Seminar Presenters

Western Seminar: April 13-14, 2015 | Portland, Oregon
Eastern Seminar: April 27-28, 2015 |  Norfolk, Virginia


2015 Regional Seminar Session Presenters



Susan Blizzard
CEO, Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc.
Susan has operated Blizzard Internet Marketing, a provider of online marketing solutions for hospitality companies, for 18 years. After earning her MBA from Columbia University, she worked with middle market and start up companies on Wall Street until she started up her own company. The Blizzard team provides a full suite of online marketing services, as well as designs websites with reservation engines that connect to popular vacation rental management software programs.
SESSION(S): Fix It And Forget It: Follow A Review Strategy That Cooks Along With Your Business
 


Eric Breon
CEO, Vacasa
Under Eric’s tenure, Vacasa has built custom property management software, organically added more than 800 vacation rentals in 30+ destinations and completed six acquisitions. Immediately prior to Vacasa, Eric was the co-founder and president of Oregon Green Solutions, an energy efficiency retrofitting company. Eric's prior experience also includes managing strategy and analysis at Genesis Financial Solutions and Capital One and analyzing startups as an analyst and associate at Highway 12 Ventures.
SESSION(S): Recruiting New Homes and New Homeowners: Best Practices and Pitfalls



Scott Breon
Chief Revenue Officer, Vacasa
As chief revenue officer for Vacasa, Scott has been working to utilize the power of data within the vacation rental industry. While this new field may be complex—like building rate optimization algorithms or applying customer data to targeted marketing strategies—Scott's efforts have always been in service of a simple goal: leverage data to deliver a better vacation rental experience to homeowners, guests, and vacation rental management teams.
SESSION(S): Adapt or Die: Strategies to Thrive in 21st Century Vacation Rental Management (Eastern Seminar Only)



Ali Cammelletti
Owner/Consultant, Cammelletti Consulting, LLC
Ali has more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry. She has served in many capacities within the industry, from a front-line restaurant and lodging employee to owner of a successful event planning business for eight years. Ali also served as a part-time instructor in the hospitality program at Central Oregon Community College for eight years, teaching customer service, event planning, retail management and lodging management. Ali has been independently consulting with businesses on customer service including phone skills, front-line customer service, sales and leadership techniques for more than 14 years. Most recently she was a business consultant for a software company that helped resorts and lodging establishments drive revenue. In addition to consulting, Ali currently teaches information technology systems, hotel and lodging operations and hospitality technology systems for Le Cordon Bleu’s hotel and restaurant management program.
SESSION(S): Providing Excellent Customer Service (Western Seminar only)



Brise Carpenter
Client Success Manager, NAVIS
With significant business experience in both the insurance and financial industries, Brise has acted as a business operations consultant, while also managing client relationships, overseeing business consultants and customer service representatives. During his time at NAVIS Brise has successfully coached and consulted 5-Star, 5-Diamond hotels and resorts, as well as a professionally managed vacation rental management companies. Over the past 3 years he has been responsible for helping his clients drive millions of dollars in additional incremental revenue.  He now leads and coaches the client advocate team at NAVIS to ensure client success through the use of NAVIS’s diverse suite of products and services. Brise is also passionate about providing coaching around organizational leadership, team building and marketing, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and Organizational Leadership from George Fox University and a Masters of Business Administration from Concordia University.
SESSION(S): Three Ways to Become a Reservations Sales Agent Superstar (Western Seminar only)



Kenny Cassady
Director of Business Development, Oranj Palm Vacation Homes
Kenny bring more than 20 years of business development and strategic partnership development to his role in the vacation rental industry. He speaks at real estate agent offices and special events around the Coachella Valley on vacation rental relevance in the property sales process, and is a "go-to expert" for local media on vacation rentals. He also serves on the City of Palm Springs Architectural Advisory Committee to the Planning Commission.
SESSION(S): Managing Homeowner Partners (Western Seminar only)



Sharon Clark
Director of Partner Success, LiveRez
Sharon has over a decade of experience in the vacation rental management industry. Currently, she conducts knowledge management services to property managers across the country through her role, spearheading LiveRez's partner success division. Her daily interaction with professionals spans the globe from France to California as she facilitates best practices and industry standards that directly impact the growth of those operations. Her role over the past two years at LiveRez has allowed her to not only utilize her skill set and background as a property manager and hospitality professional for 15 years, but also bridge the communication between a dynamic software solution and professionals in the field, utilizing the the plethora of tools it offers.
SESSION(S): Are You Leaving Money on the Table?



