Here’s the interview with Lindsey Rhea, Event Sales Executive at AMJ Spectacular Events and this month’s Chicago Hospitality Professional of the month (September 2016)
- First and foremost, can you tell us your current position, company and describe what you do?
I’m an Event Sales Executive at AMJ Spectacular Events. We’re a complete Event Rental Company that’s been bringing entertainment to the Midwest for the last 15 years. Anything from inflatables and zip lines to arcade equipment and casino nights we cover it all. I coordinate all of the entertainment “pieces of the puzzle” so to speak.
- What aspects of hospitality do you incorporate in your business today?
Finding new ways to make my client’s day and event easier by being an event resource for more than just event rental equipment. From the first call, I’m my client’s event resource. For me, it’s more than simply renting out equipment. It’s about making everything leading up to the event run smoothly and seamlessly, so that when the day arrives, the client can fully enjoy and relax.
- Where did your hospitality career begin and when was that “aha” moment when you knew you were supposed to be in hospitality as a career?
When I was in high school, I took an interactive hospitality course, which taught students about catering detail and restaurant management. Several times throughout the school year, each student was responsible for managing the operation – from ordering supplies and staffing assignments, to meal execution, and everything in between. After that school year, and in conjunction with what I was already doing at AMJ Spectacular Events, I knew that a path in hospitality was the one I wanted to pursue.
- How many years have you been in the hospitality business?
I’ve been around it since I was about 10 years old, but really began actively participating at about 14 years old.
- Why do you feel you are hospitality professional of the month? What would your friends say about you if they were nominating you?
I think that I’m the hospitality professional of the month because I’m part of the next generation of event planners. I’m consistently bringing in fresh ideas on how to change up a standard corporate event. My friends would say that I’m incapable of throwing a basic dinner party, and that I tend to one-up myself. They would also likely say that I’m they’re go-to party planner. This further supports that hospitality is more than just a job to me; it’s a way of life. Awesome!
- What qualities do you feel a person needs to excel in as a hospitality professional?
They need to have a good amount of patience, flexibility, the ability to listen, and to be able to problem solve “on the fly.” Even the best event coordinator can’t predict the weather. Most importantly, however, I learned early on to put my client’s needs ahead of mine, no matter what. Knowing this has helped me grow in every direction.
- How did you get into hospitality field?
From 2001 to today, I’ve watched AMJ Spectacular events grow from a business that started in a 1,000 square foot space (my parent’s basement) to a 30,000 square foot warehouse. One can imagine the amount of hard work that my parents and their business partner put into making that happen, and so their families were involved almost by default at first. Over the years, my responsibilities and contributions have increased. After high school, I went to Purdue University to study Hospitality & Tourism Management, and subsequently received my Certificate in Entrepreneur & Leadership Innovation. At age 21, Marriott International recruited me as a Food & Beverage Manager for the Renaissance Chicago. While I enjoyed the work I was doing there, ultimately I returned to AMJ Spectacular Events. Today, it’s a family-owned and operated business, 365 days a year. I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love while being surrounded by the people that I love.
- Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My parents, Steve and Kathy, and their business partner, Bill, are by far the most influential people in my life. The three of them began AMJ Spectacular Events from the ground up and never imagined that we’d be fortunate enough to end up where we are today. They lead by example showing that hard work is the only way to accomplish any goals in life or in business. The three of them have taught me that setbacks and successes alike are opportunities to learn and grow, and compromise and communication are the key to a successful team.
- What kinds of things really make you laugh?
I laugh everyday. I imagine that’s because I’m happy with the work I’m doing, where I’m doing it, and who I’m doing it with.
- What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
Door County, Wisconsin, where my parents have another home. This is where I go to relax and unwind.
- What is your favorite movie of all time? Why so?
The Breakfast Club, because of all the funny one-liners.
- What’s your biggest goal in life right now?
I’m at the brink of accomplishing my biggest goal, which is to own a home. I’ve been looking for quite some time, and I’ve finally found the perfect one for me, and will be closing any day now!
- What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?
On my occasional Saturday’s off from work, I like to wander around Chicago, visit new restaurants, bars and other establishments, and of course catch a Cubs game whenever possible!
