Mary Sprow – Chicago Hospitality Professional of the Month (October 2015)

October 16th, 2015 | hereschicago
Mary Sprow Chicago hospitality professional

Mary Sprow

Jim Grillo, CMP of HeresChicago.com interviews Mary Sprow of Topgolf Naperville – Chicago’s Hospitality Professional of the month (October 2015) 

How did you get into event planning?

I’ve started working as a server when I was 16, but everything changed when I started in management for Walter Payton’s Entertainment One.  But really, I think it’s in my blood.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

I have two.  David Tripoli of Trulucks, my operations mentor.  Also Garry Smyth of Boogie Nights & Bamboo Room, my marketing mentor.  Both great men in hospitality.

What kinds of things really make you laugh?

Hanging out with my team after a long week.  Seriously, they are the best.  We’ve all had those kinds of weeks and it’s great to like the people you work with.

What’s your favorite place in the entire world?

Snowmass, Colorado.

Who is your best friend? What do you like about him/her?

So many, but I’m going to go with the aforementioned Garry Smyth.  He’s out of the hospitality business and lives in Florida.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.

What is your favorite movie of all time? Why so?

At the risk of dating myself, it’s “Arthur”. Dudley Moore has some world class lines which I still reference to this day.

What’s your biggest goal in life right now?

To love what you do is so important and I truly love Topgolf and our core values.  My goal is to take Topgolf Naperville to the next level so we can open more and more in the Chicagoland market.

What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?

Hanging out on my patio in the country, playing with my puppy, kids and husband.  Not necessary in that order.  Or skiing.  Tough choice.

Do you have any pet peeves?

Don’t we all?  A messy desk makes me crazy.

What was your family like growing up?

The best! Both of my parents were educators.  We were always on some sort of adventure… camping, swimming, skiing, gardening, and searching for geodes, Chicago Ballet, the Lyric, things like that.  My parents always had a smile on their face and took us everywhere.

What were you like as a kid?

Adventurous. Talkative.  Laughing. My mom called me “her bubble”.

What should I know about you that I’d never think to ask about?

Well, I skated Roller Derby before.  Did you know that?  I love it.

Did you—or do you—have a nickname? What’s the story behind it?

Scary Mary for sure.  During college I was a diver… we did some scary things off the diving boards and platforms.

Have you received any praise or accolades recently?

I got over 200 likes once on Facebook, does that count?

What type of events you plan?

I plan mostly corporate meetings, but my team plans everything from kid’s parties, fundraisers, social parties and corporate outings.

What type of music do you love?

Country (shrug) and 90’s grunge.  Weird, I know.

What don’t people know about you?

I ride a motorcycle and I’m a volunteer EMT on the weekends.  I’m also certified to teach First Aid and CPR.  I can even teach pet CPR.  No joking.

What do you love about planning events in Chicago?

The diversity.  I simply love Chicago and the options that clients have.  The changing seasons offer different event perspectives throughout the year.  I personally like Hot Chocolate and S’mores Stations to keep toasty warm in the winter.  Many of our guests at Topgolf can’t wait for spring and get outside and moving!

What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)?

My kids just recently took me to Everest Room for my birthday.  It was amazing and a one-time experience.  Chilam Balam on N. Broadway is one of my favorites too.

When not working, what do you love to do?

I love to ski, roller skate and ride my motorcycle.  If I want to stay home, you can find me in my garden.

Besides your professional talent, do you have any personal talents? (Play guitar, etc.)

I used to be a diver in high school and college and went to Nationals.  We got kicked out of the hotel because of our shenanigans.

Have you ever sung karaoke? If so, what song?

You really don’t want to hear me sing.  If I could sing, I’d sing “Brand New Key”.  It’s about roller skates.

Future trends in event planning?

We’ve been seeing more and more guests interested in take-aways.  Something that can serve as a reminder of the event like a goody bay, trophy or certificate.  We also see a lot of guests using our mobile technology.  With the Topgolf app, guests and change the TV’s in the bays with their cell phone.

What does it take to be a successful even planner?

Aside from knowledge of your product and market, a successful event planner is able to connect with their client and understand the requirements of their specific event.  I also teach my team flexibility with grace and poise.  When things don’t go as they are expected, we need to be calm and professional, trying to find the “yes” for the client.  I like 100% of my clients to walk away with a great feeling that the event was successful because my client is my real boss.

What is your favorite color?

I always wear black but I love turquoise. Reminds me of the sea.

What are you passionate about?

I am always networking!  I love connecting people to their needed resources.

What do you recommend for others who want to get into the event planning profession?

A CMP or hospitality degree is great!  I also strongly recommend working in operations for a while.  Bartender, servers, chefs, and operation managers are our strongest allies. It only helps to have experience in one of those positions.  Nothing counts like experience.

Do you have any Association affiliations?

I am very active with our local chambers, AHCC, SBA, Naperville and Chamber 630 and MPI.   I also sit on committees with Meet Chicago Northwest and am active with Discover DuPage.

Are you a Cubs or Sox fan?

Go Cubs Go!!!

What’s your go-to meal when you’re home alone?

A selection of domestic and imported cheeses.  I’m a cheese snob.

What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?

I live in Wauconda and we have a very vibrant, active downtown area with a small town feel.

Which book(s) have you read multiple times?

The Alchemist.  It’s my go-to book.

What’s on your bucket list?

I’d love to meet Tom Petty.

What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had?

I dropped my motorcycle in front of my riding club, EMS Road Docs.  I was trying to back up and fell down. It was really stupid.

What was your First concert?

Burl Ives at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn?

I would be a Flight for Life EMT-P

What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com? 

Topgolf supports HeresChicago.com for a few reasons:  Topgolf is a non-traditional meeting and event space and Hereschicago.com is a great resource for quality meeting planners looking for unique facilities.  Those planners can find us easily for information on our social and corporate events. Hereschicago.com also lands on the first page of all search engines with geo targeted performance in the Topgolf specific markets, additionally helping our own organic search results!  When we receive qualified leads, the day gets even better!  The monthly e-newsletter keeps us up to date with the latest offerings and happenings in Chicago, keeping us current.  Topgolf and HeresChicago work together very well, supporting each other and staying active in the meetings and events community.

Mary Sprow is the Director of Sales for Topgolf Naperville and a Planner Preferred listing member on Hereschicago.com.  

Visit Topgolf Naperville for details or to email Mary Sprow directly.


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