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Every moment matters in the event planning and management industry—and few understand this fact as deeply as Cheryl Gentry, founder and CEO of Glow Global Events.
Over her 25-plus-year career in the events and entertainment industry, Gentry has taken advantage of countless opportunities to learn and grow. From embracing her role as a growth-minded CEO, to proactively taking on an industry leadership role amid uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic— Gentry has made it her mission to embrace every moment to its full potential and leverage these experiences to fuel her and her company’s growth.
Founded in 1998, Glow Global Events delivers high-quality, high-touch event services and solutions. A Minority Woman Business Enterprise (MWBE), the agency specializes in all types of engagements—in- person, virtual, and hybrid—and offers
its clients a unique holistic approach that combines practical advice, unmatched expertise, proactive support, and innovative event management solutions. This enables Glow Global to transcend traditional event planning and produce memorable and creative experiences that entertain guests and impact clients’ business objectives.
“At the end of the day, it’s not just about the event. It’s about every moment, every interaction, every touchpoint. It’s about the whole journey and experience,” Gentry says. “Everyone that attends one of our events is a potential client. We consider every person that walks through that door and dials into that virtual space a client. And so we are very mindful of our attendee journey.”
While Glow Global boasts a diverse and well-rounded client base spanning a range of industries, Gentry is particularly proud of the work Glow Global does in the non-profit sector. About 60 percent of Glow Global’s portfolio is cause-based organizations, including the United Way of New York City, the National Development Council, the Omidyar Network, the Africa-America Institute, and Acumen— a global non-profit organization dedicated to addressing poverty by investing in sustainable businesses, leaders, and ideas.
Working with these organizations not only provides Gentry and her team personal pride and fulfillment, but the work also enables Glow to impact individuals and communities at the local, national, and global levels in a positive way.
“We do a deep dive, not only with the work that the organizations are doing but also with the talent that comes in and gives their time and effort (and sometimes their dollars) to ensure the best experiences and make our non-profit events successful,” Gentry says. “Ultimately, though, we get to work with organizations on the ground making an impact in their community, and that is the most rewarding thing.”
Since founding the company with three clients and three employees in 1998, Gentry has grown Glow Global to become a respected force in the industry, managing more than $10 million in annual event budgets for clients worldwide. This growth is due mainly to Gentry’s willingness to look for opportunities through an objective lens.
Mindful that the needs of her business and clients are constantly evolving, Gentry has made it a point to periodically take a moment to step back and assess opportunities to optimize her business.
“Every few years, I’ve had an opportunity to look at the business, and we’ve grown little by little every year,” Gentry says. “I love being a boutique agency. But about five years ago I started researching other event agencies in New York and other larger competitors, and I said to myself, ‘Why do we have this small mindset? Why do I want to stay small?’.”
This reflection allowed Gentry to set her sights on the explosive growth Glow Global ultimately has achieved. To maintain momentum and focus, Gentry also evolved her mindset and firmly positioned herself as a forward-thinking leader backed by a team of planners and specialists tasked with helping to operationalize—and ultimately realize—her vision for Glow Global’s continued growth and scale.
“People talk about entrepreneurs having passion—and I do lead with passion—but you also have to have a growth mindset,” Gentry says. “Sometimes that means me stepping away from being the event planner. I still love client relations, but sometimes that puts me in a different role to look at the business’s growth, how I grow the company, and the tools and the assets we have in place.”
“A CEO is really the Chief Visionary Officer,” she continues. “While I’m not executing everything, I can still ensure my team understands where we all need to go collectively and that they know my vision.”
Gentry also tapped into an accelerator program offered by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which proved invaluable and transformational for how she approached Glow Global’s management and growth strategy. Approaching the accelerator with enthusiasm and an open mind unlocked tremendous growth potential for the firm. It also opened Gentry’s eyes to opportunities to apply her leadership and expertise to other strategic areas of the business—including digital/inbound marketing and internal culture building.
While Glow Global Events was fortunate to weather the storm of COVID-19, the company initially relied on Gentry’s positive outlook and the resourcefulness of her team to better understand the implications for the business and position the agency as a leader in an increasingly uncertain industry climate.
In the earliest days of the pandemic, Gentry took it upon herself to proactively engage the industry community and
step into a leadership role to benefit her industry peers and Glow Global’s current and prospective clients. Recognizing growing panic and confusion among her industry peers, she coordinated a large- scale video conference with more than 100 event planners to offer support as a knowledgeable resource, sounding board, and potential collaborator.
