Assist Event Professionals in Crisis”. Rick is a 1998 graduate of the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts and continuously acts as an ambassador for the culinary, special events, and hospitality industries throughout the United States.
Event Designer/Speaker, Rose Events, Metuchen, NJ
Ruchir Mewawala of Rose Events is an A list South Asian wedding planner based in New York City with over 13 years of experience in designing Indian Weddings across the globe. Within the last 10 years, his company has become a household name for high net worth clients ranging from CEO’s, Wall Street Professionals, Doctors, Lawyers, to Hotel/Motel owners, to even South Asian Celebrities who wish to create a million dollar wedding that can span from 11 days to just 1 incredibly, action packed – big fat Indian Wedding day! Many of his events have been showcased on nationally syndicated TV shows such as Platinum Weddings and covered by magazines, newspapers and bridal websites from the east to the west coast of the United States. As a pioneer in the forefront of this growing multi million dollar economic boom for special events, he has commissioned Helicopters, to Jet Ski’s and even Elephants – just for the groom’s arrival! In addition to making dreams into reality, he is not only sought after as a public speaker for bridal conferences but also privately by brand name resorts that wish to educate their sales and banquet staff on topics ranging from Indian customs and traditions, cultural cues, to the art of Negotiations when planning a multi day (destination) Indian Wedding.
Director of Global Events, Rakuten, Las Vegas, NV
13 countries, over 40 events, 1 parent company, 12 business units. Sara Gorlick is the Director of Global Events for Rakuten Inc. and Rakuten Marketing. Rakuten Inc. has been acquiring companies all over the world. Sara streamlines events globally via event theme, creative, stage design, and agenda programming all while working around the various countries’ cultures, budgets, and goals. She acts as the liaison between headquarters in Tokyo and global business units to make the above happen while racking up close to 200,000 flying miles a year. In 2011 Sara won the BizBash Corporate Event Planner of the Year, Reader’s Choice Award and in 2013 she was a finalist for Event Solutions Spotlight Corporate Planner of the Year.
Purchasing Manager, MotivAction, Minneapolis, MN
Sarah has been in the meetings and special industry for over 17 years, spending seven of those years as an in-house producer for MGM Mirage International’s properties and its clients. Sarah has worked in all aspects of event planning including business development, design, décor, entertainment, audio visual and production and has received numerous international awards for her work. Sarah’s emphasis is on creativity and finding the best products, providers and resources for her clients and their programs.
Owner, Sasha Souza Events, Napa, CA
Sasha Souza is a premiere event designer and top innovator in the wedding industry. She is one of only a handful of wedding designers who have been named a Master Bridal Consultant, the highest designation given by the Association of Bridal Consultants. Souza is the recipient of numerous awards including the Special Events Magazine Gala Award winner for Best Dining Tabletop Design, Event Solutions Magazine Designer of the Year and three ISES Westie Awards and was named by Modern Bride magazine as a Top 25 Trendsetters in the wedding design industry. She has accepted the honor of serving as an Event Solutions Advisory Board member since 2011 and is a regular contributor to Bridal Guide magazine.
President, Animatic Media, LLC, Hicksville, NY
Scott Frankel is the President of Animatic Media, a full service event production company. Scott founded Animatic in 1996 with the idea of offering agency-style service without the 5th Avenue price tag. Scott has produced thousands of events for clients of all sizes, from Fortune 500 conferences with 5000 attendees to smaller road shows, Scott insists on perfection. In 2010 Scott started Conference-On-Demand, a leading platform for on demand conference video as well as launching MeetingLeader.com, a content management website for corporate events planners.
|Sean De Freitas
President/Owner, Designs by Sean, Inc., Fort Lauderdale, FL
Sean’s passion for his work started at the age of nine in his home country of Trinidad & Tobago. After moving to Florida, Sean began working in the Special Events industry in 1987 and realized his passion for costume design could bring a fresh approach to events.Sean has made Designs by Sean a multi-talented design house capable of producing every element of a show. His daring and creative rendering of color and lighting, as well as his use and placement of luxurious fabric textures, create thematic, mood-altering environments. Sean’s designs and events have taken him throughout the United States and across the globe.
