Eventcamp 2019 SPEAKERS
Founder, Listening Room Cafe
The Listening Room Cafe was founded in 2006 in historic Franklin, TN. Chris Blair, owner and singer/songwriter himself, decided to open a venue because he was playing his own music around Nashville and couldn’t find a place that he felt had the sound and atmosphere that Nashville artists deserved. The Franklin location quickly became a local favorite, pulling in huge songwriters from music row that started calling it “the bluebird cafe outside of Nashville.” Wanting to continue that buzz, Blair decided to move the location closer to downtown Nashville and Music Row. He opened the new location inside the historic Cummins Station building in September of 2008. It was there that the Listening Room really built its name and started attracting the biggest songwriters and artists in the music business.
Proprietor, H Clark Distillery
Heath grew up on a small farm near Winchester, TN, and earned a bachelor's degree in history and a law degree from the University of Tennessee. In addition to distilling craft Tennessee spirits at H Clark Distillery, Heath is a practicing healthcare attorney. He is a Board Member of the Nashville Hospital Hospitality House, Williamson County CVB, Williamson Inc., and Tennessee Distiller’s Guild. Heath lives in Franklin, Tennessee with his wife, two children, and German shepherd.
COO, A. Marshall Hospitality | Co-owner, Hattie Jane’s Creamery
After years of serving on the front lines of her family business, Claire Crowell officially joined the restaurant group in a career capacity in 2008 as an assistant manager at Puckett's in Franklin. She went on to open the downtown Nashville location in 2010.
In 2013, Crowell was named the Director of Operations for A. Marshall Hospitality and was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in 2015. Today, she helps manage operations of the 5 Puckett's locations: Puckett's Boat House, Scout's Pub, Deacon's New South, and two Hattie Jane's Creamery locations, which she co-owns.
Regional Sales Manager, Corsair Distillery
Nick is the Regional Sales Manager for Corsair Distillery based in Nashville. Corsair produces spirits ranging from their flagship whiskey, Triple Smoke, to gin, barrel-aged gin, spiced rum, absinthe, and more. Nick has spent the past 18 years in the hospitality and bar business. As a kid, he was always taken by the charisma of restaurant servers and became increasingly interested in the restaurant world. He got his first restaurant job as a busboy at 15, then his first serving job at 19, and then trained as a bartender at 21. Nick moved to Nashville in 2009 and continued working as a bartender, but also joined M Street Entertainment Group and became Director of Operations over the front of house as well as Beverage Director. He then took the leap into management at Whiskey Kitchen as a bar manager and quickly was promoted to the General Manager position. Nick spent more than 5 years at Whiskey Kitchen gaining a vast array of knowledge on spirits and cocktails with a massive emphasis on whiskeys of the world.
Director of Catering & Events, Rosa Mexicano
Amira Gertz is the Director of Catering for Rosa Mexicano Restaurants. Her department is responsible for the sale of all onsite group and private dining, as well as off-site catering and the development of B&I catering accounts. Amira joined the Rosa Mexicano team in 2013, helming sales for the New York region and was promoted in 2014 to oversee the division nationally. Prior to joining the team at Rosa Mexicano, Gertz was the director of private dining at City Hall Restaurant, where under the direction of Chef Henry Meer she grew the private dining department to a premier wedding and corporate venue in lower Manhattan. She began her career working in off-premise catering, planning and catering events all over NYC including the New York Public Library, Radio City and the Museum of the City of New York. Ms. Gertz is an adjunct professor at New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and actively donates her time to City Harvest, Temple Shaaray Tefila and the Fresh Air Fund. She holds a BS from New York University and has continued her food and wine education at the New School.
Sarah Kelley Freeman
Business Development, "Ambassador of Buzz," Destination Musick City
Sarah's experience in public relations, marketing, event planning, and activation marketing makes her a dynamic producer and planner and a key part of the Destination Musick City team. Sarah joined the DMC team in 2016 and has led her team in sales for the past 2 years. Though she is from Atlanta, Sarah knows Nashville better than most Nashvillians. She is known among her clients to be a passionate, creative individual who devotes much of her life to her clients and their events. When Sarah is not working, you can find her downtown on Broadway enjoying a beer with her handsome husband, Nic, or relaxing home with their adorable pup Lord Sebastian Poe.
President & CEO, Kurtz Hospitality Marketing
A two-decade veteran of the hospitality industry, Janet Kurtz founded Kurtz Hospitality Marketing with one goal in mind: to help build better brands. Working with hotel, travel industry and restaurant clients around the world, Janet has led an illustrious career curating and implementing innovative hospitality strategies.
