The Business of Meetings – Episode 117 – The Number One Obstacle When Starting Your Business With Magdalena Bonnelly
Today we have the great pleasure of speaking with Magdalena Bonnelly, the Founder and President of Event Strategies! Magdalena has worked all over the world, including in corporate America. She has also volunteered in the industry. She has a wonderful story of entrepreneurship, decision-making, and re-inventing herself to share!
We hope you enjoy listening to today’s inspiring conversation with Magdalena Bonnelly!
Magdalena Bonnelly, MS, VEMM
A well-connected negotiator, Magdalena Bonnelly has spent the last 20 years servicing clients from around the globe–Europe, North and South America, and Asia–securing the seamless acquisition of event space, guestrooms, audio/visual equipment, food, and beverage service, and all the other key items that make your conference a success.
Known for her out-of-the-box thinking in strategic event planning and management, Magdalena was named one of 2021’s Smart Women in Meetings.
A queen of strategic partnerships, Magdalena collaborates with her clients, vendors, and suppliers to create meaningful events. Her strategic partnerships prove especially valuable in challenging times like the Covid-19 pandemic or when the client faces unexpected cancellations/postponement of the conference. Magdalena has helped her clients maintain flexibility and event agility, loyally representing her clients’ best interests while negotiating cancellations and event rebookings with suppliers.
Tough during supplier contract negotiations and resourceful for last-minute event rescues, she knows there’s a solution to every conference concern.
Magdalena holds a Master of Science in Business Management, a Bachelor of Arts in International Business and Economics, an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Travel, Exposition, and Meeting Management, and many widely recognized industry certifications.
In her personal time, she enjoys CrossFit, new-age teachings, volunteering with local animal rescues, and likes to try her hand at creative art forms like painting, music, and poetry. Magdalena lives in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, with her husband, toddler daughter, and four rescue dogs.
Magdalena was born and raised in Poland. After graduating from college in 2001, she came to the United States. Initially, her goal was to visit her uncle, go to school, and make some money working as a nanny. Then she met a wonderful family that insisted on her getting an education. So while working full-time, she also went to Richland College in Dallas and earned an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Travel, Exposition, and Meeting Management. Several years later, she got to know organizations like MPI and PCMA and became a student member of MPI. Then she met two ladies from a small boutique hotel in Dallas who offered her the chance to work as an intern in the hotel’s sales office. That afforded her an eighteen-year-long career opportunity in the hotel business. She became a Catering Coordinator, a Small Meetings Manager, and a Convention Sales Manager. Over the years, she worked her way up the career ladder, ending her corporate career as a National Sales Manager for Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation.
In the summer of 2019, she began her entrepreneurial journey by starting Events Strategies.
Having the support of her husband helped Magdalena navigate her tough career path.
Magdalena was born in communist Poland, where the government owned everything. The strict socialist regime did not allow any opportunities for entrepreneurship, so the first obstacle Magdalena faced was overcoming the conditioning she had had since childhood. It took a lot of work to change her mindset and rid herself of her doubts about becoming an entrepreneur.
Her first two customers
During her first month in business, Magdalena found two customers. She reached out to them because they had already formed a relationship while she progressed through her hotel career, and she knew they would want to keep working with her.
Magdalena was proud of getting her first two clients, but it was also nerve-wracking because she was aware of her responsibility to deliver!
It takes discipline to be a business owner
As a business owner working from home, Magdalena has to be disciplined. So she maintains social contact with others, walks her dogs often, and takes breaks from her work when necessary.
Magdalena had to be accountable for all of her actions and mistakes. So she needed to overcome her fear of responsibility and her tendency to think about everything that could go wrong.
As the hotels started shutting down and tours were getting canceled, Magdalena wondered what she could do to support her family. She tried not to panic and focused on what she could do. Then she received a call from a friend who convinced her to start a company with him.
Starting a business in the PPE space
They started a business in the PPE space, supplying PPE equipment to hotels, car rental companies, and even some government agencies. They kept the business going until the market got saturated. Then they parted ways, dissolved the company, and returned to their regular jobs.
Before Covid, Magdalena knew nothing about virtual meetings. She derived a lot of satisfaction from learning about technology and how different platforms could benefit her clients.
The virtual aspect is working well
The virtual aspect is working very well for Magdalena because she has a young daughter, so she is not eager to travel now. That could change as her daughter gets older, however.
Magdalena wanted to enhance her skills and experience, so she took advantage of the free training offered by various platforms.
Getting your hands dirty
Magdalena has learned that nothing will teach you as much as working, doing, and getting your hands dirty. She gained the most from jumping into virtual and learning as she went.
Magdalena feels that emotional intelligence comes from within, so you need to look for it to gain it.
Magdalena has been called aggressive, especially in the sales world. So she would like to work on her soft skills, like reading the room, adjusting to the energy in the room, reading body language, and any other kind of non-verbal communication to get further with other people.
Magdalena’s recommendations for people starting a business
Consistent marketing is vital for any business. Magdalena recommends that business owners invest in hiring someone to guide them through the first steps of marketing and help them understand the importance of social media marketing. For sales, being authentic, having common decency, and building a good rapport with others will work well for business owners.
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