Sean Conway
Chief Executive Officer, Pillow Homes
Sean is a travel enthusiast who founded Pillow Homes to create a new way for travelers to open their homes to guests. Pillow Homes brings freedom to hosts while giving more guests the opportunity to have a home anywhere. Prior to this role, Sean was the co-founder and CEO of Notehall.com, a marketplace for study materials that revolutionized the college studies world.  In three short years the young company spread to over 225 campuses with more than half a million users. Sean appeared on the TV show “Shark Tank,” and Notehall became one of the top successes in the show's history. Notehall was also named one of the top five media tools for college students by US News and sold to Chegg.com in 2011. For Sean's ingenuity, he was named one of the "Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25" by Business Week in 2009. Sean is an active angel investor and mentors startups and programs like BUILD.org in his free time.
SESSION(S): Recruiting New Homes and New Homeowners: Best Practices and Pitfalls (Presenting at Western Seminar only)



Matt Curtis
Director of Government Relations, HomeAway
Matt works to establish best practices for the vacation rental industry, including government relations. Matt’s past roles include serving on a number of political campaigns, holding high-level positions for various local and state public figures and working as a publicist for 20th Century-Fox and a variety of independent film projects. In addition to serving on the VRMA Board of Directors, Matt serves on the U.S. Conference of Mayors Business Council, where he developed a policy on vacation rentals that was adopted in June 2012. He has previously served on the Urban Policy Advisory Board at Harvard’s Kennedy School, as well as on the Boards of Meals on Wheels, Austin Pets Alive, Students of the World, Heritage Society of Austin and EPIC-Hill Country Conservancy.
SESSION(S): A Growing Number of Government Restrictions: How to Engage and Create Positive Regulations



Ben Edwards
Manager, Newman-Dailey Resort Properties/Weatherby Consulting, LLC
As a respected and innovative industry leader, Ben has been positively affecting the real estate and vacation rental industries for more than 15 years. From managing small resorts, to financial and operational auditing, to opening large scale resort developments, Ben’s unique background provides a multi-level approach to consulting, transaction and advisory services.  Since joining VRMA in 2000, he has been involved in numerous industry initiatives. Ben served on the VRMA board of directors from 2005-2011, including serving as treasurer from 2009-2011. In addition to serving as President, since 2013, Ben is currently a member of VRMA’s finance committee and has previously served on the HomeAway advisory board, the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association board and as an advisory board member for Vacation Rental Expo, the industry’s first consumer-based tradeshow.
SESSION(S): Understanding the Income Statement



Brandon Ezra
Chief Executive Officer, Grand Welcome
Brandon is a successful pioneer in the vacation rental industry. In 2007, he developed, launched and managed JetLivingHotels.com, the first independent condo-hotel management company. After achieving rapid success, JetLivingHotels.com was acquired within a year of its launch. Brandon has also acquired Mammoth Property Reservations, a vacation rental and management company located in Mammoth Lakes, California.
SESSION(S): Recruiting New Homes and New Homeowners: Best Practices and Pitfalls (Presenting at Western Seminar only)



