Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite. Recently, she was named one of “Canada’s Most Influential Event Pros.

NWME: What are some of your event highlights?

Heather: I have had the opportunity to work on a number of fun events and festivals that have taken place in Whistler, including the Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival, the Whistler Film Festival and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, to name a few. One of my favorite events to produce was a movie premiere at the top of Whistler Mountain with over 1,200 attendees. It was no small feat ensuring that all guests arrived up the mountain (via a 30-minute gondola) in time for the pre- miere. Managing the logistics of this operation was an early career highlight.

NWME: What prompted you to create WNORTH?

Heather: While I was working as a sales account manager for a Fortune 500 company, I went in search of leadership training and a conference that would prepare me for a senior position at my company. When my pursuit of finding a leadership conference for women on a path to senior executive leadership fell short, my husband and I decided to  combine our experience in events and marketing to co-found the WNORTH Conference.

Our goal with WNORTH is to provide a community for driven and ambitious female leaders to learn with and from their peers, as well as global leaders. WNORTH is truly an intersection of a challenge I was personally facing in the corporate workforce, and an entrepreneurial venture backed by my event-planning experience. I am making  an impact by elevating the number of women who are advancing to C-suite positions through my work with the WNORTH Conference, as well as our global community, The Members Club at WNORTH.

Tony Michaels is no stranger to navigating choppy waters. The CEO and executive director of The Parade Company, which puts on traditions like America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Ford Fireworks, took the helm of the Detroit nonprofit during tough times, at the height of the financial crisis. “2008, 2009, are you kidding me?” says Michaels.

 

You may not have seen her name among Chicago’s James Beard award nominees or caught in the buzz of another trendy eatery opening, but the ripples of Rita Dever’s culinary creations have made an impact far and wide. After cooking around the world, the Pacific Northwest native put down roots as Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ (LEYE) associate partner and corporate chef where she collaborates in the company’s test kitchen to innovate new dishes for all LEYE restaurants.

 

Denver native Keisha Makonese’s passion for planning events dates way back. Her latest gig as director of sales and corporate events at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum began nine years ago. In this role, Makonese helps oversee an average of 150 private events at Wings Over the Rockies each year, from making meetings for 20 people to annual dinners for 2,000 fun and interactive experiences.