Annie Freedman, Chicago Hospitality Professional of the Month (November 2017)November 27th, 2017 | hereschicago
First and foremost, can you tell us your current position, company and describe what you do?
What aspects of hospitality do you incorporate in your business today?
- On a daily basis I offer a friendly and warm delivery of entertainment through Lucky Strike Entertainment venues or my referrals of other like sources that may fit the needs of our clients.
Where did your hospitality career begin and when was that “aha” moment when you knew you were supposed to be in hospitality as a career?
- I started in hospitality as a Hotel Room Service Server when I was 15. I continued to work in restaurants all through high school and college. After College I found myself bouncing from one boring entry level tech sales job to the next. I kept night shifts at a restaurant and one day when our Catering Director, still one of my mentors today, asked me to assist her part time before my serving shifts. This gave me an opportunity to keep a decent income working in an environment I enjoyed while I continued my search for a “real job”. I set my sights on a career in this business when I realized bringing others joy through your service is not only a real job but it’s the best job.
How many years have you been in the hospitality business?
- 15 and counting
Why do you feel you are hospitality professional of the month? What would your friends say about you if they were nominating you?
- First I have to say, I was honored and shocked at this opportunity after only being in Chicago for 5 months. Building relationships and making friends in this industry is a real treat! I think qualify because I love to bring people joy. I have a true passion for hosting and accommodating the needs of everyone in my life. My friends would say a career in hospitality and events was a no brainer. I’ve been planning trips and events for our group since Spring Break 2002.
What qualities to you feel a person needs to excel in as a hospitality professional?
- To be successful in hospitality, one needs to be friendly, genuine and welcoming foremost. After that, it helps to be organized, enthusiastic, patient and committed. It helps to have strong communication and leadership skills too.
How did you get into hospitality field?
- The Summer I received my drivers permit (at 15 years old), I wanted my own car so badly that I lied to my aunt and told her I was already 16 so she could get me a job at the hotel where she was a Banquet Manager. I didn’t know much about hospitality at the time, I just saw it as my gate way to freedom. After a summer of delivering Room Service orders I had saved up enough for car and 1 years insurance. I did try other jobs throughout high school and college but I always found myself back in an area of hospitality.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
- I’ve been lucky to many mentors and influences in my life. Of them all, one of the General Managers I had the pleasure to work with was the biggest. He has in incredible energy a spirit that is contagious to everyone around him. I’ve been amazed over the years by his ability to motivate and coach the team through even the most difficult of times. My hope is to one day be as inspiring to others as he has to me and his teams.
What kinds of things really make you laugh?
- Mistakes or accidents. Like if someone spills a glass of wine on my carpet or trips on the sidewalk, I laugh uncontrollably. I think it’s a nervous habit that I need to break before I’m around when someone trips or slips and actually gets hurt.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
- I have been to many places all over the world and my most favorite of them all is …my bed. I look forward to going there and I hate to leave every day. Sleep is my favorite activity and my bed is the best place for that activity. I’m very particular about my pillows and bedding so I even have a spare pillow and sheets that I might bring with me when I travel.
Who is your best friend? What do you like about him/her?
- My best friend is my husband. We’ve been friends since college and he’s been there for all of the milestones of my adult life so far. He supports and motivates me in ways that no one else can. We are a team and I know that together we can accomplish anything.
What is your favorite movie of all time? Why so?
- Most favorite movie of all time is Great Expectations. The one with Ethan Hawk and Gweneth Paltro. I love everything from the cast, storyline, wardrobe to cinematography. It’s beautiful and I highly recommend it.
What’s your biggest goal in life right now?
- My Husband and I just purchased our first home (a condo) and we have been making upgrades to it. We started a kitchen project that included painting our cabinets the weekend we got the keys… 8 weeks later, the cabinets are still laid out in our guest room. We have learned a lot of the do’s and don’ts of cabinet painting and its going to be worth it when its finished. That being said, my biggest goal right now is to finish those cabinets!!
What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?