Justin Ford
President, On the Water in Maine
Along with his wife Tiffany, Justin has successfully created and developed five different businesses over the past 10 years. A sailor, Justin started his career in the U.S. Coast Guard. After becoming a civilian again, he gained his captain’s license and worked for several influential individuals and corporations, running their yachts. For 11 years, Justin worked for credit card bank MBNA America, where his role evolved from managing corporate yachts to overseeing systems operations in their credit card collections department. Since jumping into the vacation rental industry, Justin has led On the Water in Maine to become an industry leader in vacation home management and marketing services in the New England region. Justin also owns and operates Camden Vacation Rentals, Boothbay Vacation Rentals and Maine Watercraft Rentals. Justin serves as an officer on his local fire department in Rockport, Maine in his spare time.
SESSION(S): Are You Leaving Money on the Table?; The Dangers of Renting Vacation Homes: What Every Manager Must Do To Protect Renters, Owners, and Themselves (Presenting at Eastern Seminar only)



Carmela Gillenwater
Product Marketing, HomeAway Software
Carmela is the product marketing manager for HomeAway Software. She has worked in the vacation rental industry for more than 25 years, both as a supplier and an operator. Carmela has held numerous positions with First Resort Software and ResortQuest and has performed general manager duties on a contract basis. She is currently based in Austin, Texas.
SESSION(S): Seven Habits for Effective Lead Management



Evan Hammer
CEO, Smart Host
Presenter bio coming soon.
SESSION(S): Adapt or Die: Strategies to Thrive in 21st Century Vacation Rental Management (Presenting at Eastern Seminar only)



Jill Hatfield
Property Manager, Bald Head Island Limited Property Management/Administrative Director, Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP)
Jill’s prior experience with public education has helped tremendously in training others. She tackled the wonderful world of housekeeping with vigor while serving as a property manager for Bald Head Island Limited Property Management and became VRHP’s Housekeeping Executive of the year in 2011. After her involvement with this organizatioon, she stepped in to the role of administrative director for VRHP.
SESSION(S): Housekeeping Industry Q&A; Surviving an OSHA Inspection: Does Your Laundry Facility Stack Up?  (Eastern Seminar only)



Greg Holpuch
Client Advocate, NAVIS
Since joining NAVIS more than seven years ago, Greg has worked with clients across the country in many different roles, including initially as a client advocate as well as in the implementation and software support departments. Greg spent the last couple of years working in the NAVIS RezForce Department.  He started out as the quality assurance supervisor, and through his attention to detail and passion for success  helped the department reach record low error rates and reorganized the department to improve efficiency and overall productivity. On top of that, he helped create the NAVIS LUX team, which is one of the few (if only) reservation teams that successfully scores above 90 percent call scoring for Forbes and AAA Five Diamond standards. He spent the last year creating, managing and training a team of agents for one of our RezCast clients that has four high end resorts in California. This team has exceeded the client’s expectations (both from a revenue and quality perspective) from the onset, and he has helped develop several employees into leadership roles within the company.  In June 2014, he moved back into the Client Advocate department and moved to Orlando to help launch the Florida office.
SESSION(S): Three Ways to Become a Reservations Sales Agent Superstar (Eastern Seminar only)



Durk Johnson
Director of Housekeeping, Vacasa/ Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP)
Prior to his current role with Vacasa, Durk was the chief operating officer of Gulf Shores Vacation Rentals in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Durk previously served as the chief operating officer of Meyer Services where he worked to diversify the services offered to property owners and unify back-of-the-house operations. Durk also served as the senior guest sales manager for Meyer Vacation Rentals, where he was responsible for implementing a search tool to assist sales agents to find the best vacation property for potential guests, and for raising the morale of the sales team. Durk previously served as director of operations for Deer Valley Lodging in Park City, Utah, where he oversaw housekeeping, maintenance, front desk, bell staff and skier shuttle. He has also served as a consultant on housekeeping efficiency and cleaning standards. Durk currently serves on the Board of Directors for Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP).
SESSION(S): Housekeeping Basics; Housekeeping Industry Q&A; Surviving an OSHA Inspection: Does Your Laundry Facility Stack Up? 



