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.

For Chicago-based event planner and stylist Rachel De Marte, her bright, dynamic personality isn’t just one of her many amiable characteristics. It’s her calling card.

“I’m a big personality and a maximalist through and through. There’s definitely an energy and excitement level I bring to each event that you’ll start to grasp as we sit down together to brainstorm,” says De Marte. “‘Where does she get all of this energy?’ and ‘force of nature’ are things I hear all the time,” she laughs.

 

CAM+E: What’s a typical working day like for you?

 

At just 16, Jack Schripsema had already set a long-standing hospitality career in motion with his first job washing dishes at the local Holiday Inn.