- I love to wake up early for a good workout, usually a spin or barre class. On a perfect Saturday, after my workout I head over to Big Star for breakfast taco’s and la Columbe draft latte. Followed by errands or furniture shopping. At some point in the afternoon there is a nap (at least an hour). Then my husband and I will join friends at a fun restaurant (the options in Chicago are endless) for dinner.
Do you have any pet peeves?
- Top three:
- Clipping fingernails in public. I once shared a closet office (as most restaurants offer) with someone who clipped nails at their desk. YUCK!
- When I open and email and it starts with… “Per my last email”.
- People who are late (or early) without notice.
What was your family like growing up?
- In one word… CRAZY. They still are and I love them for it!
What were you like as a kid?
- Smart and sneaky.
Did you—or do you—have a nickname? What’s the story behind it?
- My nickname is “Animal” or “Annie-mal”. Its silly how it came to be- I assure you it had nothing to do with my persona…lol. My college roommate and his friends found some silly cartoon on YouTube where stick figures joked about “Ani-mals”. This was when MySpace was still a thing and they posted the video on my “page”… it spread through our group. From there is just stuck and a lot of friends still call me “Annie-mal” today.
Have you received any praise or accolades recently?
- I’ve been top producer and MVP in my company but I think Hospitality Professional of the Month is the biggest level of praise I have ever received.
What type of events you plan?
- At Lucky Strike and For the Win I assist in the sales and planning of FUN. Anything from social gatherings to corporate team builders.
What type of music do you love?
- Anything Rap, Hip Hop or Beyoncé
What do you love about planning events in Chicago?
- The clients are friendly and opportunities are endless. This city has EVERYTHING to offer, no matter what your event need is.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)?
- Since moving to Chicago, I have been blown away by the food. At the moment my most favorite restaurant is Beatnik on Chicago Ave. Not only are the food and drinks incredible but the ambiance and décor are incredible!
When not working, what do you love to do?
- I mentioned earlier that we just bought our first home and my favorite thing to do is look for ways to upgrade and decorate it. I literally spend every free moment on Pinterest and home décor sites.
Have you ever sung karaoke? If so, what song?
- I have. I promise it’s a site (and sound) no one should ever experience so I try not volunteer. On occasion when I am forced, my go to song is “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.
What is your favorite color?
- To wear… black. Of the rainbow… purple.
What do you recommend for others who want to get into the hospitality profession?
- Start in a restaurant… Hosting, Serving or Bartending. Not only do you get a very quick sense of what accommodating others feels like but there is something about the comradery and sense of family that a restaurant offers. It gives you a true sense of the industry as a whole.
Are you a Cubs or Sox fan?
- Umm… Giants.
What’s your go-to meal when you’re home alone?
- Chips and Salsa… I might add queso if I’m feeling spicy.
What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?
- That my family is always there waiting for me with all of favorite delicious snacks and baby cousins for me to love on.
What’s on your bucket list?
- Traveling to italy
What was your First concert?
- This is a good one- my first concert was a Lilith Fair in 1997. My older cousin took me when I was 12 years old to see a fantastic line up that consisted of Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Jewel, Paula Cole, Suzanne Vega, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Fiona Apple.
If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn?
- Interior Design. I love designing the spaces in my home and themes for events… I just wish I was better at it.
What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com?
- Hereschicago.com was the first hospitality resource I discovered when I moved to Chicago. After making my way through the website, it was easy to see what an incredibly useful tool this must be for meeting/event planners and hospitality professionals alike. I reached out to the creator and founder Jim Grillo to introduce myself as the new contact for our venues (which are both listed on the site) on my very first day in the office. I discovered quickly the reason HeresChicago is so amazing… it’s because Jim is so amazing. From the very first call I made, Jim has graciously shared so much of his valuable time and endless list of resources with me time and time again. As a participating venue with HeresChicago, I receive hundreds of quality valuable leads that drive the awareness and sales of our spaces Lucky Strike and For the Win. Through the HeresChicago events and Jim, I have been introduced to many wonderful industry contacts I can call my friends. I can’t recommend the site enough to my clients and partners! My only wish is that Jim would expand his concept into other markets!!!