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2024 BizBash 40 Under 40: Airika Gigas

Airika Gigas, 38, is vice president, events, for LEO Events.

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Airika Gigas, 38, is vice president, events, for LEO Events. She's based in Detroit. A quote from her nomination: "Since joining LEO Events in 2011, Airika has played a pivotal role in the success of over 600 events for a diverse range of clients, including notable names such as AutoZone, Domino’s, Floor & Decor, Kowa Pharmaceuticals, PepsiCo, and more."

What my day-to-day looks like: "In the event industry, we always say we’re in meetings about meetings! Every day looks a little different, which is the magic of our industry. I could be working from my home office, or traveling to/from site visits, meetings, and show sites. Either way, it starts with coffee and multitasking."

My career journey: "I started in the event industry 18 years ago as a college intern at a destination management company in Dallas. This experience really helped me learn our industry from the ground up. My love of event logistics came from my first job out of college as an events coordinator for a university hospital system. From there, I joined LEO Events as an event manager, moved into sales, and eventually into account management. I just wrapped up my 12th year with the company, and I’m beyond thankful for the opportunities, learning, and growth that the organization has provided me."

Gigas started in the event industry 18 years ago as a college intern at a destination management company in Dallas. 'This experience really helped me learn our industry from the ground up,' she says.Gigas started in the event industry 18 years ago as a college intern at a destination management company in Dallas. "This experience really helped me learn our industry from the ground up," she says.Photo: Courtesy of Airika Gigas

What inspires me: "Growth, personally and professionally—and finding the solution to a problem. I’m also immensely inspired by my fellow LEOs; I’m impressed daily by my colleagues’ commitment, creativity, and innovation."

My greatest career accomplishment: "I’ve been honored to receive several industry awards, but for me, I think surviving (and in some cases thriving because of) COVID is the ultimate accomplishment. We were challenged, and I think our industry came back more creative, more inspired, and better than ever."

Gigas and her team produced a high-end, boutique experience for fast-casual chain Nando's international leadership in the heart of South Carolina in 2022.Gigas and her team produced a high-end, boutique experience for fast-casual chain Nando's international leadership in the heart of South Carolina in 2022.Photo: Courtesy of Airika Gigas

My most memorable event: "My most memorable event was one we produced for Nando’s, an international fast-casual restaurant chain. This event was a high-end, boutique experience for their international leadership in the heart of South Carolina. Everything about the event was carefully curated, designed, and tied back to Nando’s mission. We planned the event three times over the course of two years due to COVID and finally got to see our vision come to life in the summer of 2022."

The advice I would give my younger self: "Be a sponge! Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. Also, don’t burn bridges. Relationships are the foundation of our small and intertwined industry and can make or break an event. Lastly, cross-train. Learn every aspect and each job of events; it makes for a well-rounded leader."

Impressive stats I'm responsible for: "As one of the first eight employees, I've seen LEO become the powerhouse in events that it is today with over 950% employee growth and over 770% revenue growth since 2011."

My leadership style: "Lead by example. Most importantly, I would never ask my team to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. I try to keep one foot in the trenches while encouraging and mentoring my team. As of today, all of my most recent direct reports are now running their own departments, which heavily contributes to the success of our company. #ProudMamaBear"

My ideal day OOO: "Enjoying a day on Lake Michigan with my husband, daughter, and dogs."


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