Crafting Unforgettable Experiences: akire productions 

Crafting Unforgettable Experiences: akire productions 

From captivating corporate conferences to intimate non-profit galas and film screenings, akire productions stands out as a beacon of creativity and excellence in the event production industry. Based in the vibrant city of Chicago, this boutique production company is renowned for its dedication to crafting immersive event experiences that leave a lasting impression on attendees.

Driving Mission: Prioritizing Genuine Connections

At the heart of akire productions' ethos lies a mission that prioritizes genuine connections and meaningful experiences. With a commitment to serving people first, the team approaches each project with a focus on elevating interactions and creating lasting impacts. Through mission-driven creative solutions, akire productions ensures that every event resonates deeply with attendees, fostering genuine connections and leaving a lasting impact.

Unique Approach: Immersion in Brand Story and Aesthetic

No two events are the same, and akire productions understands this implicitly. With a unique and custom approach to every project, the team immerses itself in the brand story and aesthetic of its clients. Whether it's a virtual, in-person, or broadcast event, akire productions strives to engage, inspire, and captivate guests with innovative and captivating experiences tailored to the client's vision and objectives.

Cultivating Collaboration and Trust

Transparency and trust are fundamental values at akire productions. By fostering a culture of collaboration and open communication, the company cultivates deep connections – from its internal team to its partners and event guests. Through this collaborative approach, akire productions ensures that each event it produces serves the true needs and hearts of all involved, resulting in exceptional experiences that exceed expectations.

About Erika Kulovitz

Erika Kulovitz is the visionary founder behind akire productions, a dynamic event design and production company known for its creativity, passion, and attention to detail. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Erika's journey into event design was inspired by her love for design instilled by her grandfather.

Erika's diverse skill set encompasses event planning, marketing, and production, reflecting her commitment to excellence and innovation. Her deep appreciation for the arts, cultivated through 23 years of dance, infuses every aspect of her work, bringing a unique blend of creativity and emotion to each event she produces.

Originally from Chicago but with a special connection to Los Angeles, Erika's reach extends far beyond geographical boundaries. Through akire productions, she continues to redefine the event industry, one unforgettable experience at a time, by bringing her boundless passion, creativity, and expertise to every interaction.

Expert Profile: Jen Kramer

Experienced Event Planning Expert and Philanthropist

Jen Kramer, a highly skilled and dedicated Sales Manager at Access DMC in Chicago, boasts an impressive 30 years of experience in the dynamic world of hospitality and event planning. Throughout her illustrious career, Jen has held various pivotal roles in renowned organizations, including the City of Chicago - Mayor's Office of Special Events, the Chicago Park District, Navy Pier, and DePaul University. Her extensive background spans a diverse range of responsibilities, from directing events and managing entertainment to overseeing marketing initiatives. With a deep-rooted passion for celebrations and entertainment as powerful business tools, Jen has consistently demonstrated her ability to drive revenue growth and exceed client expectations.

A Chicago native through and through, Jen's unwavering commitment extends beyond her professional endeavors. For over two decades, she has proudly served as a board member for Special Olympics Chicago, actively contributing to fundraising efforts for this esteemed charity. Outside of the office, Jen finds solace and inspiration along Chicago's breathtaking lakefront. Whether she's donning her running shoes for a lakeside jog or exploring the city's vibrant neighborhoods on her bike, Jen's love for her hometown shines through. Her quest for hidden culinary gems further underscores her affinity for Chicago's diverse and thriving restaurant scene.

Delivering Unforgettable Experiences

As a Sales Manager at Access DMC, Jen derives great pleasure from engaging with clients and unveiling the wonders that make Chicago a truly exceptional destination. While the city's iconic attractions are widely known, Jen's expertise lies in highlighting the exceptional and specialized service providers, vendors, and business professionals that set Chicago apart. Leveraging her insider knowledge and problem-solving prowess, she goes above and beyond to ensure that each client's expectations are not only met but exceeded. Embodying the spirit of "the City that Works," Jen's dedication to creating experiences that surprise, delight, and fulfill every aspect of her clients' vision is unparalleled.