Since beginning Kurtz Hospitality Marketing, Janet has worked with some of the top hospitality brands in Nashville and throughout the south. Clients have found a new and successful way to promote their brand, increase visibility, and boost revenue. Janet has worked with brands through all stages of their progress, including opening planning a reinvigoration of established brands.
Prior to founding Kurtz Hospitality Marketing, Janet served thirteen years as Director of Sales & Marketing for the Forbes Five Star rated Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, TN, and the Forbes Five Star rated Keswick Hall & Golf Club in Charlottesville, VA. After helping to oversee a $20 million renovation and restoration of the Hermitage Hotel in 2002, Janet quickly strategized to grow the property’s ADR to $200 in a $100 market. Continuing to manage budgets and revenue growth, exceeding year over year goals, Janet also oversaw sales development, marketing and public relations for both properties and their outlets – including multiple star-rated restaurants, a golf course, a clubhouse, and a 250-acre beef and vegetable farm. Janet has also worked across Loews Hotels & Resorts in the south and various attractions, including the historic Belle Meade Plantation.
Ali McQueen Cannon
Manager, Global Accounts, HelmsBriscoe
Ali is a site selection expert with HelmsBriscoe. She got her start in the Nashville hospitality industry in restaurants and then interned with HelmsBriscoe during college before joining her mother as an HB associate in 2013. Together, they have built the "McQueen Team" and help their clients to find the best venues for over 100 meetings each year all around the world. Ali left Nashville briefly in 2015 to move to Greenville, S.C., where she met her wonderful husband Will and brought him back to Nashville as quickly as she could! When she's not working out of her home office or traveling with clients, Ali can be found riding her horse, Etta, or out playing with Will and their dog, Clark. Ali, Will, and Clark like to hike together and ride Nashville's Greenways on their tandem bike.
CEO and Founder, Tripleseat
Jonathan Morse is the CEO and founder of Tripleseat, a web application for restaurants, hotels and unique venues, chosen by more than 35,000 Event Managers and Restaurant Owners. Tripleseat helps these businesses increase their event bookings and streamlines the planning process. Jonathan has been involved in the restaurant and hotel business for 30+ years with roles ranging from a busboy at Abadessa’s in Hingham, MA, to line cook at Atlantic Café in Nantucket, to Floor Manager at Backbay Restaurant Group, to New England Regional Sales Manager for Starwood Hotels. Before starting Tripleseat, Jonathan was a VP of Sales for a web startup that delivered Business Intelligence reporting to the restaurant industry.
Dorien Morin-van Dam
Social Media Marketing Consultant, More In Media
Dorien Morin-van Dam is a social media consultant, trainer and keynote speaker. She is a regularly featured expert on CBS where she shares social media strategies, live video tips and the marketing news for businesses. You'll recognize Dorien online and on-stage by her signature orange glasses, a nod to her Dutch heritage.
Vice President of Sales & Marketing, North Point Hospitality
Gina Peper serves as Vice President of Sales & Marketing for North Point Hospitality Group. She oversees the sales & marketing efforts for all North Point owned and managed hotels, as well as the pre-sales efforts for hotels under construction. She joined the North Point team in 2001. During her time with North Point, she has opened 14 new hotels, including the first Marriott tri-brand in the world in Nashville, TN.
A graduate of Georgia Southern University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations, Gina has more than 20 years of hospitality experience. Gina is the current president of the Savannah Downtown Business Association and was named as one of Savannah Magazine’s 2018 New Guard. She was in the 2013-2014 Leadership Savannah class and is an active member of the Savannah Tourism Leadership Council, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in Savannah, Nashville, and Atlanta, as well as Meeting Planners International.
Gina is an active member in her church where she enjoys serving in the children’s ministry and enjoys spending her free time with her husband Wes and three children Caroline, 15; Kailey, 14; and Jacob, 10.
Entrepreneur, Wedding and Events Expert
Angela Proffitt is a Celebrity Wedding & Event Planner, Designer, Entrepreneur and Productivity Consultant with nearly two decades of experience within the Industry. As the industry's leading creative disruptor, she has become a trusted resource and ally because of her commitment to exceeding the expectations of her clients and her passion for educating professionals. Her mantra "you don't know, what you don't know," fuels her books, online classes, live events, and coaching. This has allowed her to help thousands of wedding & event clients, and hundreds of small businesses achieve success, grow steadily and "wow" consistently. Angela Proffitt is a graduate of UT Knoxville with her background being in Psychology. She has been voted "Best Event Planner," by Nashville Scene, highlighted as having the "Best Business Practices" by Success Magazine, appeared on ABC Family in the show “Job or No Job” series and TLC’s “Extreme I Do’s. Her extensive list of clientele have included: Kellie Pickler of American Idol, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, mega country star, Jason Aldean, and Eddie George (former TN Titans player) to name a few.
