Saira Banu Kianes, CMP HMCC

President, Banu Event Solutions & Training (B.E.S.T) LLC

Persistence, Ingenuity, Passion

Best Advice Received: “There is a time and reason for everything that happens in your personal and/or professional life. When you recognize that reason without trying to find the reason, you become the winner.” “When things are out of your control, let it go.” “Opportunities are always available; don’t wait for it to knock on your door. Leave the door open. Welcome it, learn it and ace it.”

Everest Moments: I started my own company 10 years ago, traveled around the world four times in 2019 and, after being diabetic and on prescription pills, I was able to become prediabetic on my own with no more medication.

Next Summit: Health, work for the International Olympic Committee, and work and live in another country for a year.

Lisa Carrel

CEO and Co-Founder, Proxfinity

Understanding, Calm, Goals

Best Advice Received: I once read that humans have a tendency to spiral. When one thing goes wrong, you start to see more things that are wrong and before you know it, everything is a mess. I’ve found that by understanding human nature, I am able to see a problem as a single problem and stay optimistic and upbeat about other aspects of work and life.

Everest Moment: I just had a call with someone who said, “This is the most disruptive technology I have seen in decades.” When we started, people said we were crazy not to simply tackle the problem of connecting people human-to-human using technology by building an app. We said, if you use an app to connect people, you’re adding to the problem. I’m excited to say that the world seems to have caught up, and I couldn’t be more enthused to have validation from influencers in our space!

Next Summit: Arm every event participant with a Proxfinity CUE and increase every business event’s “human-to-human” ROI!

Nikole Fridenmaker, CMP

Business Event Expert, Fridenmaker Consulting

Perseverance, Determination, Honesty

Best Advice Received: My father gives great advice. His big key words were responsibility, accountability and integrity. One of his favorite phrases is “examine all your options.” I believe that has been key in helping me to structure my thought process to really think things through and look at things from multiple angles.

Everest Moment: Leaving a successful, stable, safe position with people and an organization I enjoyed to create my own consulting, speaking, and training business. Believing in myself and the industry that I love, knowing I can have a significant impact and truly help the industry in a unique way.

Next Summit: Elevating business meetings and events so they are viewed as integral to business strategy success.

Tracy Judge, MS, CMP

Founder and Chief Connector, Soundings Connect

Design a solution

Best Advice Received: “You’re not for everyone (and that’s OK).” For many years I tried to please everyone. It was exhausting. The truth is, the more you accept your true self, the more like-minded people you will attract, and the more authentic life you will lead.

Everest Moment: The day I left my job to start my own business. It was a scary decision that took more courage than I knew I had. The confidence I had in myself that day was one of the most freeing experiences of my life.

Next Summit: Innovating meetings and events by creating opportunities and professional freedom for freelancers.

Jessica Levin, CMP, CAE

President, Seven Degrees, LLC

Thinking, Confidence, Attitude

Best Advice Received: A CEO told me his secret to success was being laser-focused. When my mind goes in a million directions, I remember his words and channel my energy to one thing, and my results are infinitely better. It sounds simple, but it’s one of the hardest things to do.

Everest Moment: The day I launched my first book, I had a party. Walking into a room where friends and strangers came to celebrate my insight was overwhelming, humbling and motivating. I had dreamed of writing a book for as long as I could remember. Perfect Pairings: The Art of Connecting People becoming a reality was indescribable.

Next Summit: I want to write a fictional book. I’ve started, and it is hard.

Robyn Mietkiewicz, CMP, CMM

Strategic Partner, INNOV8 Meetings + Events

Perseverance, Persistence, Grit!

Best Advice Received: The power of goal-setting, both personally and professionally. I’ve had some incredible mentors along the way who have encouraged me to regularly reflect on my goals. I think people often get paralyzed by fear and the busyness of life. Breaking them down into manageable steps and having a strategic plan in place is critical.

Everest Moment: One of the most challenging and, ultimately, most rewarding roles in my career was as president of MPI Orange County Chapter. I was responsible for managing a 19-member board and 400-member chapter. To see the goals we set forth at the beginning of our term, the challenges we faced along the way, and the tenacity and team effort was just unparalleled.