Jennifer Jones
Director of Human Resources, Vacasa
Jennifer holds a degree in management and human resources from the University of Idaho. Jennifer has a passion for human resources field and has quickly progressed in the field, gaining vast knowledge in fields such as recruiting, coaching and mentoring, leadership development, culture development and many others.
SESSION(S): Recruiting for Cultural Fit



Sue Jones
Managing Director, KLS Group
Sue is the founder and managing director of the KLS Group, a business that focuses on simplifying human resources management for small business owners in the vacation rental industry. She brings more than 20 years of professional experience in human resources management in food service and hospitality, manufacturing, confection and education to the vacation rental industry. Sue is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and has a master’s degree in business administration.
SESSION(S): The 1-2-3’s and ABC’s of Employee Forms, Files and Best Practices



Mickey Kropf
Co-Founder, VacationFutures
Mickey is co-founder and head of sales for www.vacationfutures.com, the wholesale vacation rental marketplace that enables managers to grow their properties under management through an efficient, online process. A graduate of Harvard College and a former minor league baseball player for the Detroit Tigers, Mickey has nine years of experience in various segments of the commercial real estate industry.
SESSION(S): Adapt or Die: Strategies to Thrive in 21st Century Vacation Rental Management (Eastern Seminar only)



Betsy LaBarge
President/Chief Executive Officer, Mt Hood Vacation Rentals
Betsy founded Mt Hood Vacation Rentals in 1991. The business has since grown to be known as the premier vacation rental company at Mt Hood with the top priority of providing quality, clean and well-maintained vacation rental homes to guests along with exceptional and personalized customer service. Betsy spends her free time skiing in the winter, bike riding in the summer and going on vacations in the western United States. Betsy currently serves on the Board of the Clackamas County Tourism Development Council, is the chairperson for the Marketing Committee of Oregon's Mt Hood Territory and is a past director for the Vacation Rental Managers Association.  Betsy has served on numerous committees and task forces for the VRMA and is currently a VRMA Ambassador.
SESSION(S): Surviving an OSHA Inspection: Does Your Laundry Facility Stack Up? (Western Seminar only) 



Scott Leggat
Vice President-Vacation Rentals, Seaside Realty
Scott is highly regarded as one of the Outer Banks’ most capable rental managers.  He is past president of the North Carolina Vacation Rental Managers Association and the Dare County Tourism Board.
SESSION(S): Retooling for Survival;  Revenue Fundamentals



Andrew McConnell
Co-Founder and CEO, VacationFutures
After receiving degrees from Harvard College, Harvard Law School and Cambridge University, Andrew spent the next six years working with some of the world's largest companies, and even governments, to deconstruct and solve their most pressing and complex concerns, first as a management consultant and McKinsey & Company and then as director of managed services for Axiom Global Inc. Now as co-founder and chief executive officer of VacationFutures he is excited to apply all he has learned to the vacation rental industry in order to create a better experience for all involved.
SESSION(S): Recruiting New Homes and New Homeowners: Best Practices and Pitfalls



James Skinner
Housekeeping/Laundry Manager, Brindley Beach Vacations
James has worked for Brindley Beach for 18 years. Prior to working for this company, he served in the Navy working with torpedoes. He became the laundry manager 14 years ago, and has since worked his way up to housekeeping manager as well. In 2012 he won the VRHP Executive Housekeeping Manager of the Year. He has recently written a housekeeping manual for his department, and he has written several papers including 10 Helpful Hints to a Clean House, Good Housekeeping Makes Sense, and 20 Helpful Hints to Being a Housekeeping Manager.
SESSION(S): Housekeeping Industry Q&A, Surviving an OSHA Inspection: Does Your Laundry Facility Stack Up?  (Presenting at Eastern Seminar only)



