Even with a personal-best sales record of $1 million in a month, Natalie Ennis, senior sales manager, Kalahari Resorts and Convention Centers, believes it’s quality, not quantity that matters.
“I don’t get caught up in the pressure of the industry quotas or benchmarks,” says Ennis. “My primary focus is helping my clients make their meetings the best they can be. A good experience speaks for itself.”
Originally from Verona, Wisconsin, Ennis attributes her professional success in the meeting planning industry to family influence. “I grew up in the hospitality and service industry around my family’s various business ventures,” says Ennis “so I was exposed to the hospitality and F&B industry at an early age. I think my first ‘job’ was helping my Grandma at Pizza Pub in downtown Wisconsin Dells, busing tables and serving slices of pizza at our first restaurant at 8 or 9 years old.”
Additionally, her uncle is Todd Nelson, founder of Kalahari Resorts and Convention Centers – all-under-one-roof meeting and vacation destinations that are home to America’s largest indoor water parks and state-of-the-art convention centers.
Don’t let the family connections fool you. Ennis’ enthusiasm for the hospitality industry has only grown stronger since those early years. “I held various positions throughout college at the first Kalahari in the Wisconsin Dells, which taught me a lot about the industry,” says Ennis. “I did complete a short stint at The Gap which just wasn’t for me – I quickly missed the hospitality industry and dove right back in!”
In 2004, Ennis graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Whitewater. In 2006, she achieved her Fashion Merchandising Degree from the Illinois Institute of Art. She brings over a decade of experience to her role at Kalahari Resorts, where she serves as the company’s sole group sales representative in the ultra-competitive Chicago market, selling regional and national meetings and conventions. Ennis has tackled this challenge head-on and is regularly one of the top salespeople company-wide. People are starting to notice – in 2013 she was named as one of Connect Magazine’s 40 under 40.
Ennis considers her grandmother Farlene Nelson and Uncle Todd Nelson as her biggest mentors. “They’ve not only helped form my career, but also have taught me life lessons that I carry with me in business every day,” says Ennis. Additionally, Ennis cites her first Director of Sales, Maris Brenner, as an incredible influence on her career path.
When asked what her favorite thing about the industry is, Ennis replies: “I love the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of hospitality sales. It’s great to not only meet new people from different markets, but to work closely with them to identify objects to create unique, successful meetings with a bottom-line ROI.”
Ennis is a member of the Greater Midwest Chapter PCMA and regularly attends events for members to become more familiar with the authentically African, Kalahari experience the company offers. Ennis considers her memberships in GMC PCMA and MPI CAC and Ohio Chapters both invaluable, noting, “As we all know, our industry is all about relationships. I enjoy meeting people at events and exploring how we can help each other with business opportunities!”
In her spare time, Ennis enjoys exploring the Chicago restaurant scene, staying active with pilates and fitness classes and making frequent trips back to Wisconsin to spend time with her family. She also noted that with the scheduled 2015 opening of Kalahari’s newest property in the Pocono Mountains, she is eager to tap into a new and exciting market.