Chances are you’ve attended a work conference, convention, or some other corporate get-together. Was it fun and memorable? If it were planned by Queen City Destination, it would've been.
Queen City Destination (QCD) is an event planning company that coordinates all of the details that come with devising a function (catering, activities, décor, etc.) in a way that lets guest experience all of the best things Cincinnati has to offer, especially for those who are attending an event from out of town.
Since opening in 2018, the business has played a part in organizing everything from Pride events to setting up private company functions, as well as planning cocktail parties for VIP artists and influencers at the Wellness Your Way Festival that Jewel headlined.
I sat down with the company’s go-getting owner, Abby Gerwe, to see how she brings all of these fantastic events to fruition in a fresh and tailored way.
Cincinnati Refined: Tell me a little about Queen City Destination.
Abby Gerwe: A DMC (destination management company) is your best friend when you’re traveling to Cincinnati. I want to make sure my client feels comfortable trusting Queen City Destination with their entire event. We have some clients [where] we do every single detail of their event, from the moment they get here to the moment they go home; transportation, breakfast, lunch and dinner, gift bags—the gambit. Waking them up in the morning and tucking them in at night, basically.
I think a big part of my company’s brand is the fact that we’re young, fun, honest, and personable. Cincinnati is fun, quirky, artsy, hip, and cute, and that’s in many ways what we are, too.
CR: What’s it like owning your own event planning business?
AG: I always open with, "I’m the lead planner." And that’s the truth. But I don’t always come out and say I’m the owner. Normally, by the end of my event, I tell the client I’m the owner and they say, "Are you serious?!” because they had no idea. I want the reputation to be about the work and not who’s in charge. I didn’t want anyone to think this was just an expensive hobby.
CR: What kind of events do you do mostly?
AB: Most of our clients are traveling to Cincinnati for a conference, convention, or a meeting. You can think of us as kind of like your boots on the ground [for] Cincinnati. If you live in Detroit and you’re coming down for a conference, you don’t necessarily know who to call in Cincinnati, what vendors to work with, or where to go for dinner. So they can entrust us with all of those needs, show up, and have a good time [while] feeling confident that we have it handled.
Something we’ve worked on before is a company’s anniversary celebration. [We] bring in their sales team from across the United States to thank them, do a celebration, show them the offices, take everyone out to dinner—we handle the logistics for those companies.
We really enjoy doing the festivals in town and big social functions, too. Non-profit galas are important to us, so that’s more of our social realm.
CR: What are some of the other hats you wear as lead planner?
AB: I guess I wear all [of] the hats. I run the books, I plan and execute the events, and design the events. Now, I also have a team of incredible people who work with me. I certainly don’t want to act like it’s only me, but I have a hand in every element of the business. I’m always the lead on-site.
We’re your one-stop-shop for your event in town, so with most everything we do, we outsource to the right vendors in town. We have talent on our team, too, that can build a custom photo wall. We have a florist on our team that does incredible floral arts. We have a roster of about 40 individuals that we call based on the needs. Those people range from the city’s best event planners to retired teachers, [and] frankly, some of my friends.
CR: Do you have certain sites you use to host outings?
AG: It’s all over. If it’s a manufacturing firm with mainly men coming into town for a two-day meeting [and they're] interested in going out and seeing the city, we might be looking at Urban Axes in OTR, then doing a party at Rhinegeist after. They’re probably not interested in mimosas and manicures in their hotel room.
I certainly don’t want to leave out the Northern Kentucky side. We do a lot of events there, as well. I don’t think people visiting realize how close Kentucky is [to Cincinnati] and everything that both sides of the river have to offer.
CR: What sets you apart from other event planners?
AG: The last thing you want to do is go to a convention and leave the convention center having never seen the city you visited. We want to make sure we’re intertwining local elements into everything we do. We have literally served Skyline cheese coneys with white-glove silver service because that’s who we are and that’s who this city is. We always want to leave those Queen City touches with each one of our clients.
CR: What do you enjoy most about the gig?
AG: I think my favorite part is any time I hear someone say, “I didn’t know Cincinnati was this cool.” And I’ve heard that a lot.
I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure that visitors coming here for a conference, convention, or meeting who have likely never been here...this is my opportunity and the city’s opportunity to showcase this place and, theoretically, have them back.
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