- Do you have any pet peeves?
Loud chewing- it drives me crazy!
- What was your family like growing up?
Big & loud! I’m one of four siblings, and our house was always filled with family, cousins and friends. Most of us all lived near one another, so we were always very involved in everyone’s lives. As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate that, for better or worse, my family has always been near.
- What were you like as a kid?
I’m the oldest of my siblings, so I’ve always been a leader. Although, according to my younger siblings, this word could probably be interchanged with “bossy.” I was always curious, asking tons of questions, and rarely stopped talking. Some may say not much has changed since then…
- What should I know about you that I’d never think to ask about?
I’m a first level sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
- Did you—or do you—have a nickname? What’s the story behind it?
Sadly I do not have any good nicknames that have stuck over the years. No, I don’t have any nicknames. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing…
- Have you received any praise or accolades recently?
I consider this Spotlight to be a rather high honor.
- What type of events you plan?
We carry inventory for all ages and types of events, so it varies. I typically coordinate corporate picnics, holiday parties, team building activities, and collegiate events. However, with some of our newer inventory, I’ve been working with local Wedding Planners to bring fun new pieces to weddings!
- What type of music do you love?
I love most types of music, especially alternative, acoustic and country.
- What don’t people know about you?
I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies.
- What do you love about planning events in Chicago?
There are so many venue styles and options available for every type of event indoor or out. Plus pairing with some of the most talented vendors in the industry puts Chicago, in my opinion, on the map as an ideal event site destination.
- What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)?
My favorite restaurant is Pazzi Di Pizza in Elmhurst. They serve authentic Italian food made from scratch and have a great atmosphere, not to mention the great wine selection.
- When not working, what do you love to do?
Travel! Whether it’s a road trip or a cross-country flight to visit friends, I try to take the opportunity to go see new places.
- Besides your professional talent, do you have any personal talents? (Play guitar, etc.)
I play the piano and cook & bake as much as I can.
- Future trends in event planning?
I’ve found recently that giant retro throwback games have been becoming more popular (Connect 4, Jenga, Operation, Light Bright, etc.) Both corporate and social clients have started bringing in arcade equipment and giant games into their events for low impact, but fun entertainment. They’re fun for party guests of all ages.
- What does it take to be a successful event planner?
You have to be able to predict issues that may arise, and try to prevent them ahead of time. Learning from your mistakes and taking those experiences to avoid potential issues is worth something in the long run. You also have to have a conscious understanding that you can’t control everything, but plan what you can and be ready to quickly solve unforeseen circumstances.
- What is your favorite color?
- What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about growing with AMJ Spectacular Events. Each year we’re fortunate to add more employees, which means we’re able to provide jobs to help support more families. Our company isn’t a large corporation, so I have the pleasure of getting to know and working closely with the office staff, on site staff, and operations staff. For each event booked, it’s an opportunity for us to grow as a team. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of successfully pulling off a large project.
- What do you recommend for others who want to get into the hospitality profession?
Be prepared for an unconventional work schedule! But also be prepared to work in an industry that holds events, dinners, and many other gatherings simply to have a good time. They should embrace that idea and lots of great things will fall into place.
- Do you have any Association affiliations?
MPI, NACA & SIOTO
- Are you a Cubs or Sox fan?
- What’s your go-to meal when you’re home alone?
Pasta. I’m not picky. I love it all.
- What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?
I grew up in Elmhurst, and I love the sense of community. It seems like anytime I go to dinner or to grab an ice cream, I inevitably run into friends.
- Which book(s) have you read multiple times?
Reading is one of my favorite things to do to relax, I’m never far from my Kindle. I love a good series, but don’t usually reread many books. However My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult is one that I enjoyed and read more than once.
- What’s on your bucket list?
To spend a few weeks eating & drinking wine through the different regions of Italy.
- What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had?
Let’s just say I’m not the most coordinated person in the world, so I have a number of embarrassing moments!
- What was your First concert?
- If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn?
- What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com?
It’s an amazing resource for both local and long distance planners to find some of the best vendors in the industry.