Founder/President, The Business of Being Creative, Petaluma, CA
Sean Low is the Founder and President of The Business of Being Creative, a consulting firm focused on providing practical advice to those in the business of being creative. Prior to founding The Business of Being Creative in August 2009, Sean spent six years as the President of Preston Bailey Design, Inc. representing Preston in his business endeavors around the world. Sean has a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and, apart from working with amazing creative professionals, his business acumen is honed from his previous experience as a lawyer, investment banker, financial executive and small business owner. Sean’s client list includes the who’s who of creative business – from designers (interior, graphic, event and fashion), photographers, florists, even Cordovans (shoemakers). Sean is passionate about challenging creative businesses to be the best versions of themselves, helping them set the foundation for growth and development and working along side creative business owners to take their businesses as far as they want them to go. You can read about Sean’s approach to managing creative businesses on his blog: www.thebusinessofbeingcreative.com.
President, Tolo Events, Seattle, WA
Shelly Tolo launched Tolo Events in 2004 after a 12-year career as a development officer and event planner for nonprofit organizations. Her business mission is to maximize events through strategic planning and creating fabulous atmospheres and programs. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University with a concentration in nonprofit organizations. Last year alone, Tolo Events produced 5 fundraising galas that netted more than $1 million each.
Owner, Inspire Smart Success, Atlanta, GA
Stacie Francombe is the founder of Inspire Smart Success, a three-tiered approach to helping wedding industry businesses grow and succeed utilizing the ISS Magazine, ISS Experience and ISS Mentoring. Stacie is committed to changing how the wedding industry learns and networks, both one-on-one through her mentoring program, as a group with fun, educational seminars and networking events, and individually, providing wedding industry professionals with a magazine they can learn from at their leisure. Stacie loves nothing more than being able to use her talents and knowledge to help the wedding industry grow and thrive and to see wedding vendors find success through using smart business practices. Stacie has been embedded in the wedding industry for over 15 years, starting her own wedding businesses including Get Married. Working as a producer and host for the Get Married TV show and serving as Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly publication Get Married Magazine, Stacie grew the brand into a multi-million dollar company, and sold it in 2008. As Get Married’s Founder, Stacie was a sought after public speaker and industry insider, addressing wedding professionals and brides around the country, and appearing on CNN, Fox, WABC and more. Stacie is also a Founding Board Member of the nonprofit Wish Upon a Wedding that provides weddings and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness or other serious life-altering circumstances, regardless of sexual orientation.
President/Creative Director, Electric Karma International, Houston, TX
One of the nation’s most sought-after designers and coordinators for South Asian weddings, Therese Cole-Hubbs is known for adding the element of design to the planning process, allowing a wedding to have both depth and beauty. Her team has a reputation for setting the bar high and providing world-class service, flawless execution, and exquisite style. Therese believes the secret to wedding designing depends on five elements: hospitality, food, beverage service, entertainment, and décor. Each of these vital areas is addressed with flair, blending cutting-edge ideas with a respectful nod to tradition. From the rolling hills of Kentucky to the sandy beaches of Mexico, the vibrant streets of New Orleans to the bigger-than-life vistas of Texas, any location can become the backdrop for a fairytale when Therese and her team at Electric Karma are in charge. In her more than 25 professional years, she has produced more than 600 elaborate, multiday Desi weddings, becoming one of the nation’s preeminent experts on the culture, traditions, and rituals of these beautiful events. Therese’s work has been praised the world over, with everyone from celebrity wedding planner and television host David Tutera to Event Solutions Magazine recognizing her innovation and expertise. She is committed to the wedding industry by serving on the national board of directors and as a founding member of the Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA), as the director of chapter formation across the country and on the advisory board of The International School of Hospitality (TISOH).
Owner/Creative Director, Tiffany Chalk Events, Bear, DE
Respectfully known by her clients as a Master Space Transformationist, Tiffany Chalk is a sought after event planner and event design specialist. Dedicated to her craft, Tiffany stays abreast of what she calls “T3” (the latest techniques, technology and talent boosters), by learning from the best in her industry; Preston Bailey and Stacie Francombe. Breaking budgetary boundaries, especially during space transformations is Tiffany’s expertise. After over 15 years of leadership in the spa industry, Tiffany made the decision to follow her passion of event planning in 2007. She introduced her innovative event planning skills and her new business to the community by hosting the first annual ‘Girls’ Night Out…Shop to Stop’ fundraiser to benefit the March of Dimes. Since then, Tiffany has become one of Delaware’s most sought-after event planners earning the DE Black Award for Best Event Planner 3 years in a row and 2012 Wedding Industry Experts Best Event Planner-Delaware. Tiffany sets herself apart from her contemporaries with her distinctive ability to go beyond her clients’ expectations without compromising style and sophistication, even with the most modest of budgets. Her savvy business acumen proves to be an asset in vendor contract negotiations and, her charismatic demeanor ensures that her clients have an enjoyable experience throughout each step of the planning process.
