Spotlight On: Lori James-Brownell
President + Owner Lori James-Brownell started her career in meetings and events, with positions at companies such as Quaker Oats-Gatorade Division, Hyatt Hotels, Circle K Corporation, America West Airlines and MicroAge. Her vast experience in the production of annual meetings, client incentive programs, board programs and more, led her to understand the mechanics of corporate meeting planning responsibilities, deadlines, and budgets. This experience is intangible when it comes to a DMC partner. Lori has made it her mission to set higher industry standards, and to be a role model of what to expect from DMCs in other destinations. She has a passion for exploring the jewels of each destination, and sharing them with others, to create unique and everlasting experiences. With a genuine and vested interest in the overall success of each and every program, from 10 people to 5,000, Lori, and the AZA Team led by her example, is a true strategic partner. The success of AZA is the result of Lori's values, tradition, integrity, and industry knowledge; and her passion for her customers, client experience, and the end result.
Q: You bought the company from Amy Zak in 2001. Looking back over the last 15 years, did you ever expect to be where you are today?
A: It has sure been an exciting journey the past 15 years of owning the business with lots of interesting twist and turns along the way. One could have never expected when my husband, Roger, and I purchased the business February 1, 2001, what the future held in store for us with an already soft economy that year, then 9/11 and the many economic impacts & world encounters along the way. We have had to overcome a lot of obstacles but through our perseverance, commitment, dedication and endless hours over the business has grown leaps and bounds consistently increasing sales and creating a loyal client base. I certainly cannot take the all the credit; it’s the team and the clients we have that make AZA Events the business it is today.
Q: What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
A: That’s easy, making people happy and seeing guests leave our destination with smiles on their faces knowing we affected their lives in a small way. The other part I find fulfilling is being a mentor & teacher to my team giving them the skills to be one of the best DMCs in their industry. Additionally, the never ending process of learning new things; researching for cool innovative ideas and sharing my years of knowledge with our clients to achieve their desired outcome.
Q: What led to the Southern California expansion in 2014?
A: It was two-fold and all started when we purchased a second residence in San Diego in 2011 and our love for the destination like many others. Throughout the years, I saw the trend that many of our clients that was seeking Arizona also was sourcing SoCal for either the same program or for an alternative year. Given that SoCal is a top tier meeting and incentive destination similar to Arizona, it was a decision that made sense to expand. Our clients also encouraged us to make the move allowing them to enjoy our services in both destinations that they have become accustomed to love of the years.
Q: We know you live, eat and breathe AZA - but what do you enjoy doing during your free time?
A: I think everyone who knows by now I spend the majority of my time working. In fact, my team is always telling me to take a time out. My favorite thing to do is to spend time on my boat in San Diego where I can really relax and allows me to find my happy place. I have the best of both worlds of living in Scottsdale on a lake and then enjoying the beauty of Southern California. Additionally, like many of us in our industry, I love to travel and see the world. There are lots of places on my bucket list. Last year I got to capture the beauty of the French Polynesian Islands of Bora Bora, Tahiti, and Morrea.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future of the company?
A: My husband’s response would be retirement but that is not in store for me anytime soon. I love what I do and cannot imagine doing anything else. I am still in the process of growing the California market and it is my desire to be in a position to hire additional associates to our current operations. As an owner you are always looking at ways to grown the brand even though AZA is a well-known and respected company in the industry. I would also like to groom another “Lori” to support me in my sales efforts.