They may be short on years—nobody is 40 yet--but they're long on talent, brains and dedication. Here is our annual look at the rising stars in special events
KEEPS CALM AND CARRIES ON
Alexis Nicole Andrade, 25, event coordinator, Designs by Sean, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Andrade got off the blocks fast in special events: "Within my first two years studying at Florida International University, I world in the Office of Special Events and Protocol assisting with all of the presidential events for the university," she says. The secret of her success is her ability to stay cool on-site. "There could be a million things running through my head but no one will ever know I was concerned."
THE HUMAN TOUCH
Lauren Bettcher, 26, program manager, Total Event Resources, Chicago
Bettcher started as an intern at Total Event Resources and has already been promoted twice because she is "smart, resourceful, creative and loves her work," says company founder Kathy Miller. "And it shows in how happy our clients are." Bettcher already looks beyond an event itself: "I believe that by continuing to increase my understanding of all facets of the industry, I'll only strengthen my relationships in this industry. And that's the best part of the job—the human aspect of our work."
Jennifer Cody, 35, owner, Egomedia Photography, Washington
From a job at the International Monetary Fund to owning a photography studio? An unorthodox career path but the perfect one for Cody, praised by admirers for her "stunning" work, great head for business, and creation of a brand that stands for quality and service. She finds wedding clients particularly gratifying: "I love to think about the fact that years from now, their children will be looking through their album and have a chance to see the day that their parents became a family."
OUT OF THIS WORLD
Justin Cohen, 34, managing partner, Best Events, Los Angeles
A whopping 40,000 guests over the last three years have enjoyed The Taste, the multiday L.A.-based food and wine festival dreamed up by Cohen and company founder Jeffrey Best. Cohen credits his ability to adapt to each client's needs as one secret of his success, and it's a skill he'd like to take out of this world—literally. As a kid, he dreamed of being an astronaut. And with SpaceX already his client, "I'm holding out hope that they will one day be asking me to produce an event for them in outer space."
Rheana Coon, 30, owner, White Lotus Productions, San Diego
Though she's only 30, Coon has already been in events for 20 years. She started helping with her father's catering company at age 10, then worked at the local flower stand at age 15. Her willingness to "bend over backwards" to make her clients happy pays off. "A few years ago, I was involved in the design and décor of a fundraiser at a private home," she recalls. "The event was over-the-top spectacular and the client loved it so much that he decided to do it again two weeks later for his birthday party."
THE DIGITAL FRONTIER
Matt Flachsenhaar, 26, line producer, Broadstreet, New York
When Broadstreet's clients trend worldwide on Twitter, CEO Mark Baltazar says, the credit goes to Flachsenhaar: "He's passionate about using social media to provoke conversation and action." Flachsenhaar sees potential in extending events via digital channels: "My favorite activations at events are ones that allow the attendees to take something physical and make it digital, or vice versa. Like live music, special events will be around forever, but the way people consume them may change. I believe giving someone a physical touch point to a digital activation will usually elicit an overwhelming response."