In our final profile of the Midtown Events team series, we’re speaking with Special Events & Marketing Manager Anna Zevenhuizen. A Raleigh native recently returned from Charleston, Anna tells us about her work with event sponsors, plans for 2017 and how her experience in high-end fashion lends itself to success in her current position.
North Hills Live: How would you describe your role at Midtown Events?
Anna Zevenhuizen: Along with event planning, I focus primarily on sponsor fulfillment and procurement, private party and sponsor hospitality, on-site branding, advertising and PR for Midtown Events, as well as the promotion and marketing of each event. In 2017, Arrington and I will take over programming and production for Sunday FUNday. We also have a couple of exciting projects yet to be announced in the pipeline that we are all collaborating on.
NHL: How do you usually connect with and work with sponsors?
AZ: Connecting and working with sponsors is one of the most fun parts of my job. We pride ourselves on providing sponsorship opportunities that are tailored to our clients’ goals. Therefore, each interaction and shared experience becomes personal. Whether a sponsor’s marketing initiatives include interacting with 5,000+ patrons at a concert or connecting one-on-one with guests at our weekly Farmer’s Market, we collaborate to reach those goals. Whether we’re crafting and designing a custom specialty cocktail menu for our concert series or we’re brainstorming the best way to activate your new tagline at our event, we’re working together. And having fun while we’re doing it.
NHL: How did your time in Charleston help prepare you for your current role?
AZ: Most appropriately, my time and experiences in Charleston afforded me an invaluable glimpse into high-end, large-scale events. I was very fortunate in that my internship senior year of college turned into my first full-time job: managing advertising production for a family of publications, most notably of which was Charleston Magazine. During that time, I was simultaneously tapped to manage production of Charleston Fashion Week® under the production director. For someone enchanted with high-end fashion like myself, it was the coolest experience imaginable. There was immense pressure to deliver, all while maintaining a calm demeanor, which became an invaluable trait. Whether I was picking up Fern Mallis (creator of New York Fashion Week) from the airport, driving Cynthia Bailey (model and star of Real Housewives of Atlanta) around town, or steaming Christian Siriano’s (designer and CFDA member) gowns, I cherished each new challenge. My time at the magazine also allowed me to learn the ins and outs of magazine production, from photo shoots to layouts, as well as honing my graphic design skills. This working knowledge comes into play almost daily now.
The cumulative skill set built during my time at the magazine allowed me to pursue the marketing director position at a boutique luxury real estate company in downtown Charleston. As I was raised on real estate one might say (my mom is a mortgage lender and my dad is a commercial real estate broker), this was a very natural progression. With that company, I was allowed to further enhance my graphic design portfolio, producing promotional materials, building a custom website, and managing video production for properties. During my time, the company became a principal sponsor and supporter of Charleston Wine + Food Festival®. Whether we were collectively planning a dinner of fried chicken and champagne in a 19th century home on The Battery or an intimate dinner for the editors of Travel + Leisure, orchestrating all the moving parts and the satisfaction of a well-executed event solidified my love of events, large or small. Being on the (now) opposite side of sponsorship, that experience allowed me to craft what I value in a sponsorship opportunity, best practices for sponsor fulfillment, and how best to build a rapport with your clients.
NHL: What inspired you to return to Raleigh and work with Midtown?
AZ: I will always love Charleston and it will forever have a place in my heart (it’s where I attended college and spent the past 9 years of my life); however, I always knew I wanted to return to Raleigh. Raleigh is home, it’s where the majority of my family lives and it’s where (or at least closer to where) the majority of my friends live. From afar, it was exciting to watch the renaissance, of sorts, the city is experiencing. And now, it’s exciting to be a very small part of that. I have been coming to North Hills since I was born – we grabbed hot dogs at Scottie’s, treated the food court like a jungle gym, and bought all my shoes from Mobley’s. To now work in that same place and for a company that values community and bringing people together is a dream. When you see the range of people, from all walks of life that congregate at our events, all dancing to the same music or enjoying the same experience – there is truly no better feeling.
NHL: What is your favorite part about marketing and promotions for Midtown Events?
AZ: Crafting a successful marketing plan, across so many varied avenues, can be a bit of an art form in today’s world. There is no perfect combination of promotion and each event takes on a life of its own. So, finding the best combination of outlets, customized for each event, becomes a challenge – which I love and embrace. Then to walk out and see 12,000+ people in attendance for our Midtown Beach Music season finale, for example, is extremely rewarding. It harkens back to the inspiration for joining Midtown Events – to know that you are a small part of someone’s Thursday night, spent dancing to Liquid Pleasure on a hot night in August, is extremely rewarding.
NHL: What is your favorite “Midtown Moment”?
AZ: It’s so hard to pick just one! In my short time here, there have been so many memories made. My favorite moment thus far was our underground pop-up dinner with Snap Pea Catering in the Dalek Exhibit space (located right next to Ruth’s Chris). The location and menu of each pop-up dinner are kept tightly under wraps, which only adds to the excitement. It was the perfect amalgamation of all that we work toward as a team in one event – community building, memory making, public art appreciating – all while noshing on expertly crafted food down long community tables in a vacant merchant space. It was something that had never been done at North Hills before and was a great way to introduce my previous experience with the Wine + Food Festival in a uniquely “Midtown” way.
NHL: What is your working relationship like with the other members of the team?
AZ: We are family. We work so collaboratively and so closely together that there is no choice but to form lasting bonds with one another. We share many late nights, weekends and office hours together, but at the end of the day, we always have FUN. We build one another up, encourage each other and look out for one another. I could not ask for better teammates.
We affectionately refer to Dawn as our “cool mom.” She is our leader, helps us to stay the course, and keeps us under budget! Her collective experience, wisdom and insight are so valuable. Ashley is our firecracker. She is one of funniest people I’ve ever met, has a heart of gold, and is the best community relations advocate we could possibly ask for. Arrington and I have known each other the longest – since high school. We have shared similar stories of recently moving back to Raleigh to bond over, among other passions. Her excitement for bringing public art to our community in very out-of-the-box ways is inspiring to watch.
NHL: You were asked to submit your favorite event picture for this profile – what is the significance of the picture you chose?
AZ: The picture I chose was from the Snap Pea Catering pop-up dinner I referred to previously. It plays into my love of bringing people together around a great meal, with a great glass of wine, in a beautiful setting. There is no better sense of community than dining around one table together. And that’s what our job is in a nutshell – creating memorable experiences and building community.