Jen's career has been punctuated by a defining moment that showcased her exceptional skills in crisis management. During her tenure as a City employee, she played a pivotal role in handling the crisis surrounding the 2007 Chicago Marathon, which had to be canceled mid-event due to extreme heat and humidity levels. Her exceptional logistical and operational abilities proved instrumental in effectively managing this challenging situation. Recognized as a model for emergency preparedness in large-scale events worldwide, Jen takes immense pride in the significant contribution she made to the successful resolution of multiple catastrophic crises that day.

From spearheading the Chicago White Sox World Series Parade in 2005 to organizing the Chicago Blackhawks' first Stanley Cup Parade on Michigan Avenue, Jen holds a deep sense of pride in these unforgettable moments of triumph. Moreover, she celebrates the resounding success of Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest and the remarkable growth of the Special Olympics Chicago Polar Plunge, which has experienced exponential participation and fundraising over its 20-year history. These achievements exemplify Jen's unwavering dedication to creating and executing events that leave a lasting impact on attendees and the community at large.

Resilience, Innovation, and Reimagined Experiences

Reflecting on the future of the event and meeting planning industry, Jen believes that resilience is the key takeaway from the pandemic. She holds an optimistic outlook for the road ahead. Jen envisions a future filled with excitement, innovation, and fresh ideas that will reshape the landscape of events and meetings. As professionals adapt, reimagine, and reinvent themselves and their offerings, she believes the industry will continue to deliver remarkable and awe-inspiring experiences that exceed expectations and leave a lasting impact.

Jen Kramer is hosting the '40 Ideas To Make Your Holiday Party Stand Out' session during Holidays In July, our Planner Master Class event on July 25th. Make sure to register for the event HERE.

Expert Profile: Dianne Devitt

Last summer, during our Planner Master Class at Rosebud on Randolph, Dianne Devitt led a 3+ hour workshop and round-table session, focussing on Creative Leadership and owning the responsibility that comes with planning and leading a team.

Producer, speaker, author, educator, creative strategist, Dianne is an industry leader, visionary, and personality with global experience as a producer, speaker, author and educator. Dianne’s dynamism, coupled with the innate ability to help people and business see and identify possibilities to make effective change, find solutions, and unleash the power of creativity for growth is supported through her belief that “No Idea is Out of Reach.”

Global Speaker

An innovative thinker, Dianne is one of the original pioneers in the experiential industry, having owned a premiere event production company. Throughout her career, she has spoken globally on topics from inspiration, motivation and the power of people coming together. Her background in theater and developmental drama impacts the spontaneity and engagement reflected in her presentations.

The author of What Color is Your Event?, a global resource for creative planning, Dianne also co-authored Called to Lead: Success Strategies for Women, with 17 other women. Dianne has worked and liaised with four US Presidents, astronauts, CEO’s, city and government officials, and heads of state. Always seeking what’s next, Devitt identified the focus and importance of non-verbal sensory communication and produced the SenseUP! Summit.

As an Adjunct Professor at New York University for over 30 years, Dianne has created and taught over six different courses in the hospitality and tourism sector in the Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism where she was honored to receive the Award for Teaching Excellence. Dianne believes in the power of associations,
training and networking having served on local and international boards throughout her career. Dianne enjoys the arts, theater, cooking, recreation and her yoga practice.

Teatro ZinZanni: For one of a Kind Events Only


If you are looking for an exclusive event location for groups up to 300 guests, check out Teatro ZinZanni! Everything about the Teatro ZinZanni experience is unique: from the exclusive location to the whirlwind of entertainment and the many food & drink options. 


Spiegeltent ZaZou is an antique stained glass and mirror tent installed on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel in the heart of Chicago’s Theater District! Brought over from Belgium it stands surrounded by a glittering lobby that will take your guests’ breath away. Thanks to the Belgian Klessens family, these classic spiegeltents have not sunk into oblivion but still have the splendor of a more elegant age. With a multitude of faceted mirrors, stained glass, traditional woodcarving, crystal, and red velvet, it creates a truly unique venue.