Owner/Designer, Oh So Swank!, Fresno, CA
Tina Moran, founder of Oh So Swank!, is one of California’s most creative and innovative event designers. Since 1988, Tina has brought her considerable talents to hundreds of events of both large and small. To each event she oversees, Tina brings her own unique sense of style and knowledge of the latest industry trends, while incorporating dynamic twists that spin a traditional idea into something unique and unexpected. Her work has also been featured on WE Network’s Platinum Weddings. Looking to share her knowledge with brides, Tina created The Bride’s Academy, which is designed to not only highlight industry experts and provide a comprehensive look at planning trends, but to offer brides insight into stylistic design approaches and how to utilize business acumen to secure vendors and plan the wedding of their dreams on their own. In addition to her work with clients, Tina is a featured speaker at WMBA (Wedding Merchants Business Association), NAWP (National Association of Wedding Professionals) and The Bridal Business Academy. She recently served as judge during The Northern California ISES Designer’s Showcase in San Francisco and is currently working on a book for bridal industry professionals, focusing on creative event design, design innovations and “how-to” tips.
Marketing Manager, Social Tables, Washington, DC
Trevor is an event technology enthusiast who focuses on evangelizing products and curating technology in order to help guide hospitality professionals on their journey to embrace new tools. As the Marketing Manager for Social Tables, an event planning software company, he focuses on growing the event community via original content, free technology consultations and education at industry events.
Owner, Simply Troy, Los Angeles, CA
Troy Williams loves nothing more than to see a sparkle in someone’s eye when they realize their vision has been brought to life in a spectacular fashion. Whether it’s a special event or organizing their home or helping design a room, his attention to the details, both big and small, is consistently at an exceptionally high standard. He can make any not-so-simple job seem simple. Troy is a former Senior Publicist for Premieres and Special Events at Warner Bros. Pictures, where he was involved in the planning and implementation of over 400 special events from coast to coast, including Academy Award and Golden Globe parties. During his 14-year tenure, he worked on some of the industry’s most celebrated feature film premieres, including the Academy Award-winning Best Pictures “Argo,” “The Departed” and “Million Dollar Baby”; blockbuster franchises like the eight “Harry Potter” movies, “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” the “Ocean’s” movies,” “The Hangover Trilogy,” the “Matrix” films; and other memorable features, including “Man of Steel,” “Inception,” “The Blind Side,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and many more.
|Yvette Audrain, CPCE, CSEP
Owner, Simply Mox, Dallas, TX
It was apparent that special events were in Yvette’s future starting in high school in Kansas City, where she headed student planning committees, and helped with class events. In 1989, Yvette came to Dallas to study advertising at SMU where she was involved planning events as a member of Chi Omega. Following SMU, Yvette worked for the famed Pappas Restaurants and became the GM of Pappas Catering, which then became an award-winning operation. As Pappas grew, Yvette’s own leadership,and commitment to the special events industry blossomed as well. She was elected the ISES Dallas Board in 2006 on which she served until she became ISES Dallas president for 2010-2011. After more than 18 years of success in the special event industry, Yvette decided to use her skills, education, and creativity to launch Premier Special Events in 2008. Her commitment to boutique-style service and years of experience made Premier and instant success with the awards to prove it. In 2011, she launched “From Now to Vow”, a series of workshops to teach brides to plan their own weddings. In 2012, all of Yvette’s ideas culminated in the transition to mox event boutique. An exciting new approach to event design, planning and production, mox brings all the planning tools for an event to one studio where brides, event planners, event suppliers, companies, non-profit organizations and more can create an event from start to finish. In December 2012, Yvette joined Susan Strauss and together launched Simply MOX!