Julie Knowles, Chicago Hospitality Professional of the Month (August 2018)August 24th, 2018 | hereschicago
First and foremost, can you tell us your current position, company and describe what you do?
I am an Account Executive with AFR Furniture Rental. My clients are in the Chicago suburbs and surrounding areas 150 miles outside the city and the Indianapolis market. I help my clients design unparalleled events nationwide ranging from Special Events, Corporate Meetings, Weddings, Conferences, Galas and everything in between. I create exceptional one-of-a-kind event spaces for my clients utilizing our functional furnishings and décor.
What aspects of hospitality do you incorporate in your business today?
I incorporate hospitality into my business every day, every person I meet I am trying to make their day better and help them be the Rockstar for their boss or client. Also, being active in our great associations and networking groups around the city and suburbs and knowing that we are all here to help each other out to make sure our clients get everything they need.
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?
My hospitality career began in the DC area working in political fundraising. My ‘aha’ moment definitely happened when I realized I no longer wanted to work in the political sphere but still very much wanted to stay in the event world.
How many years have you been in the hospitality business?
What qualities do you feel a person needs to have to be hospitality professional?
I think a hospitality professional needs to be Type-A and very patient. You must be able to think very quickly on your feet and sometimes be the one delivering bad news and you have to be comfortable with that.
What do you love about planning events in Chicago?
That there are an endless number of fantastic venues, planners and vendors to choose from and that each event can be as unique as you want it to be.
What are you passionate about?
I am truly passionate about serving my clients best needs. If that means 10 chairs, no problem, if that means 300 chairs, great. Let me know what you need, and I’ll make it happen. What excites me the most though is the design aspect of my job. I love the creative freedom that some clients allow to really think outside the box and show them something new and fresh. It challenges me and gets those creative juices pumping!
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Definitely my mom. She is such a strong influence on my work ethic and how I present myself. She has worked throughout my entire life and is a killer female CEO. I am so proud of her and everything she has taught me.
What kinds of things really make you laugh?
My favorite show ‘Parks and Recreation’ always makes me laugh!
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
I absolutely love our small family cabin in Taos, NM. I grew up going there with my family and skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. I love going back there, makes me feel like a kid again. But, I would love to continue exploring the world, I am a fan of always going new places on big trips because there are so many places around the world I want to experience.
What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?
My favorite Saturday is sleeping in late, getting up and having breakfast with my husband. Then going to the lake or doing a fun activity and then going out with friends for dinner and drinks.
Do you have any pet peeves?
People who over promise and under deliver.
What was your family like growing up?
My family growing up was honestly pretty great. Of course, my parents drove me crazy as most do to their kids at some point. I have a sister who is four years older than me that I really look up to and always followed a bit in her shadow, except the whole valedictorian thing, she is much smarter than me. We were always doing outdoor activities and I was very involved in soccer and show choir, so our nights and weekends revolved around that a lot. My parents really taught me a lot about working hard but always making time for your family.
What should I know about you that I’d never think to ask about?
I grew up in New Mexico and started skiing before I could walk, not sure how that works you can ask my dad. I love to ski and have been Heli-Skiing in Canada before! A helicopter takes you up the mountain and you ski down. It’s the hardest physical accomplishment I have ever achieved in my life and I can’t wait to go again someday!
Did you—or do you—have a nickname? What’s the story behind it?
My full name is Julianne, so I have pretty much always gone by my nickname Julie. I know I’m in trouble when I hear Julianne from my mom. There have been many variations of nicknames though, The Hoo, Hoolie, Hoolia, Jules, J-Train to name a few!
Have you received any praise or accolades recently?
NACE Rising Star 2018
Best NICE Team Event 2017
Engaged Member of the Month MPI-CAC, March 2017
AFR Elite Circle 2017
What type of events you plan?
I plan all types of events! Mostly in the corporate field of corporate meetings and events. But we do weddings, Mitzvahs, festivals, etc. Any event that needs furniture, we are there to help!
What type of music do you love?
This question is impossible, I love music in general, pretty much all genres. I was in choir and show-choir growing up, so I’ve always had a love for music and can respect any artist that has an actual talent.
What don’t people know about you?
I’ve lived in 5 states since graduating high school: New Mexico, Kansas, Virginia, Texas and now Illinois.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)?
My favorite fancy restaurant in the city would have to be Maple and Ash, probably the best meal from start to finish I’ve ever had.
When not working, what do you love to do?
My favorite part of each week is my volunteer time at PAWs Chicago. Animals are a true passion of mine and giving back to the animal community in Chicago is very important to me. I try to spend as much time there as I can hanging out with the pups!
Have you ever sung karaoke? If so, what song?
Even though I was in choir for years, I am NOT a soloist. So, karaoke scares me! I have only done it once on a family cruise in high school and my sister and I sang Backstreet Boys. I don’t remember the exact song though, I’ve blocked it out!
Future trends in event planning?
The trend in event seating that I see in my field is moving away from the traditional hotel or banquet rounds or row after row of the same chair and hoping for the best. When it comes to planning conferences, receptions, and events, think of seating not only as a functional piece, but as a tool that helps craft an experience for your guests. When designing a space, consider style and texture. Don’t be afraid to mix and match to create a unique vignette. Eclectic comfortable living room style set-ups and fireside chats are super-hot right now! Also, if you are not using a system like AllSeated or Social Tables to space plan your events you need to jump on that train!
What is your favorite color?
Turquoise all the way, I think it’s my New Mexico roots.
Do you have any Association affiliations?
I am a part of the MPI and NACE Chicago chapters.
Are you a Cubs or Sox fan?
I married into a Sox family, so I cheer for the Sox but am in no way a die-hard fan.
What’s your go-to meal when you’re home alone?
Home-made stove top popcorn with a dash of salt. I have it every time my husband is not home, and I love it!
What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and my favorite thing is the mountains and how outdoorsy everyone is.
What’s on your bucket list?
Visit all the National Parks, travel to Australia and New Zealand, and ride in a hot air balloon. Just 3 on my ever-growing list!
What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had?
I got in a bad car accident right in front of the high school as everyone was making their way to first period. Everyone saw me crying on the side of the road, I was mortified, and my car was totaled so overall not a great day.
What was your First concert?
Britney Spears on my birthday, it was AMAZING!
If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn?
I would love to study Interior Design!
What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com?
Hereschicago.com is such a fabulous resource for partners in the hospitality field and groups looking to come to our great city for their meetings or events. A really easy way to find great venues and things to do in the city all at your fingertips!