Career Path

Tony Conway, CMP

Founder and CEO, Legendary Events, Atlanta

Tony_Conway_CMPEDUCATION Bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Texas at Houston.

MY FIRST INDUSTRY JOB In high school, I worked summer jobs for a few years at the Holiday Inn in Houston. In my senior year of high school, I moved to the front desk at the Hilton; there, I asked the hotel’s director of catering about the route to take to become a catering director. She stated that that position is typically for women — really! I was hooked on the hotel business.

MY LAST THREE INDUSTRY JOBSI spent 10 years with Marriott as the opening director of catering for four hotels; four years with Stouffer Hotels & Resorts in Orlando; and I was also director of catering for The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, in Atlanta, where I obtained my CMP certification.

WHAT I DOIn 1997, I opened Atlanta-based Legendary Events. In the last 15 years, Legendary Events has evolved into an award-winning special-events service that provides event production, off-premise catering, floral services, and alcohol management. We also own two special-event venues. I work daily with the most talented team in the special-events business.

MOST INFLUENCED IN MY CAREER BY  It was, and still is, my mother. As a single mother of three, she had to create an amazing business — and she did. I have also surrounded myself with a team of business mentors. Howard Halperns, founder of Buckhead Beef and Halperns’ [the Atlanta-based steak and seafood distributor], has been my go-to business mentor.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THEM  Although she’s now retired, my mother is an awesome businesswoman. I still remember how she taught me at the age of 14 to manage a paper route — which I did for four years, 600 papers a day. Since I started my own business, I still consult her on business ideas and questions.

Howard taught me about making sure that I take risks — that if I do not take risks, I would really never excel in the business. I have, and still do, take lots of risks, especially if they are well thought out and I feel that there is the possibility of a good outcome for my entire team. I’ve also learned about the importance of a great team, a great CPA, and a great attorney, and that contracts are a must.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT MY JOBEvery day, and every event, is different. It keeps me from getting bored! I have the best job, helping clients entertain through their events — and they pay for that!

MY NEXT CAREER GOALThe opening of our newest special-event facility, Flourish Atlanta, is going to keep me busy for a while.

MY ADVICE FOR YOUNG MEETING PROFESSIONALSMake sure you are getting the education that you need, and get involved with the industry. As you begin to grow in this business, be sure that you share the information that you’ve learned with others — it only helps our industry. And never quit learning. This is an ever-changing industry. If you get to the point that you feel you know it, you are in the wrong business!

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is a writer who specializes in food and drink.