• Meet Lotoya Vongrechin, Engineering Event Success

     
    FROM THE Fall 2016 ISSUE
     

    For Lotoya Vongrechin, a career in mechanical engineering was the perfect preparation for leadership in the events industry

Vongrechin, owner of Detroit-based V Agency, spent 11 years as an engineer, working primarily in vehicle development. In that role she and her team traveled the world testing vehicles, which required significant planning and logistics. Vongrechin often helped with those details, so when she got laid off in the economic downturn, event planning seemed like the right direction. 

“Event budgets are the budgets that get cut first in a downturn, so it wasn’t the best time to do it,” Vongrechin says. “I didn’t know anybody in the events industry. But I had a mentor who had mentored me since college; she knows a lot of people, and she introduced me to a young lady who sells sponsorships. I started meeting more people and it just grew from there.” 

V Agency primarily plans corporate and nonprofit events, though social events and weddings are also part of its portfolio. Increasingly, V is planning large student events—and Vongrechin’s training as an engineer comes in handy there, too. 

“We do educational programming for the Grand Prix, and we got it because of my background—it’s all about STEM, but from the racing standpoint,” she says. “I’m also very creative, so I get to bring those two worlds together.

“I enjoy the management of events,” she adds. “It’s designing a client’s vision around some tangible things you can touch, and then seeing it come to fruition. There’s a shorter window from when I worked as an engineer—you have a concept of a vehicle, but it takes a few years before you see a full product. I like being a part from day one to the end. That’s the part that really, really makes my heart beat.”

Vongrechin is looking for office and warehouse space in Detroit for her growing agency.

“One of the things that’s important to me is that I live, work and play in the city,” she says. “The city is my heart. I’ve been here all my life. This is the hub where everything happens.”

In her free time, Vongrechin digs into cooking and crafts projects. She also gives back to the industry; she took the helm of ILEA Detroit Chapter as president in June, after several years as a member and a stint on the board. 

“I would like for us to be able to come together where we can share our successes, share our challenges and overcome whatever might be happening,” she says. “I don’t know everyone in our industry across the state, but I’m making my way.

Event planning and experience design go hand in hand. Just ask Maria Moyano, experience designer for the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), based in NYC. “I think that everything is an event. You can go have coffee, and that’s an event. Everything is also an experience. You feel happy, and that’s an experience. It’s about what you are trying to get out of the event—and then how does an experience elevate it,” says Moyano.

 

In the midst of the pandemic last year, Loris Menfi joined San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter and Riverwalk as general manager. At the time of her hire, Rivercenter had recently unveiled a renovation to its 70,000-plus square feet of meeting space.

 

Dorothy Hecht was just 16 years old in 1937 when she waited on her first table at what was then Fischer’s Restaurant in downtown Frankenmuth, and ecstatically earned her first 25-cent tip. When she met and eventually married William “Tiny” Zehnder, whose family owned Zehnder’s Restaurant across the street, her happiness continued, and a legacy began.