She currently serves as the Social Co-Chair for the Entrepreneur's Organization; a global business network for entrepreneurs. Angela is revered as the Productivity Guru or the Application Queen among family and friends. She delivers tools that enable entrepreneurs and event professionals to best serve their clients and believes that everyone has the ability to change the world; all they have to do is plan for it!
President, Swingbridge Consulting
Anissa Starnes is the President of Swingbridge Partners. She has educated more than 35,000 businesses on how to be successful in their marketing. She believes marketing should be engaging and authentic and if done right, it’s not hard to do. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Anissa served as the Director for National Organizations for the online marketing company, Constant Contact. When not teaching marketing, she can be found dancing at concerts, running through airports, doing stand-up comedy or advocating for kindness.
Special Events Director, The NoMad Hotel, Eleven Madison Park, Make It Nice Hospitality Group
As Special Events Director of The NoMad Hotel in New York, Laura oversees the planning and execution of more than 750 events annually. Born and raised in the hospitality industry, Laura soon found herself in New York City working for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group where she led the teams at MoMA's Cafe 2 and Terrace 5. She was then promoted to Guest Relations Manager at Eleven Madison Park where she oversaw operations of the Host and Reservations Department, the same year the restaurant went on to achieve its first four-star New York Times review. She also focused on leading the company’s culture, including all restaurant openings and manager training. Laura recently just help launch three new Make it Nice properties: The NoMad Los Angeles, The NoMad Las Vegas and in 2020, The NoMad London.
Private Events Director, City Winery Nashville
Ryan Walters’ passion for food and cooking led her all over the country and it almost led her to culinary school, but in a stroke of luck for City Winery, a heart for service and problem solving kept her in event planning and management.
With more than a decade of experience in hospitality, including work with ARAMARK in Columbus, Ohio, and Homestead Manor in Thompson’s Station, TN, Ryan’s expertise in the field and wide range of skillsets — from catering to lodging to restaurant work — set her apart.
In her spare time, Ryan enjoys cooking for her two sons, Cooper and Hunter, and spending time with good friends and good wine. When she’s not juggling events, she’s juggling time spent with her family (including two cats, Ted & Jackson) and practicing yoga.
Executive Vice President of Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group
As EVP of Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, 25-year veteran Charlee Williamson oversees a diverse portfolio of seven independent restaurants and a catering company, which span the spectrum of industry segments from fine dining to counter service. As the company’s chief marketing officer, she guides a talented in-house team responsible for advertising, graphics, digital media, publicity, and community partnerships. A self-described “Marketing Technologist,” Charlee is also responsible for digital solutions that drive revenue, engagement, and operational efficiencies. She analyzes company data and finds actionable opportunities to improve each restaurant’s financial position and conceptual offerings. Her role includes executive and operational oversight of the 450-seat Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen at the Disneyland® Resort in southern California, and she co-manages each private event sales team.
Meeting & Event Planner, Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation
Desireé Woolridge, CMM, CMP, is the Corporate Meeting Planner at Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation, the Nashville-based financial division of Caterpillar, Inc. With more than 15 years of experience in meetings, Desireé specializes in complex conference management, event planning, global meeting management, travel, and hospitality. She is motivated by her passion to create memorable events that engage attendees and deliver an exceptional experience for both attendees and clients.
Vice President of Marketing, Tripleseat
Latha Youngren is Vice President of Marketing at Tripleseat, a sales and event management platform for the hospitality industry. Tripleseat combines three passions: technology, events, and hospitality in one great company.
Youngren's interest in hospitality began at a young age, waitressing through her high school years in Providence, RI. After graduating from Barnard and working in publishing for a few years, she tended bar in Paris and worked at a magazine company. She spent a brief stint in San Francisco, and made her way back to New York City where she has worked in marketing and events for a variety of companies and thrilled to have landed at Tripleseat where she leads the marketing department.
During her downtime, Latha spends time with her husband and three children. She enjoys traveling, reading, and keeping up with the latest restaurant openings.