2023 BizBash 15 Over 50: Brooksie Hughes

Brooksie Hughes, 55, is president and executive producer of BAH Productions, Inc.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooksie Hughes

Brooksie Hughes, 55, is president and executive producer of BAH Productions, Inc., based in New York and San Diego. A 30-year veteran of the event industry, Hughes is also a public space strategist, designing annual event programs and consulting with clients on the design of spaces for public events. 

A quote from her nomination: "She is the best event planner I have come across in my 30 years in the business. Her attention to detail, vision, and on-site execution [are] nothing short of amazing."

How I got here: "Growing up, I loved seeing live bands (still do). I knew I had a strong desire to be involved in live music events—however, being a groupie did not pay. After completing college, I grabbed any opportunity to work as a production assistant, whether it was related to film, events, or commercials. I closely observed the various roles played by different individuals, and then one day, I had my 'aha!' moment: 'I want to be an event producer!' My first big break occurred thanks to Steve Barnes, a man who took a chance on a green, tenacious young woman. He hired me as a production assistant for the 1996 Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies. I ran with it and soon landed the role of assistant line producer, a moment that marked a turning point in my career trajectory. This was the juncture where I discovered my true passion, and BAH Productions was born."

From there, I took on myriad event-related roles, spanning different types of events. This eclectic range of experiences expanded my skill set and broadened my perspective of the industry as a whole. I was fortunate to encounter mentors who played an instrumental role in directing my path. With the guidance of Gail Morgan, I relocated to New York City, a pivotal move that led me to Karin Bacon, a key figure in my career.

For approximately 15 years, I had the privilege of working under Karin Bacon's mentorship, learning the fine art of celebration, and being challenged to be a better producer. She also introduced me to the realm of urban planning, where event producers like me contribute to the design and programming of public spaces. This evolved into the concept of placemaking, which underscores the significance of events in shaping public realms and fostering vibrant communities. This became the second pillar of my career, intertwining with my event production work.

I have to also acknowledge the many people with whom I have had the privilege to work, who are the backbone of my success. In the end, without their trust, dedication, talent, and hard work, the ideas would still be on the page."

Greatest career accomplishment: "I consider earning a livelihood doing what I love and simultaneously creating job opportunities, all while infusing joy into people's lives, to be my most significant career accomplishment. It's a challenge to pinpoint a single event or program as the standout achievement, mainly due to the diverse nature of these endeavors, each with its unique metrics of success. That said, if I had to highlight a particular area, I'd point to my unexpected accomplishments in the realm of public spaces. Being a part of projects that contribute to the improvement of design and event programming in various settings has been incredibly fulfilling. 

Nevertheless, I am not done yet, and believe there's much more to accomplish on my journey." 

A specific improvement I’ve made: "I've played a pivotal role in educating clients, civic leaders, and private developers about the significance of thoughtfully designed public spaces and well-funded events. This influence extends to various event-related aspects, such as enhancing spaces to cater to production requirements, making them more appealing for both public and private events. The underlying objective remains consistent: advocating for investments in community-building events that create lasting impacts."

The biggest change I've observed in the industry: "I would have to say it is the widespread adoption of smartphones in the late '90s and early 2000s. I've always thrived in the fast-paced nature of this work, and smartphones offered improved responsiveness to clients and staff while outside the office. Yet, the constant 24/7 accessibility has introduced challenges. It can lead to reactive decision-making rather than deliberate planning. Our industry has become faster and more demanding, often requiring us to operate within shorter timelines, therefore, more than ever, we have to be mindful to create time to thoughtfully address the work."

What I do outside of work: "My spiritual journey holds significant importance for me, and I dedicate time daily to personal growth through various practices. I firmly believe in the value of aiding others and contributing positively to the world. Although I live far from my family and close friends, we maintain our connections through calls, Zoom parties, and occasional visits. I live on the beach and love spending time sitting under my palapa; being in the ocean; and watching the dolphins, seagulls, birds, ducks, and any other animal that crosses my path. My greatest loves are my two dogs who keep me on my toes. I also love spending time with nearby horses and a pretty cool goat named Chaz."

The career advice I'd give my younger self: "I would tell her that while it's wonderful to be passionate about your work, it shouldn't solely define you. Embrace the idea of taking more risks and promoting yourself. Believe in your abilities, stay humble, and, above all, approach challenges fearlessly."

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