“As a mentor and peer, I always want to be a source of inspiration,” Gentry says. “I’m not there to help you not make mistakes, but I’m here to help you to understand that you need to get counsel from those around you. And so that’s kind of my mission. I am here to help people.”
Gentry and her team also began exploring ways to maximize the quality of the event experience in a socially distanced and virtual-first world. They spend extensive time conducting demos with every major technology platform available to find the best fit for the agency’s clients, particularly the non-profit organizations that rely heavily on gala events for fundraising and development. To be truly effective, Gentry understood that going virtual meant more than simply moving an event to what was becoming an increasingly expected videoconference format.
“Every time we talked to a client, we knew exactly what they wanted and how they wanted this virtual space to look. And
we went full force and made it happen,” Gentry says. “We’re ultimately producers at Glow, so instead of a straight Zoom call, we approached virtual gala events from a production mindset. We wanted to produce it like we were producing a TV show while letting clients know that they can still engage their audience.”
Ultimately, courageously leaning into countless moments of uncertainty and creatively capitalizing on every opportunity presented paid off for Gentry and her team at Glow Global. Not only was the company able to survive and thrive where others struggled, these efforts also established Glow Global as a prominent leader for clients and partners alike and fueled unprecedented growth—even helping to land the firm on Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies list on the heels of 25X+ growth in 2020. In recognition of her accomplishments and leadership, Inc. also named Gentry an Editor’s Top 10 pick for Minority Leaders.
As Glow Global continues on its growth trajectory, Gentry assesses not only that her partners inside of her organization
are aligned with her vision and needs but also her outside partners. Over the years, she has been compelled to take stock of what she values in a financial institution to ensure that she gets maximum value from her banking relationship.
“You establish relationships with people as an entrepreneur, [and with ‘big banks’] I would go in, and no one knew me. I would go to a teller who didn’t remember my name from week to week,” Gentry says. “And after the financial crisis set in, I started thinking about what was happening in the industry and the banking space, but also how I felt when I was at my bank.”
After coming across a grassroots campaign encouraging consumers and small businesses to support local banks and credit unions, Gentry became motivated to change. In 2010, she moved her accounts to her local Sterling National Bank (now Webster Bank) Banking Center. She immediately knew that she had made the right decision for herself and her business, and she hasn’t looked back.
“I’ll never forget getting that level of service,” Gentry says. “From the moment I first walked in, I was immediately met with, ‘Hi, Miss Gentry. How are you today?’ And I was shocked they remembered me. That personalization on top of great services … when you have your money at a bank, that’s what you want.”
Beyond her experiences at her local branch, Gentry particularly appreciates the support and enthusiasm of her team at Webster Bank and her dedicated relationship manager Barrett Stokes, a managing director in business banking specializing in women- and minority-owned businesses. Gentry is thankful to have a partner in Webster Bank that not only always has her best interests in mind but also shares her passion for providing exceptional experience and service at every moment.
“Webster’s become a team that I can rely on,” Gentry says. “Even today, everyone speaks to me and is always available. I feel covered. I feel like it’s a relationship that if I need something, I can call them and won’t be on hold for, you know, a half hour. A relationship manager can always help, even if Barrett is not immediately available.”
Webster Bank is committed to helping small businesses—particularly Minority- and Women- owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs)—grow and thrive through personalized relationship management and comprehensive business banking services tailored to their unique needs. Learn more about our small business banking services.
Gentry started her career producing events in the recording and fashion industries and learned an incredible amount from legendary producer and record executive Clive Davis during her time at Arista Records in the late 1990s. During her time in the recording industry, Gentry’s talents were recognized by her peers and mentors, who ultimately encouraged her to found Glow Global in 1998.
From shaping how she engages peers and clients to helping her navigate growth in a turbulent business climate, mentors have played a crucial role in Gentry’s success. Today, she pays that forward as an active board member of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), where she devotes her time to mentoring students launching and growing their businesses. She has also contributed to New York’s Women Entrepreneur Initiative and is an adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Professional Services.
Gentry’s proudest accomplishment is summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro [the moment pictured] in just five days—a feat few climbers achieve. Gentry was inspired to take on this life- changing adventure while managing a major conference event for a non-profit client in Rwanda.