get to know allison freeman of chair man mills corp, 1
  • Name: Allison Freeman
  • Company: Chair-man Mills Corp
  • Years with the company: 2

So how’d you get started?

I started my career in Management Consulting with Accenture and Bain & Company where I had the opportunity to work on business challenges at some incredible global brands across North America, Europe & India. These early years in Consulting afforded me an amazing view into the exciting world of business strategy, operations and marketing and I was hooked! So much so that I chose to return to school to complete my MBA at Columbia Business School in New York soon after.

Post MBA I ventured into the retail sector working at brands such as Holt Renfrew, Mama Earth Organics & Sleep Country. At these organizations I learned about the art and science of great consumer brands. The value of clear strategy and focused execution through supply chain, sales and operations, finance, marketing, technology and customer experience. And the vital role of the team! People as the core of the business with defined values, systems and rhythms to dictate how teams work together to achieve shared goals. These same concepts apply to my role as CEO at Chair-man Mills and I find myself leveraging my past experiences and passion for customer and team excellence to lead CMMC into the future.

When did you get your first big break? 

Joining Holt Renfrew on the Strategy team post MBA was a defining moment for me. I had the opportunity to work closely with the Leadership Team to refresh our strategy amid a rapidly changing environment with new competition, technology, and customer expectations. Once the strategy was defined, I transitioned to Director of Sales and Operations to execute against the strategy and bring it to life. It was a period of great learning and growth with some wonderful colleagues, during which I fell in love with the excitement of sales and operations, the art of customer experience, and the thrill of the sale – I’ve enthusiastically checked a daily sales report every day for the last 12 years…weekends, Christmas and mat leaves included! 

What is the hardest part of running such a large enterprise? What do you find most rewarding?

Competing priorities is the hardest part of my role. As Canada’s leading event and tent solutions partner there’s no shortage of exciting opportunities to explore as well as daily challenges to address. Our strategy and clear set of priorities centring around client and team experience ensures we stay focused.

The most rewarding and inspiring part of my job is the people I have the pleasure of working alongside everyday. The passion, commitment and talent demonstrated by our teams and industry partners is extraordinary! We’re grateful to play a role in our clients’ most important experiences and care deeply about the outcome – each and every event, each and every day. In an industry where no two events are exactly alike and the show must (literally!) go on, our teams and partners rise to the occasion, demonstrating expertise, creativity and passion. It’s truly inspiring to be part of it all. 

get to know allison freeman of chair man mills corp, 2

What’s one of the secrets to your success? 

Putting myself in the way of opportunity! My favourite quote is – If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. I’ve built doors in my life through seeking out opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with people who inspire me. Walking through these doors has taken me to different industries, roles and countries, which has resulted in a rich and rewarding experience thus far – if not linear or expected. My role as CEO of Chair-man Mills is the most recent example of this, and my greatest opportunity yet…!

What drives you? 

Impact. Everyday I’m driven by my commitment to make a positive impact on my team, my industry partners, my community, and the Canadian events industry at large. 

What do you look for when hiring a new executive team member? 

I look for initiative, integrity, a growth mindset, and humility. My favourite interview question is “Do you consider yourself a lucky person?”. It can offer a powerful glimpse into one’s outlook.

What makes you passionate about your profession/the special events industry? 

I love the way our Chair-man Mills portfolio of brands, together with our industry partners, create engaging events and spaces that spark remarkable experiences and connections. Human connection is a fundamental pillar of wellbeing, as important to one’s health as exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Across our Chair-man Mills brands we execute over 30,000 events per year, and I find great purpose and pride in the role we play in facilitating human connection and moments that matter.

What’s one big tip you would give to up-and-comers in the industry? 

Put yourself in the way of opportunity! Be proactive and open to new experiences – reach out to that person who inspires you, take the training course that challenges you, show up to the event that intimidates you. These moments often deliver opportunities far greater than the original intent.

What was your first job in the industry? 

I worked as a hostess at the Canadian National Exhibition when I was 16. My first view into the world of hospitality and I loved it!

And now for the Bonus Round…

You wouldn’t be you without?

My family! My amazing husband Mike and children- Graydon (8), Celeste (6), and Elyse (2). Our household is a joyful chaos and the foundation of my life.

What’s at the top of your bucket list? 

A ski trips to the Alps with friends! I love to ski, travel and celebrate with friends…what could be better?!

What’s your one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up? 

Love is Blind. Adore.

What is one item you can’t leave home without (other than the obvious: phone, keys, wallet)?

My notebook and pen. I’m one of those visual / old school people who process, learn and create by putting pen to paper.

What was the last fun thing you bought? 

A plane ticket to Miami for a trip with my girlfriends this spring. Cannot wait!

What was one of your less glamorous jobs you had when you were younger? 

For several summers during high school, I was a swim instructor at a day camp, teaching in an outdoor pool. On warm, sunny days it was a dream job; on cooler and rainy days… less dreamy 😊