KURT COLONE WAS A CLASS CLOWN GROWING UP. "Looking back, I always liked telling jokes and stories," he says. "I did the announcements at school, and I’d always add a little flavor."

Those skills served him well at Detroit’s biggest rock radio station, 101.1 WRIF, where he met Mike Staff more than 20 years ago. He learned the DJ business with Staff, and quickly realized he preferred private celebrations to bars and clubs. He joined Mike Staff Productions in 2001; today he’s the company’s director of business development and entertainment.

"I hired all my friends to work here, and it’s turned out pretty darn awesome," he says. The company offers DJs, emcees, videography and photography services, and has grown from 150 events a year to 1,500. Colone credits hard work and the golden rule for its success. "We work our butts off and treat people the way we want to be treated," he says.

Colone grew up in Ann Arbor, attended Eastern Michigan University, lives in Clarkston, works in Troy and has season-ticket seats on the Detroit Tigers’ first baseline at Comerica Park. His commitment to Michigan and leadership in metro Detroit’s events industry has made him a natural choice to host the Best of Michigan Meetings + Events Awards.

Television personalities like Jimmy Fallon and Ryan Seacrest inspire Colone; he says he admires their ability to put guests at ease and help them enjoy themselves.

"I love being able to put other people in the spotlight," he says. He maintains his upbeat attitude at home, too. Colone and his wife have a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old twin sons. He says he does his best to unplug at home so he can be present with his family. He and his wife spend lots of time in the kitchen recreating dishes from their favorite cooking shows, and he loves playing with his kids. "If you’re having fun," he says with a grin, "it’s going to trickle down."

(Get Connected: Mike Staff Productions // 248.689.0777)

Ken Hayward has spent nearly his entire career serving at one hotel. But when you start your career at one of the most iconic and historic hotels in Michigan— even the nation—it’s hard to see yourself anywhere else. Hayward, executive vice president and managing director of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, was recently named Hotelier of the Year by Historic Hotels of America. This honor comes decades after Hayward was given an unexpected opportunity.


At just 16, Jack Schripsema had already set a long-standing hospitality career in motion with his first job washing dishes at the local Holiday Inn.


“Cannabis can have a presence in the dinner entrées and the desserts at an event. One of our panel experts from the event, Chef Sunflower [aka Enid Parham], plans the meals with ‘microdoses’ of cannabis so there is not too much consumed at one time,” says Connie Seibt, event manager and vice president of programs and education, ILEA Detroit. “It should be planned ahead for the type of cannabis to infuse in the foods, i.e. providing a relaxing mood versus high energy.