It may have taken Peggy Mayer a while to realize that she was made for hospitality and events, but she has sure made her mark in the industry ever since.
By the time she needed to start thinking about a career, Peggy was clueless. "I had no idea what I wanted to do," she said in a recent interview.
"I knew that Chicago sounded exciting; my brother-in-law would take my sister and me downtown during the holidays. I remember looking at the windows on State Street...Marshall Fields and Carson's..." Peggy's memory paused. "I'm from Kankakee," she chuckled as if only locals would understand. "I knew I wanted to move to the city. I had some friends who were working in hotels downtown, and that sparked some interest."
Peggy began her career at the Chicago Marriott Downtown. In her four years there, her personality and work ethic led to a rapid ascent from Front Desk Associate to many various management positions.
"I was told that I was a very good people person and people manager — which isn't something that can be trained," explained Peggy. Since managerial skills can't be taught and Peggy is a natural, it was easy for her to move ahead in the industry.
After a stint as Catering Sales Manager at Chicago's Whitehall Hotel and five total years in the hotel industry, Peggy transitioned into the field of corporate travel and event planning. Then in 2001, she started her own business: Spotlight Meetings and Events.
"I never dreamt I would do something like this," she said. "I was single at the time, and there were times when I ate a lot of ramen noodles. I had a credit card bill. But as the work began to come
in, I built a reputation for myself. So eventually I was able to build a flexible career and grow a family at the same time."
One of the coolest things she's ever done was to host and manage the travel of McDonalds' executives and operators who attended the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
"It was an amazing experience. I was gone for an entire month. I had applied for the opportunity as a freelance event manager, and my own business had only been going for about six months. I thought I was a little nobody, but I interviewed with them and they chose me." She managed their hospitality program, making sure rooms were ready, meals were ready, and offsite events tickets were ready. "It was amazing!" she said.
Peggy especially loves that her job keeps her on her toes.
"It is constantly changing, it's very social, and every event is different. I love problem solving and there's inevitably always something that comes up. But I wouldn't want to sit behind a desk all day anyway," she laughed. "I like the activity of it. I love seeing everyone having a good time. You work real hard, and people have a great time."
Since she is active in her local church and now that she has kids in school, it is hard for Peggy to say no to volunteering after people find out that she is an event planner. "I'm the PTO mom, running the bake sale," she laughed. "My kids got me a coffee mug that says, 'Note to self: STOP volunteering for stuff.' But I have a great husband and support system. I'm blessed to be able to have these opportunities."
Peggy lives with her husband Scott and their children Riley (12), Morgan (10), and Owen (3) in Kankakee.
To learn more about Peggy and her team at Spotlight, visit her website at www.spotlightmeetings.com.