Karen Aytes has a dream of being a meeting planner. As a new member of PCMA and the Gulf States Chapter, Aytes has been taking the steps to hopefully one day work in the industry that she feels fulfills her natural traits of planning and making people happy.
“I love planning things – meetings, weddings, clean-up projects – I’ll organize and plan anything,” Aytes says. “I like people. I like working with people and I like making them happy.”
Currently working as an agent in group membership sales for AAA in Texas out of the Houston area, Aytes had previously worked for Chevron as a safety specialist. However, she also found herself in the role of large event coordinator for all women’s networking events that included workshops, outside speakers, receptions and more. “I really enjoyed it. I would be in charge of planning and the speakers for the event,” she said.
Born and raised in Southern California, Aytes has been a life-long Disney fan. However, calling her a fan may be an understatement. Aytes went to school near Disneyland and would go there regularly. “It was my home away from home,” she said. “I would be there all the time. I just loved it. It’s where I grew up.”
As things would have it, after a move to northern California and after a short stint as an owner of a wedding planning business, Aytes worked in management at a Disney Store for eight years. “I don’t know if they (Disney Stores) still do this now, but if you purchased an item from Disney you could return it back to the store as long as you had the receipt and get your money back. The store would keep the items until there was a sale and then offer those items for 75% off. As employees, we would know what those items were so we could get some good deals.”
You can find many of those items decorating Aytes home. “The whole house is decorated in Disney,” she said proudly. “I have a lot of items that aren’t made anymore.”
With her BS in hospitality and tourism and working on her masters in organizational leadership, Aytes is hoping her dream to be in the meeting planning business comes true.
“I still am trying to find out what I can learn,” she said. “The different positions available, learning convention meetings and hotel meetings, I don’t know what I want to learn (areas of focus) yet.”
Narrowing down her plans is part of the process, but she is confident she can make it happen. As a quote from the bottom of her email signature reads, “If you can dream it … you can do it.”– Walt Disney.
Notes: From Italian origin, Aytes loves to cook Italian food. “I learned how to cook from my grandmother since I was five years old,” she said. She also loves to bake as well making varieties of muffins, cupcakes and cookies.
Favorite (Disney) Movie: Ayres mentioned Cinderella, Moana and several others finally noting she likes anything before the late 60s and after 1988.