Every year, the Advisory Board of Special Events magazine along with honorees from the year past share with us 25 young event pros—all under age 40—throwing the spotlight on their talents and plans. We've run Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4--here is our final installment. You can see the full story in the Summer issue of Special Events. Not a subscriber? We can fix that--just click here.
HANDLING THE HICCUPS
Devynn Smith, 27, co-owner, Edge Design and Decor, Los Angeles
Smith was juggling two jobs while working her way through college when a colleague suggested she look at premier L.A. event design company Rrivre Works. She became executive assistant to company head Rrivre Davies, and fell in love with the event industry—specifically, creating event furnishings. In fact, so much in love that in 2015, she and partner Edwin Perez decided to launch their own firm.
“Being so young, I do get asked a lot what made me take the plunge,” she says. “My answer is that I was 24, not married, no kids and no mortgage. It was my feeling that either I do this now or not at all. And if I failed, at least I tried, but if I succeed, all the better!”
Smith credits her ability to stay cool in a crisis with keeping clients happy. “Our team motto is that there is a solution for everything,” she says. “Every event will have its hiccups, and even if that hiccup doesn't involve us, we like to be part of the solution to make sure the entirety of the event is successful. When we are on site with other vendors, we are one team for the duration of the event.”
ASKING FOR INTERNS
Mallory Smith, 30, senior event manager, George P. Johnson, Auburn Hills, Mich.
Smith earned her event stripes starting on the bottom rung. “My first experience with events was as a brand ambassador for P&G in college,” she recalls. “I think I was hooked after setting up my first 8-foot table with linen on campus--just kidding!”
Her career in events has been strictly serious ever since. She joined Pulse220 as a program manager, sticking with the team once it was acquired by giant George P. Johnson. Ever since the move, “We continue to plan and produce live events,” she says, adding, “In addition to my day-to-day responsibilities as a senior event manager, I am helping to expand the Auburn Hills [Mich.] event production internship program to attract and retain top talent in the industry.”
Smith wins kudos from the team’s management: “Mallory has been on the fast track at GPJ since the day she started,” they say. “She is a rising star and always the first one to step forward to take on a difficult project. Her energy and enthusiasm are infectious.”
SOLUTIONS START HERE
Diego Vilchez, 30, event manager, Legendary Events, Atlanta
Vilchez was studying business in college while paying the bills by working in events. “I fell in love with the dynamic nature of the industry,” he says. “It’s always different.”
He likes “everything” about his role with Legendary Events. “I love everything about it; the logistics, the design, the clients--you get to work with a lot of creative people, and I get to know amazing clients who really appreciate what we do.”
What makes him a success in events: “I always keep a relaxed attitude, especially toward last-minute inconveniences or changes, and I am quick to solve them, which gives my clients a sense of trust and comfort.”
THE GREATER GOOD
Lindsay Walker, 33, donor events coordinator, Auburn University Office of Development, Auburn, Ala.
Walker’s first job out of college was at the Disney Magic Kingdom special events team. And that really matters: “I believe the first job you have out of college is so important because it shapes the expectations you have for yourself and the quality of work you produce. I was fortunate enough to begin my career at Disney surrounded by many great leaders who developed within me a foundation of service excellence and operations,” she says. “Because of that foundation, I am able to be a better planner.”
She views her role at Auburn as part of a greater whole. “Whether we are raising funds for an area of need or showing our gratitude to the Auburn family, the impact of the event itself is long-lasting because of the generosity of our guests,” she explains. “I will never forget a campaign event we hosted in New York City, when a senior nursing student stood on the stage in front of 300 people and shared his story of adversity and how he was able to rise above his circumstance because a stranger created a scholarship. In that moment, as I watched him receive a standing ovation, I not only experienced an understanding of why I love my job, but also what can happen when we as planners are strategic in the environment we create and how it can influence the way our guests receive a message.”
ALL IN THE INTERFACE
Andy Williams, 33, director of sales, Destination South Meetings and Events, Atlanta
Williams landed in an events career path in college and has “never looked back,” he says. His resume includes stints at two CVBs along with Destination South, experiences that have spanned “everything from marketing to creative to sales to customer service.”
The best aspect of his job is his chance to interact with top talent. “I get to interface with what I feel is a tremendously cohesive team of hospitality professionals throughout our destination--all who possess a common love for creating a memorable guest experience for our clients,” he says. “Whether it’s our internal team at Destination South, our hotel and venue partners, or the amazing vendors we work with daily, we are one big family working together to create a lasting experience for the people who put their trust in us.”
His team is full of praise for him: “Andy’s genuine love of Southern hospitality is palpable in the way he approaches every client, his co-workers and his industry partners,” they say. “His visionary approach and positive outlook have already touched so many in the Atlanta events community. He’s accomplished so much by just 33 years of age and shows no signs of slowing down. We can’t wait to see what lies ahead for him!”
Do you know someone who should be on this list in 2019? Tell us at [email protected].