People Make The Difference
CMP, DMCP, President
It is safe to say that I always knew I would follow an entrepreneurial path. As a young boy growing up in Upstate New York, I took on a newspaper route as soon as I was old enough, at the age of 12. Many kids didn’t think much of slogging through the snow in the dark for two hours after school every day, but for me it was an opportunity to gain some financial freedom. I used the contacts I made on the newspaper route to gain customers for my snow shoveling and lawn mowing services. Snow days were great – no school AND I could make some money! In the summer I hauled a model of perhaps the first ever gasoline powered lawnmower (My Dad must have picked it up at a garage sale in the 60’s. He was never big on “modern conveniences.” Still doesn’t have cable) around the neighborhood, knocking on everyone’s door whose grass seemed too long. That old mower needed a few tricks to get it started each time, but it was worth the effort to pick up spending and saving money. I saved enough money to buy a 1973 Plymouth Duster and drive to my first job at the Grand Union Supermarket in Kingston when I was 15. After graduating from the Hospitality Management program at Florida State University, I forgot about the entrepreneurial instinct for a bit, figuring I was going to be the President of a big hotel company, and launched my career with Sheraton Hotels and Resorts (ITT Sheraton back in those days, for those that were around and remember). I began in the year- long Management Training Program at the Sheraton Bal Harbour in Miami Beach, which led to management positions at the Sheraton Inner Harbor in Baltimore and then at the Sheraton New Orleans. After three and a half years working for an incredible GM – Bob Foster – he left to open the Sheraton Chicago, and we got a new GM. It didn’t take long to realize his micro-management style and me were not going to be a good fit, so I left. Since 1996, I have started 11 companies – 3 Bed and Breakfasts, a hotel (in Bunkie, LA!), an internet reservation business, a car rental business, 2 real estate ventures and a couple more. Some were sold for a nice profit, some ran their natural course and a couple didn’t do so well. Terry Jackson and I have three active companies together and continually look for new opportunities while I lead the incredible team at AlliedPRA New Orleans. In 1997 I founded Crescent Hospitality, which is the company that became AlliedPRA when we bought into the system in 2002. At first we were strictly dealing in hotel rooms – pre-internet (Yes, there was such a time!) – there was a great need for this service. As we grew, we added more and more DMC services to the mix, and from there AlliedPRA New Orleans was born. The thing most entrepreneurs will tell you they like the best is the freedom, and I am no different. The freedom to take risks, make your own decisions and have some control over your fate. And not wear a tie. I also started down the road with the simple goal of making money on my own abilities. While it has worked out pretty well in that aspect (9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Great Recession notwithstanding – I have become pretty good at restarts!), what I enjoy most is developing people and giving them great career opportunities. I love it when team members excel and grow into new roles. Some business owners dread payroll, but for me I love it because that money coming out of the bank account means people are living good lives and supporting families and lifestyles. I have paid out over $10 million dollars in payroll, and nothing gives me more satisfaction. My team at AlliedPRA has grown into an Award Winning group of professionals. We are a five-time winner of the AlliedPRA Highest Client Satisfaction Award, named to the Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America twice and named to the Seminole 100 – Fastest Growing Private Companies owned by FSU Alumni. In addition, our team has taken home numerous personal professional awards. I have even been awarded a United States Patent for Transportation Technology that we developed! Large corporations have so much internal politics and silos it is maddening, but in an entrepreneurial business it is all about the team and making everyone successful. It is so much fun I doubt I will ever stop working.
CMP, DMCP, General Manager
It all started over 30 years ago when I graduated from LSU in Baton Rouge. I was the typical college grad needing a job. I had worked summers and breaks for major oil companies in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and thought for sure my part-time jobs would land me that high dollar position with a great benefits package following graduation. WRONG! Oil industry folks were getting laid off. Not the right time to get in! Swallowing my pride, I moved back home with my parents and accepted an administrative assistant positon with the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Got my foot in the door! Yes, I had earned a B.S. in Business and my annual starting salary was $10,500 – enough money to pay my car note and $100 rent to my parents with little left over.
At that time, I was thinking this hotel job was just a temporary thing till I found something that paid more! WRONG again! My job was fun, exciting, and I enjoyed it! Work hard, play hard, and advancement opportunities are unlimited. I met the love of my life at the hotel. I was a Convention Services Manager and he (Billy, my husband) was an engineer. Despite advice from the general manager at the time that our engagement would never last, we got married. Our wedding reception was at the hotel and was one of those catering bookings that got booted out of its space for ballroom renovation! But, I’m happy to say the wedding was a smashing success, and we recently celebrated our 30-year milestone and have two beautiful sons, Hunter (born during hunting season) and Tanner (who was going to be named Fisher, but I couldn’t sign the birth certificate).
Little did I know then that I would be the appointed Director of Sales responsible for rebranding and repositioning a flagship hotel that had been closed for six years following Hurricane Katrina, and that I would be developing relationships throughout my sales career with major association and corporate clients like the NFL and NCAA. No need to bore you regurgitating facts about my career advancement. If you’re really curious, everything you want to know is on my LinkedIn profile. My passion for continued success both professionally and personally without leaving New Orleans lead me to my next chapter …..
