• 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.

Options for unconventional seasonal gatherings abound across the state. 

From cities teeming with bright lights to snowy small towns, Michigan is a winter wonderland. If you’re looking for a way to make your event or post-event outing more festive, consider these unique holiday offerings. 

Peacock Road Family Farm 

Laingsburg

 

After 36 years as director of the CVB, Peter Fitzsimons is retiring. By Shelley Levitt

In 1985, Peter Fitzsimons, a former hotel general manager, became the executive director of the newly formed Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. He never left. In June, the 73-year-old Detroit native announced that he’d be stepping down from the role at the end of the year. 

MIM+E: When did you begin your career in hospitality?

 

It began as the first Cadillac dealership outside of Detroit, then became a roller rink in the 1950s. Now, the High Five GR is reopened as a premier event space in downtown Grand Rapids. The original roller rink hardwood floors remain, as do the vaulted ceilings and oversized arched windows that showcase the city lights. What’s new is a state-of-the-art a/v system and an event team that can create custom floorplans and organize set up/teardown and load in/out logistics.