Getting space savvy: How Marygrove is marketing itself as an event space

This is part of a series, supported by The School at Marygrove, focusing on the work happening on the campus and in the community. 
Marygrove’s beautiful 53-acre campus has been a not-so-hidden jewel on Detroit’s northwest side for most of a century. The spacious grounds feature manicured lawns, vibrant landscaping, and 19th-century Gothic-styled architecture. Marygrove has always made its facilities available to the community for event rental but in recent years the administration has sought to increase engagement and refine business practices related to its rental services.

Enter Nina Payne, founder, and CEO of Foundation Management LLC. Payne made a name for herself in the entertainment business as a road manager for music acts such as Kem, Jaheim, Raheem DeVaughn, Earl Klugh, and Vickie Winans (just to name a few). When Payne began to notice the music industry transitioning she decided to take a pivot.

“I made a change in 2014, the music industry was changing a bit. At that time the acts I was working with were downsizing their bands,” she says. "The role of the tour manager started to wear more hats. Plus, I wasn’t really building the thing I had started to build."

Payne shifted her focus to the corporate side of event production and event management. She felt the field was more stable, more fulfilling, and had the most room for growth. She also started a staffing company as a way to incorporate more people who were interested in the field.

“I wanted to hire people and explore them to the backside of events and event production,” she says.

Payne managed the logistics of the VIP experience for the Detroit Grand Prix and several events afterward. Payne and her company Foundation Management LLC began her tenure as the event director for the Marygrove Conservancy in July of 2022 with the task of developing their existing events and operations department to elevate the client experience. Payne helped update the framework, output to the community, and the client experience for Marygrove. 

Marygrove Conservancy's Summer Block Party. Photo by Moon Reflections Photography.

One of the biggest events Payne supported was the Marygrove Conservancy's first annual Summer Block Party that took place last August. It was Marygrove’s first major public event held on the campus in more than two years.

“We did a lot of consulting,” Payne says. “Like how do you do a big festival? We had to figure out where do you put large tents, large tables, we wanted over one-hundred vendors, and how do you line that up to make sure you’re maximizing the space and make sure when people walk through it; they have an enjoyable experience? We also ran all the stage management for all the acts.”

The next big event was December's “Light Up Marygrove”, an annual holiday-centered event with a live band, dance performances, arts and crafts, and refreshments.

“Foundation Management has provided Marygrove with the organization and the structure needed to enhance our events business line. They have provided us with a very professional team that executes each event efficiently and on time. Having them here has also increased the volume of events held on campus,” says Robbie Walker, Director of Operations and Strategy.

Payne’s management also extends to all private events such as corporate conferences, repasses, and weddings. The campus has multiple spaces so that numerous events can be held simultaneously.

“We have a ton of weddings this spring and summer,” says Payne. "There is a rain-plan room they can rent out if they need to. We do it all."

Payne has been insistent that customer service and professionalism be the top priority and she keeps a staff of four onsite (she brings in more if needed) to make sure anyone who rents out Marygrove’s facilities has someone there at all times.  

“I was adamant about making sure that every client that rented a room or a space here had a lead to contact. A lead that would be there to make sure their event would go smoothly,” says Payne. “Every client and their attendees need to have an amazing experience.”

Payne took it upon herself to gauge her company’s impact since she’s been brought aboard and she’s happy with the results.

“First and foremost I did a client survey, the feedback we’re getting since we started here has grown. We are making more money than this time last year. So there are some hardlines to tell we are making a difference here,” Payne says.

The Foundation Management Events Team at Marygrove Conservancy. Photo: Foundation Management LLC.

Moving forward, Payne wants to build on the momentum she’s already generated. A preferred vendors list of caterers, florists, DJs, and other companies that cater to events is currently being developed. The goal is to be able to provide customers with a vetted list of vendors to decrease some of the anxiety that goes into the planning and contracting that goes into an event. She also feels that many people in the greater Detroit area still aren’t aware of how illustrious Margrove’s campus is and that it's even available to be rented out. She believes more grassroots promotions and community engagement will solve that.
“We want to create smaller events to support the community. We want to invite professional people who would rent the facility. We want to have a marking event twice a year, just to show them the building, show them around, and show them how amazing this historic building is,” says Payne.

We are looking to expand our cultural footprint in the community. The more events held at Marygrove, the more we can expand our footprint in the events business. The more visibility we have, the better we can position ourselves as a destination location,” adds Walker. 

“With our partnership with Foundation Management, we are trending to generate more business to impact our bottom line positively. These efforts will also uniquely position Marygrove Conservancy in the marketplace where people who reside downtown and in the suburbs or historic neighborhoods can enjoy outdoor concerts and host their special events.”

To book an event at Marygrove Conservancy explore booking options here
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