That’s when I connected with Jeff O’Hara, our President and Owner in New Orleans. Our conversation about what he needed and what I wanted to do fit a like a glove. It’s been an opportunity for me to create lifetime memories for clients and their guests in a city I truly hold dear to my heart. Equally important, it’s been an opportunity to lead our next generation into amazing hospitality partners and to give back to our hospitality community through my leadership role as the Director of Education for our MPI local chapter. Who is AlliedPRA? Just ask any of our hotel partners in New Orleans or see what our clients have to say about us on www.nolameetings.com.
Regional Sales Manager
I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana which I can attribute my very twangy accent to, but I am a New Orleans girl at heart! I come from a big, crazy Italian family who knows how to keep you on your toes. I had such an amazing childhood thanks to my fun-loving parents, big sister and sweet grandparents. Even though my whole family lives in Shreveport, we are very close and see each other often.
After I graduated from LSU Baton Rouge (GeauxTigers!) with a Bachelors in Food Science and Nutrition, my 3 best friends and I moved from New Orleans to begin a new adventure in the Big Easy! In 2017 I scored my first position in hospitality as a Sales Coordinator at the historic Le Pavillon Hotel. Within the first week I knew that the hospitality industry was where I was meant to be! I immediately fell in love with the New Orleans beauty and charm that Le Pavillon embodied. There was always a liveliness in the air when new guests came into the hotel and I absolutely loved it! It wasn’t long before I wanted a larger role with a broader range of responsibility.
In June of 2018, I was offered a position as a Conference Service Manager at a larger hotel. This was a whole new world for me as I was experienced in sales but had zero experience in event planning. Nevertheless, they took a chance on me and I knew this opportunity would be an incredible learning experience. That year I learned so much about the industry, the interworking’s of a conference size hotel, each department’s role and how they all work together to create a quality guest experience, event and program. I look back on how ‘detailed’ of person I described myself as in the interview before becoming a Conference Service Manager and giggle… I truly had no earthly idea what I was getting myself into. As I learned the ropes, I began servicing larger corporate groups and weddings. I quickly learned that weddings were much more tedious and time consuming but I loved all the excitement, joy and sweet, special moments that came with the territory. I enjoyed servicing events but, my passion was in sales and I was ready to get back to it. Catering Sales Managers sell and service their own events which sounded like the best of both worlds! After a year of servicing events under my belt, I moved into a Catering Sales Manager position where I was ‘cooking and booking’ with some of the best veterans in the industry. I loved splitting my time between selling and servicing events although it was challenging to find the balance, I knew I was never going to have a boring day! I grew a tremendous amount in this role because I was lucky enough to have several incredible mentors, each with their own wealth of knowledge and expertise. I had just finished up my first year running all the Mardi Gras events at the hotel and the COVID hit and a couple weeks later, we were all furloughed until further notice
Fast forward to today and I have my dream job! I get the showcase New Orleans to clients and curate an individualized experience, specific to them and I love it! New Orleans is a special city – rich with history that is so unique that there isn’t anywhere else like it. NOLA is a small city with a big personality, full of character and fun – that’s what we are known for! I love creating experiences and events for our clients that are unique, engaging and memorable. We will always show you a good time in New Orleans!
I graduated from the University of Louisiana State University spring of 2022, where I received a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Administration with a double minor in Business and Mass Communication.
During my time at LSU, I served as a Delta Delta Delta member. During that time, I was the event coordinator for all Delta Delta Delta only social events for the year 2019. Where I would put on social events for 300 members pre Covid-19. During the pandemic, I had to break up the social events to meet all the University and States new requirements. Fun fact: I lived in the sorority house junior and senior year with 51 other girls.
While attending LSU my freshman and sophomore year, I also worked for the LSU baseball team as a Bat Girl during the seasons. I had the best experience going to all the games and meeting some of my closest friends.
Being born and raised on the Northshore I always loved coming to New Orleans to experience the amazing concerts, foods, shops, and scenery growing up. I fell in love with event planning during my time as social coordinator for Delta Delta Delta. I knew I wanted to find a career in the event planning and hospitality business. After just graduating college in the Spring 2022, I knew I didn’t want to take a job out of state right away. Finding the Company PRA in New Orleans and being able to plan these incredible events right after college is a dream, and I am beyond excited to be a part of the PRA team.
Senior Event Producer
I grew up in swampy Cajun country outside Lafayette, Louisiana, with a Texan father and Honduran mother who grew up in New Orleans. New Orleans culture entered my life early, through my Abuelita (Bita) who remained a steadfast New Orleanian for the rest of her days. My first visit came before I could walk, and left an indelible mark. No matter how many times I left, I kept coming back! After graduating from LSU with a degree in interior architecture and design, I moved to NYC for an internship. That is where my passion for special events began – I had to pay the bills somehow and working events for a catering company did the trick. My next move to Royal Caribbean as an event planner kept me moving up and down the coast and through the islands, but I never forgot home or that intoxicating New Orleans spirit. So…back I came! For the next several years I focused my experience on designing and operating high end, custom events and weddings. Now that I’ve worked in the events industry in New Orleans for over a decade, I know that my favorite part is seeing the clients’ faces when they walk into an event that I designed for them. Surprise, delight and then a big smile as they see all the planning and preparation transformed into our mutual unique vision.
In my downtime, I loverefurbishing and redesigning neglected furniture and accent pieces for my house and my friends. I also love napping with my cats and relaxing with my amazing husband on the beach. Not at the same time!