In this North Hills Live series, we’re speaking with the Midtown Events team. Focused on bringing Midtown Raleigh the most innovative and diverse events in the Triangle, Midtown Events specializes in booking events at North Hills, and is always looking to partner with potential sponsors and advertisers. NHL is thrilled at the opportunity to speak with all four of Midtown Events’ talented and capable employees. Today we’re profiling Dawn Baker, Midtown Events’ senior manager of special events & branding.
North Hills Live: How long have you been with Midtown Events and how has your role evolved? What are your current responsibilities?
Dawn Baker: I have been a part of the Midtown Events team for over five years now. Originally I was hired on a part-time, contract basis. Despite my expressed desire to find a full-time position with Midtown Events, I accepted what work was readily available in order to simply join the team. North Hills had a good outdoor event schedule and I very much wanted to be a part of growing the community event offerings and to be involved with such a dynamic, thriving property. After six months with the team, there was a vacancy in the lead role so I raised my hand—the opportunity was both exciting and daunting, but ultimately I found the challenge invigorating. Intuitively, I knew that I would find great job satisfaction if I could successfully lead the events team. We are now a team of four full-time employees and one year-round, part-time employee, and our event offerings have doubled in number and scope. Our team members were hand-picked for our varied strengths and ability to work collaboratively. We share a dedication towards a common goal—to build community and create memories for our property guests. My teammates are beloved by me—I truly feel that they are part of my extended family.
Currently, I focus on overall team management, budget management, event logistics, programming management, branding program initiatives, and sponsorship/branding sales. It sounds like a mixed bag and it is… I like the variation in my job responsibilities and in my schedule, depending on the time of year.
NHL: Your responsibilities include budgeting: How is Midtown Events funded?
DB: Good question! In conversations with others, we often find that there is some confusion (or even disbelief) in how our expense budget is funded. Midtown Events is entirely self-sufficient, meaning we are not funded through any property marketing funds or from parent-company, Kane Realty Corp.
We work annually to raise the necessary funds to cover that year’s expenses. We sell event sponsorship, branding opportunities, experiential marketing opportunities, lease outdoor space and/or equipment for third-party groups, etc. to cover our annual expense budget of almost $1 million. Our expense budget includes all programming, production, and promotion related to special events, staff salaries and benefits, equipment and storage space, licenses and insurance, office space, and other administrative costs. We do not have a non-profit designation so we simply ask organizations to form mutually beneficial partnerships with us and align their brand with ours to provide safe, wholesome, family/pet friendly activity in Midtown Raleigh. Our events are free to the public and as a property we offer free parking—the funds raised through alcohol sales at concert events directly covers event expenses after we share a percentage with a designated, local non-profit.
NHL: How did your previous experience in the non-profit world prepare you for your current role?
DB: My experience in the non-profit world taught me a number of important things. Staff teams tend to be lean so there is generally more work to do than there are hands. Because of this, you learn to wear many hats, to multi-task, and to work efficiently. I learned the value of stretching a dollar and identifying items that are “nice to have” versus essential for a successful special event. I also learned to focus on the organizational mission and that a successful fundraising sale comes from aligning organizational goals and creating mutually beneficial partnerships. I have great respect for those that work for organizations to better the world we live in or to provide support and assistance to others.
NHL: What are the 3 A’s of Midtown Events?
DB: Ambiance, Activity, and Amenities. You want your guests to feel welcomed. You want your guest to experience convenience and comfort. You want your guest to be engaged. It is a simple formula—it just takes some forethought, empathy, and inspiration.
NHL: What’s your favorite “Midtown Moment”?
DB: I have so many! I feel so blessed to say that. During a special event, I try to remember to take a moment to observe guests—young and old, and from all walks of life—smiling, chatting, dancing, singing, and simply enjoying each other and the outdoor entertainment. It is like receiving an instant pat on the back signifying a job well done. But I really love creating that added surprise moment during concerts, such as an encore featuring a special song or guests, or by showering the crowd with confetti or setting off fireworks. It is a magical moment when you successfully gather the undivided attention of the crowd and you know that this is sure to become a happy memory for them.
NHL: What are you excited about for 2017?
DB: Two of our signature events, the Midtown Beach Music Series and the Midtown Farmers’ Market, will both be celebrating their 10-year anniversary! The fact that we have maintained good attendance and sponsor support for these series for more 10 years is certainly something to celebrate! In addition, our Friday Night Tribute Series will also be celebrating its fifth anniversary. This series is near and dear to my heart as it is the first new event concept I personally pitched and planned. Who doesn’t love music that evokes a memory or that you can easily sing-a-long to? I am also very excited to roll out some of our new artful and ambiance initiatives—stay tuned, we have some great ideas!
NHL: You were asked to submit your favorite event picture for this profile- what is the significance of the picture you chose?
DB: This is a picture of our 2016 Midtown Beach Music Finale concert. It was a beautiful summer night, the bands were rocking, the crowd energy level was high and then we dropped 10 pounds of confetti on everyone to promoted the upcoming tenth season of the series. It all came together as planned and we were all so proud. It was a moment—a memory maker. Who isn’t smiling and happy when it is raining confetti?!
NHL: What do you like to do outside of work?
DB: In my free time, I am typically with my husband cheering on my son at an athletic event. I am also an avid concert goer—I love live music and am always looking to attend other special events in order to gain ideas or inspiration. I am honestly at North Hills a lot—I try to stay away but there are so many convenient shopping and dining options! North Hills just feels like my second home.