It’s often said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but in Ellen Hockley’s case, it was an idea that she found in the trash. Hockley, an event planner, knew that some food would go untouched at the end of each event, but one event’s waste particularly troubled her and spurred her into action. “I saw how much food—food that was never taken out of its packages—was thrown in the trash,” she explains.

It was disheartening, so Hockley began filling her trunk with the untouched items and driving it to shelters and food banks. Ten years ago, food rescue wasn’t something most planners considered, but Hockley adds that it’s come a long way. She now partners with Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City to arrange postevent pickups if needed, and Transfernation and Rescuing Leftover Cuisine are her two go-to app-based organizations in New York City.

Hockley’s enterprising spirit didn’t end with rescuing food. She began thinking about other ways she could impact the industry and her community. In 2015, she founded Greater Good Events, marrying her planning skills with her passion for sustainability. She now works largely with nonprofits, helping them execute everything from in-house meetings to fundraising galas. “I like working with missionbased organizations because the people are excited and enthusiastic,” she says. “For me, it’s a huge drive to know that we’re working toward a common goal.”

Hockley organizes events that are more focused on sustainability, with waste reduction playing a huge part. While nonprofit budgets are certainly her biggest obstacle, she relishes the challenge. “It forces me to be more creative by figuring out ways to get something done for less money,” she says. As for budgets, Hockley puts her money where her company name is by donating a percentage of her profits to several nonprofits she personally selects annually. “My goal when I started Greater Good was to find up to three different organizations each year,” she says. Turns out that Greater Good isn’t just a name on a business card.

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.


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.