Next Summit: Excited to begin working on a new meeting and event planning curriculum for University of California, Irvine.

Kelley Mulvey-Hofmann, CMP

President and Global Certified Meeting and Event Planner, Irish Eyes Events, LLC

Determined, Calm, Reliable

Best Advice Received: “Would you rather be cheesy and rich, or cool and broke!?” This phrase has applied to all areas of my life in different ways, as I have had to choose between risk-taking and thriving, or scared and stagnant.

Everest Moment: Thirteen years ago, I laid out a road map for my career, including baby steps and milestones on when/how I would achieve my career goals in the meetings and events world. This included obtaining my CMP by age 30, gaining comprehensive and multifaceted industry experience and ultimately starting my own business by age 35!

Next Summit: Expanding my business to include one-to-one coaching for those looking to take their careers to next level.

Cheryl Payne, CMP, CMM

Strategic Partner, INNOV8 Meetings + Events

Positivity, Neutrality, Facts

Best Advice Received: “Dream big! Set goals that seem unattainable and find a way to make it happen.” Thankfully, I have a great imagination, and I can visualize my path and make it happen. I am best at following a path when there is a plan to get there.

Everest Moment: Professionally, I am so proud of my accomplishments thus far. A high point in my career has been starting a business after being with the same company for over 15 years. I left my comfort zone, and it took everything I had to step outside of the box. The ultimate Everest moment was knowing that my industry friends, colleagues and customers supported me 100 percent! Personally, meeting my husband (who is also in the hospitality industry) and having our kids made it extra special.

Next Summit: The next summit that I plan to scale is growing a new business. I also plan to continue to mentor and work with students who look for guidance in our evolving industry.

Heather Pilcher, CSEP, CMP

CEO and Executive Producer, Blue Spark Event Design

Forethought, Communication, Calmness

Best Advice Received: “Love what you do, and try your best to be genuine, honest and service-oriented.”

Everest Moment: Taking the leap to start Blue Spark Event Design. This industry helped me develop tactics that are customer service-oriented, creative and methodical. Now, we are celebrating our eighth year in business. Our team is growing, our events are celebrated and our scope is international.

Next Summit: Aiding clients globally to bring success to their sales through interactive and experiential conference design.

Tiffany Rose Goodyear

Owner, Sentology

Conviction, Composure, Credence

Best Advice Received: “Become resilient; embody the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” Owning a small business means unexpected challenges happen every day. Being resilient allows me to gain perspective on a less-desirable situation and the confidence to get back up and try again or find another solution, no matter what.

Everest Moment: Having the confidence to launch a second company in the event industry, providing a service that caters to sensory experience and challenges the status quo of how event professionals think about and incorporate scent into meetings and events.

Next Summit: Growing my business to the point of having a footprint in cities all over America.

Sarah Shewey

Founder and CEO, Happily

Values, Listen, Innovation

Best Advice Received: “To produce great stories, you’ll need to have a great one of your own.”

Everest Moment: When the number of event planners on Happily was greater than the number of event planners reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Next Summit: Achieve mass adoption of best practices in sustainable events within the Happily network.

Courtney Stanley

Motivational Speaker, Writer and Career Success Coach, CS Consulting

Courage, Integrity, Grit

Best Advice Received: “You are the only thing holding you back.” You have everything it takes to succeed. You just have to believe in yourself, choose your tribe wisely and move.

Everest Moment: My mission is to turn challenges into opportunities that allow people to grow, be inspired and truly understand how valuable they are. This year, I launched Dare to Interrupt, the event industry’s first-ever podcast that is built by women, for women, providing a platform for our community’s most successful, fierce women to share inspiring stories of hard work, of adversity, and of triumph… uninterrupted.

Next Summit: I am standing at the bottom of a very tall mountain. I have set my goals incredibly high and am excited and ready for the climb. At the top of the summit, I see that I have published a best-selling book (or two!) and am keynote-speaking on stages all around the world, making the greatest positive impact I possibly can.

Back to the Smart Women in Meetings Awards 2020