Name: Taylor Rheinheimer
Title: Assistant General Manager
Organization: Potawatomi Inn and Conference Center
Location: Angola, Indiana
Birthplace: Fort Collins, Colorado
Education: Heritage Christian Academy, Fort Collins, Colorado
Career History: Sales manager, sales director and assistant general manager at various properties, including Blue Gate, Shipshewana, Indiana (Blue Gate Garden Inn, Restaurant, Music Hall, Theatre and Amish Tours)
For Taylor Rheinheimer, creating a career in the hotel world didn’t come from a course of study in hospitality or working her way up through the ranks. It came from having moxie, or what she calls “getting Kanye cocky.”
“You know, Kanye West is always very sure of himself and even cocky,” she said. “I had a moment where I essentially went into the interview very confident, not even knowing exactly what position I was interviewing for, but knowing the property had a lot of potential if they had the right person in leadership — and I told them, ‘I want to work here, and this is what I think would be best for this place,’ and they went for it.”
Rheinheimer grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado, a college town roughly 90 minutes north of Denver. She considered being a nurse and worked as a certified nursing assistant until an injury pushed her to work in a salon in a managerial role. From there, she took a position with wellness chain Massage Envy. Even though she loved her hometown, when she met her husband, they relocated to Indiana to be closer to his family, where she started working in hotels. She fell in love with Blue Gate properties in Shipshewana and wanted to make a difference when she saw that their sales and marketing were lacking; she believed that her people skills would have a positive impact on the hotel.
“I found hospitality as a fluke,” she said. “I started working in the sales department, became the sales manager and, finally, the national sales director. I loved that job, and throughout my career, the consistent thread has been loving to work with people. I love helping people find what works for them because everyone is so different, and it takes a special type of person who gets energy from being around people instead of being drained by them.”
Rheinheimer has paved her own path in hospitality, driven by her positivity and people skills, and taken it to the Potawatomi Inn and Conference Center at Pokagon State Park near Angola, Indiana. The property is unusual because although it’s within a state park, it has a state-of-the-art conference center.
“It’s a retreat conference destination,” she said. “This is the ideal location for people who want time to get away and rejuvenate but also need to have meeting time. We have hiking and biking trails, horseback riding and a toboggan track in the winter. We have a pool/hot tub and back right up on Lake James and are only 10 minutes from town. We offer great amenities for groups, but it also works really well for attendees’ families to join and come enjoy the location at the same time.”
One of the things Rheinheimer loves most about her job is being able to work with groups and the teams of resort staff to create diverse, fully customized, one-of-a-kind retreats, conferences and events. The Potawatomi Inn was built in 1927, and accommodations range from tent camping facilities to deluxe, newly renovated cabins. It is part of a state park and is surrounded by nature, yet it has all the amenities one would expect at a resort at a fraction of the cost.
Rheinheimer advises people to forge their career paths rather than be tied to a specific course of study or job.
“Create what works for you — not every place is going to have the exact job title you want. Just be tenacious, get your foot in the door and work hard,” she said. “Get out there, network, volunteer when you can and make friends in the industry — it goes a long way.”
Tips from Taylor Rheinheimer
• Know what is important to you. Whether your ideal location is a big city or a third-tier destination, know what your non-negotiables are. Hosting a meeting or conference should benefit all parties.
• Communication is key. Don’t be afraid to communicate what your wants are. After selecting the venue that meets your needs, take some time to define the goals and desires of your program.
• Work with CVBs and other local partners. CVBs are a great resource to meeting planners and providers alike. They provide information on unique local activities for a variety of interests and introduce you to contacts to round out your program.