A Meeting Planner To Know: Dana Ellis
Ellis International, 4688 Flag Avenue North, Minneapolis, 55428
Building on her more humble beginnings as a sales agent and flight attendant at Northwest Airlines, Dana Ellis launched her own event-planning business, for which she serves as president and CEO and produces diverse events for thousands of attendees.
She first broke into the meeting and event planning industry in 1989, when she joined Minneapolis-based meeting management company MSP Resources, Inc.
Ellis put in 12 years at MSP Resources, honing her talents as an executive meeting planner and managing director, before venturing out independently and founding her own meeting and event management company, Ellis International, in 2002.
Today, Ellis remains president, CEO, and owner of Minneapolis-based Ellis International, which boasts a client list that includes Land O’Lakes; apartment management company Dominium, Inc.; and the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Twin Cities Business also tapped Ellis International’s event planning services when temporarily between full-time event staffers.
During her more than 20 years of meeting and event planning, Ellis has gained experience in trade shows, fundraisers, incentive programs, corporate meetings, team-building events, holiday parties, and other special events. Her clients range from large corporations to small associations, and she has planned meetings everywhere from Hong Kong to Cancun.
An event Ellis is most proud of organizing is “AgNite, A Celebration of America’s Food & Ag Industry,” which she describes as one of the largest events held during the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC). The event wasn't directly associated with the RNC, but it was strategically held during the convention in order to attract attendees from both political parties.
The event drew more than 5,000 people to The Depot in Minneapolis and was designed to highlight the importance of the food and agriculture industries to the Minnesota economy on behalf of her client, the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council. Ellis was key in helping the event garner “Best Production” honors from the International Special Events Society.
“Finding available space, and then using it in a completely different way, working with the city regarding traffic, concerns about protests, selling sponsorships, managing vendors, budget, and expectations . . . and all in an extremely tight timeline were just a few of the challenges,” Ellis said. “We wrapped the walls of the covered parking so we could extend the build into that space, and had to bring in generators to meet our power needs. Each sponsor had a zone where they could highlight their company, product, or service.”
Ellis said it was one of the most fulfilling but exhausting events she ever organized. “We had to build it up in one day and tear it down immediately at the end of the night to make room for the next big event coming in,” she said. “I was awake managing the site for 48 hours straight.”
In addition to showcasing the best of Minnesota’s food and drinks, AgNite held a concert featuring rock band Styx, in addition to local bands.
Ellis says she is excited to see the meetings industry rebounding, as more clients are booking events farther into the future (more than six months in advance) again.
“In the recession, companies didn’t commit to an event until the last minute, forcing planners to work quickly to organize everything,” Ellis said. “It’s nice to see the trend turning back to booking a little farther in advance, giving us more time to get creative or negotiate the details.”
• University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, bachelor of arts in international relations with a minor in art history
• Ellis International, LLC, owner, president, and CEO (2002-present)
• MSP Resources, Inc., managing director and executive meeting planner (1989-2002)
• Northwest Airlines, reservations sales agent (1994-1996); flight attendant (1996-2004)
• Mutual of Omaha/Foreign Exchange, sales associate (1993-1996)
• TeleTicket/Airport Business Center, customer service representative (1988-1996)
• ISES award for Best Production for AgNite event, 2008
• Medal of Honor from Northwest Airlines, 2004
Outside activities & interests
When not traveling, she enjoys spending time with her family, working on home improvement projects, visiting art museums, going to the movies, and trying to find time to learn another language. (In addition to French, German, and Japanese, she’s now trying to learn Spanish).