Lance Stitcher
General Manager, Vantage Resort Realty
Lance has been in the hospitality industry for 25 years. He is currently the general manager of Vantage Resort Realty, a renowned provider of luxury vacation rentals along the Atlantic Coast.  Lance holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Salisbury University, along with real estate licenses in Maryland and Delaware. He is an active member of the Vacation Rental Managers Association, Coastal Association of Realtors, Maryland Association of Realtors and National Association of Realtors. Prior to joining the Vantage team, Lance had spent more than 20 years in the country club and golf industries managing multiple golf courses as an active Class A PGA Professional. Lance’s entrepreneurial spirit prompted him to own and operate a professional golf shop, as well as move away from the golf courses into an operations and ultimately general manager role in one of the largest planned golf and boating communities in the mid-Atlantic.
SESSION(S): Are You Leaving Money on the Table?; Recruiting New Homes and New Homeowners: Best Practices and Pitfalls (Presenting at Eastern Seminar only)



Heidi Stuber
Business Director, Sea to Sky Rentals
Heidi has ten years of experience in small business management. She has led two business turnarounds, managed well over a hundred people, and supported tens of thousands of customers. Heidi has an MBA from Seattle University with a focus on leadership development. Heidi works to build effective teams by communicating openly and directly, empowering shared leadership and solving problems creatively. She is passionate about developing operational efficiencies, moving organizations forward, and getting people involved in the process. Her approach to leadership is to unite a clear vision of the future with innovation, respect and accountability. She is committed to her staff, her customers and her owners. Her favorite business maxim is from Henry Ford, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
SESSION(S): Navigating Growth Points: A Case Study in Implementing Organizational Change (Western Seminar only)



Jodi Taylor-Refosco
Co-Owner, Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations
Jodi has worked in the vacation rental industry for more than 15 years, focusing on reservations, customer service, marketing and owner relations. She has been active in VRMA for more than 10 years and has spoken at numerous conferences. She owns Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations with her husband, Joe, and brother, Chad. They manage more than 175 properties and 75 non-renting properties. Jodi currently serves on the VRMA board of directors as secretary.
SESSION(S): Recruiting New Homes and New Homeowners: Best Practices and Pitfalls



Lynn Thurston
President, Finger Lakes Premier Properties
Lynn has worked in the formal and informal vacation rental industry for 20 years in Canada, the U.S., Asia, Africa and Central America. She has worked internationally on tourism policy and employment creation in what is now being termed the shared economy. She has a degree in environmental studies, along with a Ph.D. and master’s degree in urban and regional planning and an MBA. She is a licensed real estate broker and holds both green and second home designations. At Finger Lakes Premier Properties she oversees 235 vacation rentals spread over 4,000 square miles on six lakes. Lynn also oversees a franchise hotel. Through Cornell University she is currently studying revenue management with a keen interest in its application to the vacation rental industry. She loves data, big and small, and enjoys sharing research findings with others.
SESSION(S): Adapt or Die: Strategies to Thrive in 21st Century Vacation Rental Management (Eastern Seminar only)



George Volsky
Consultant, Advanced Information Systems
George is one of the industry's most experienced consultants and analysts whose educational seminars over the past two decades have focused on evolving industry needs and opportunities. George has consulted for some of the nation's leading management companies, served as Director of Research for Escapia and Instant Software, served as the industry consultant for the 2008 PhocusWright study that sized the vacation rental industry, and worked two years for HomeAway as community manager. Today, George provides revenue management consulting through Kennedy Training Network.
SESSION(S): Retooling for Survival;  Revenue Fundamentals



Kimberly White
Vice President of Operations, Vacasa
Kimberly’s current title is Vice-President of Operations, but she’s worn a lot of hats since being hired in 2010 as Vacasa’s third-ever employee. Today, she applies her attention to detail and hands-on leadership style to nearly all the areas she previously worked in: housekeeping, property management, maintenance, owner services and guest experience. With a professional background in interior design, Kimberly’s been known to rearrange furniture constantly (her own, her friends’, whomever doesn’t try too hard to stop her) and fulfill the Portlandia stereotype by making jewelry on the side.
SESSION(S): The Leadership Ladder and Lateral Thinking: Leadership Development And Creative Problem Solving for Your Operations Team