The inaugural Notre Dame Slainte Wine, Beer, & Spirits Industry Symposium finished ten days ago and it was a resounding success. The whole mix from the programming, the food, the wine, and the hospitality, to the people who attended, it all worked.
I never thought I would become involved in planning and starting a conference from scratch. But it goes to show you, life takes you to unique places.
For me it all started in Phoenix, Arizona. A partner at Dickenson, Peatman, & Fogarty asked that if I ran into a young attorney in her firm, named Mike Mercurio, to introduce myself, as he is at his first conference and he is a young attorney. As there was no lunch provided at the conference, I couldn’t exactly meet at the mess hall.
Coming back from dinner with Steven Harrison, CEO from VinoShipper, I saw Mike in the lobby and introduced myself. After exchanging pleasantries about Notre Dame, I told him that someone at a Federalist Society meeting asked me to come speak at the Notre Dame Food and Beverage Club. Mike answered, “I started that club!” And within the first minute of meeting Mike, I replied, “why don’t we start our own conference at Notre Dame!”
Next thing you know, Mike, Steven, and I are in a tight circle exchanging ideas and how this could possibly happen. The next 15-20 minutes were intense discussions and we all went our separate ways.
But something happened after I left; I couldn’t sleep because the idea was fresh in my head. So, 3 hours later, I typed an email to Mike and Steven to recap and commit to the idea. The next morning, we saw each other and we all committed to this idea.
The next night I am at the Irish Ambassador’s residence and met a fellow attorney with a great pedigree, partner at a big firm, Notre Dame undergrad, Harvard law, and as we are conversing, I told him we are putting on a liquor symposium at Notre Dame next year. And he asked when is it? I told him “I don’t know we just came up with the idea yesterday.” He must have thought I was crazy, but there was no doubt in my mind that after Steven, Mike, and I got together, we were going to make something happen!
Through Mike and Steven, we met some great people at the University that wanted to see this happen. We were very lucky to get connected with Mary Scott from the University of Notre Dame’s Idea Center. She moved mountains for us and without her great work, we couldn’t have pulled this off.
As we went through the process of creating the conference, we also got connected to Jackie Thomas who did an amazing job with logistics and Tammye Raster from the law school who was invaluable. And also Theresa Barton Cray, another gifted lawyer was a great asset.
As I look back on things, I am amazed what this group pulled off for an inaugural conference. But the road to get there was interesting. For me it started with meeting Mike in a lobby and pushing the idea out and him saying yes.
Most ideas die of a lack of enthusiasm, fear of failure, or not being able to implement it, as these journeys are hard, people often fail.
A new conference is a big-time risk, and is never easy, but I am glad I took the risk with my partners and my partners inside the university. We all had one thing in common, we believed in the same vision!
I don’t think I will ever meet someone again and within the first minute of meeting them, lay the foundation for a great conference. But it goes to show you, somedays you wake up and something happens. Fate, great planning, grit, and determination made this conference great. I was just lucky to have Mike, Steven, Mary, Tammye, Jackie, and Gabbi as teammates. Sometimes fate smiles upon you.
Onto next year with the bar raised high!