It was an ad that inked the deal for Kelley Thwaite, co-owner of KM Event Productions, a full-service boutique event management company in south Jersey. “I answered an ad in the newspaper for a job at a small association management company,” she says. The company was indeed small, as Thwaite worked for the husband-and-wife team out of their basement. She learned a lot about the industry, though, and it’s where she’s spent the last two decades building a name for herself. 

After a layoff in 2013, she decided it was time “to do my own thing,” and created KMEP in 2014. The boutique firm handles event planning for a variety of nonprofits and corporations of all sizes. “I really wanted the opportunity to get to know local companies by working with them on their meetings and events,” she explains of the incentive to create her own business. “We can do everything from a small meeting or client event to those on a national or international scale.” 

From the economic crisis to décor trends, Thwaite handles plenty of change, but one thing that remains static is her commitment to relationships. “Since the beginning of my career it was ingrained in me that relationships were key. I was always a member of MPI and in 2011, I served as president of the MPI Philadelphia chapter. As someone who has been in this business for 20 years, I’ve only been unemployed for four months. It all has to do with relationships,” she says. “I believe wholeheartedly in building a network and turning to it when you need something or helping out when someone else needs something.” Her relationshipbuilding also led Experient to come knocking at her door shortly after creating KMEP, and Thwaite also serves as their national account manager.

The one change that Thwaite really welcomed? Recognition for the career path. “You used to tell people what you did for a living and they didn’t understand,” she laughs. “Now, people can major in what I do as a career, though my great aunt still doesn’t know what I do!” 

League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry. 

 

Event planning and experience design go hand in hand. Just ask Maria Moyano, experience designer for the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), based in NYC. “I think that everything is an event. You can go have coffee, and that’s an event. Everything is also an experience. You feel happy, and that’s an experience. It’s about what you are trying to get out of the event—and then how does an experience elevate it,” says Moyano.

 

In the wake of COVID-19, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) set out to provide planners with up-to-date intel and sound advice, appointing Dr. David Nash, founding dean emeritus of the Jefferson College of Population Health, in the process as its chief health advisor. Dr. Nash and Kavin Schieferdecker, senior vice president of the CVB’s convention division, share how the partnership came to be and its potential lasting impact.