Naomi Badhwa – Atlanta Botanical Garden

Naomi Badhwa

Special Events Sales Manager, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Atlanta, Ga

Describe your job.

I lead a sales team and do many things, including providing guidance, training, mentorship, setting quotas and goals, creating sales plans, and analyzing data. My role here is a dream job because the Atlanta Botanical Garden offers so much. We’re adjacent to Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta and offer 32 acres of display gardens, woodlands, and beautifully designed event and meeting space. I stay very busy with my sales team, working with groups and visitors to make their events and visits successful. Our components include the Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory, home to rare and endangered tropical and desert plants, and the Children’s Garden, a hands-on interactive garden. The Skyline Garden has the dramatic Atlanta skyline as a backdrop, and a colorful Flower Walk leads guests to a pavilion-style gazebo. The Fuqua Orchid Center has a tropical rainforest and a rare collection of orchids. In addition, a full-service restaurant and other spaces for educational programs, private rentals, and special events mean there’s no downtime in my job—and that’s what I love about it.

What made you choose the meetings and events industry?

I get a chance to make dreams come true, planning weddings, socials, proposals, baby showers, rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, corporate events, and more. I love the creativity, flexibility, challenges, recognition, and ability to make people happy.

How did you get started, and what got you from there to today?

I was part of the grand opening team for Nordstrom at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. We were responsible for creating events to promote our business. We worked with top designers for fashion shows and brand launches, building solid teams and driving our business. I was promoted to management and had the opportunity to open two additional stores and spent 14 years with the company. After getting married and becoming a mom, I left retail for catering and venue selection, working for an amazing caterer in Minnesota. An unexpected move to Atlanta and a stroll through Piedmont Park led me to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where I fell in love with the venue. Fast forward 13 years later, I am still here, following multiple promotions, great clients, and the consistent growth of a remarkable special events team.

How do you keep up with industry trends, changes, and cutting-edge developments?

I surround myself with the best and work hard to build partnerships, including with Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. I work with some of the top vendors in the city for catering, decor, audiovisual, and more. I love Minnesota Public Radio. I read many publications and am a Wedding International Professionals Association member.

What essential skills should every industry professional possess?

It is crucial to be a good listener, take the time to hear and understand the vision your client is going for, pay attention to detail, pivot, multitask, stay positive, and keep smiling. Our jobs are fun because we help make memories.

What is the philosophy or approach to work that gets you through stressful times?

My mantra is: “If you want to grow, you need to be brave and take risks. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing.” When things get tough, I imagine all the bad things that could happen during an event; it’s easy to blow things up in our minds and make them appear much more significant than they are. Imagining all the worst things that could happen makes you put things in perspective and realize, “Wait, I got this!”

What is the best professional advice you ever received, and what advice do you have for others in the industry?

The people you surround yourself with will eventually shape how you think, behave, and feel. Surrounding yourself with people who lift you, lend you knowledge, and help you learn from mistakes will raise your standards to become a better person.

It takes months to find a customer and only a few seconds to lose one. My advice is being friendly and attentive to people’s needs takes you a long way to success.

Describe your biggest professional success.

I have collaborated on and contributed to hosting large-scale events and improving processes. I also have helped build a team that exceeds personal and department sales goals.

Share an anecdote about a meeting or event that did not go as planned and how you handled it.

Twelve years ago, my first wedding at the garden was a ceremony and reception for 80 people. The groom and guests were all on time. However, no one could find the bride and her mom. The guests remained out in the garden, drinking punch and waiting while people tried to track down the mom and bride. The bride and her mom showed up two hours into this four-hour event. The bride walked in without shoes and was wearing a large ball gown. We got everyone seated, and the ceremony took place. Then, the bride realized there was no music for the first dance. I grabbed a CD player from the office, and a few guests got CDs from their cars. With that, the groom swooped up his barefoot bride for their first dance to “Sweet Home Alabama.” Everyone joined them on the dance floor. The evening turned out beautifully, and everyone was so happy. I remember just being so thankful that we made it happen!

What is the best part of your job?

I have one of the most beautiful venues in the heart of Atlanta. It’s so fulfilling to see guests love its beauty and serenity.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to read, try new foods, cook, and travel, even if it’s just locally. Atlanta has so much to see.

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