I was way too young to be gogo dancing in a nightclub (yes, that’s how I got started in this industry), but I knew the promoter and he hooked me up. I eventually met the owner of the club, almost 6 months after I started dancing, and we hit it off well. I was promoted to “lead dancer” and was in charge of hiring all of the girls, their wardrobe, and their pay. It doesn’t sound like much, but at the time and for where I was in my life, it was everything. Soon after, I established myself with the IL Dept. of Labor and registered ShowGirlz Entertainment, Inc. as a talent agency, which allowed me to take a percentage of earnings from the girls I helped get dancing and modeling jobs. I met everyone from nightclub promoters to movie stars, because everyone loves a showgirl.

My business was booming, but I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I had this nagging thought, ‘can I still do this when I’m 50?,’ and it haunted me. Because essentially the only reason I was so successful was because I was young, hot, and sociable. Then it happened… I got pregnant. I tried to keep up the act, but it wasn’t worth it to me anymore. All of a sudden my needs changed and I found myself hanging with a more mature crowd, making an entirely new group of friends. And these were people I knew all along but never developed the relationship because we were on two different playing fields. The future that I feared was in my present; it was right now. And unfortunately for me, my reputation was not manifested by what most would consider socially acceptable, so convincing new prospects to take me seriously was a challenge to say the least. I was morphing from ‘promoter’ to ‘internal promoter’ (I’ll explain more later) and life as I knew it had changed forever.

Everyone that works in the hospitality industry should be promoting the business they work for. Therefore, that makes you a promoter. There’s a big difference between a ‘promoter' and an 'internal promoter.

Brandon Carone, Marketing Director at Mercadito Restaurant.

Side Note – Internal promoters work directly with the brand and treat it as their own. These are your Directors of Marketing, PR Firms, General Managers, etc. Promoters are your party pushers and they rep several different venues at the same time, making money off of head counts and the bar.

A common argument is pay. Promoters think they deserve more money than they do. The restaurant’s sales should be a direct driver of how much the promoter gets paid. There’s a value to ambiance, but it’s at what cost? Promoters care mostly about how they are perceived to their following. Managers or internal promoters, think of operations for the general public. Bottom line verses ambiance is key. You have to know your bottom line yet you still need ambiance. I strongly believe that working with promoters is an investment and longevity should be the focus.

Brandon Carone, Marketing Director at Mercadito Restaurant.

I met Brandon Carone several years back, through the industry of course. He was orchestrating one of the biggest beach festivals, Wavefront, that Chicago had ever seen. He’s the perfect example of someone that evolved from promoter to internal promoter and has done a fabulous job retaining his network all while developing new networks that work simultaneously and in harmony together.

"Your shelf life is only as strong as you, because you’re the only one that carries those relationships. There are very few times when this doesn’t matter, but it’s rare.” says Brandon. And this is why it’s so important to have an exit strategy. And although you may look at promoters in a negative light, there are several that have made serious careers from it and have worked the system to it’s maximum potential. Surreal for instance, is a great example of this. But I bet you can’t name one other promoter in Chicago that was as successful, so as Brandon said, it’s rare.

What advice would you give to the promoters of today?

“Everything in my life is tied together. From real estate to restaurant management to promoting. Promotions should be used as a networking tool. And you can’t be taught this, it’s either natural or it’s nothing. In it’s best, promoting, if done right, can be a lucrative career. But you have to be passionate and you have to be exceptional at it. There has to be an end game or exit strategy, otherwise you’re going to naturally have a decline that you can’t bounce back from.” says Brandon.

Oddly enough, starting in promotions was probably the best thing I could have done to launch my career and network. I couldn’t possibly have met more people any other way. Promotions for me was merely a tool and it’s still relevant in everything I do. Being a promoter is probably not the best career choice for most, but using promotions to launch that career choice is genius. So kudos to all of the promoters gone managers, you’ve worked the system and created longevity for yourselves. That proves you’re adaptable and that you’re irreplaceable.