Teatro ZinZanni is a whirlwind of cirque, cabaret, music, and laughter presented with a delicious 4-course meal. World-class acrobats, musicians, divas, illusionists, madmen, and aerialists fill the intimate Spiegeltent ZaZou.  Since there is a full kitchen available on site, you can customize the 4-course meal with add-ons and/or pick one of the available drink packages to compliment the experience.

The F&B team at Teatro ZinZanni offers an extensive wine list, and prides itself on an innovative cocktail and mocktail program as well, so there are plenty of options to host an event perfect for your group. 


Teatro ZinZanni’s dinner-show combination is available for groups or full show buyouts for a one-stop event like none other. Teatro ZinZanni can accommodate up to 300 guests with custom floor plan capabilities for dinner, cocktails, celebrations or meetings that are a world away from the ordinary. 


Call Teatro ZinZanni 312-488-0900 or check the website for more information

Add a True Chicago Tradition to your Event

Since 1949, Garrett Popcorn is a Chicago brand that has served multiple generations and potentially millions of locals and visitors alike. 

Garrett Popcorn Shops' most popular recipe is the original "Chicago-style popcorn”, Garrett Mix, a blend of CheeseCorn and CaramelCrisp. Fun fact: the sweet and salty combo was actually invented by fans' requests in the 1970s, and it was put on the global map when Oprah Winfrey named it a "Favorite Thing" for three different seasons of her show!

Next to the original Garrett Mix, the brand continues to release unique seasonal flavors.

The Garrett Experience

"Nothing quite compares to the experience of visiting one of our shops. From the aroma of CaramelCrisp simmering in copper kettles, to the friendly faces of fellow fans and our shop team members- visiting a Garrett shop is time tested tradition,” says Misty Lichter, Associate Director Corporate Sales for Garrett. 

She adds, “That same warm and friendly shop experience translates to our private events and gifting options.  Our small-batch popcorn recipes have remained unchanged for over 70 years. For that reason, along with our seamless service, your event guests or corporate gift recipients can expect the freshest, most irresistible gourmet treat they've ever tasted. One bite of Garrett Popcorn, and they won't be able to put it down."

Very Chicago

Adding a Garrett experience to your Chicago event means adding a true Chicago flavor, brought to you by a Chicago based team in a typical Chicago friendly and welcoming way. Whether it is a party favor at your wedding, a late night snack for your guests, or a full white glove popcorn service at a corporate function: the Garrett team will make sure that you get the customized popcorn experience to take your event to the next level and make it unforgettable! 

Do you want more information about Garrett flavored events or gifts? 

Contact a Business & Events team member at, call Misty at 773-292-6416 or check the Garrett website.

Celebrate with a Lively Virtual Team Event


Founded in 1987 by Ed Graziano, Corporate Event Interactive (CEI) is an industry leader, active in Chicago’s meeting and event community. Their experienced event team builds strong relationships with clients to create and produce programs to meet their goals and expectations. 

With specially designed activities, CEI revitalizes meetings and retreats, delivers key messages and learning objectives and adds excitement to client and employee events. Each program is unique, engaging and appropriate for groups of all abilities and professional levels.


During the pandemic the entire event industry was forced to come up with creative solutions and in the case of CEI that resulted in many unique virtual team building activities. During this time of year, they offer six dynamic holiday and year-end virtual events, all of them can be customized with your brand logo, company info, images and more. 


Booking your virtual celebration is pretty simple, picking one may be harder as all six of them are a lot of fun! When we asked CEI President Linda Whitlock about her favorite virtual event, it took her a few moments to make up her mind. “Picking one is hard, as they are all a lot of fun, but the iQuest Around the World is both entertaining and educational for any team. It has a lot of fun facts and trivia about traditions and celebrations around the world, so you will definitely learn a few things while playing!” 

It only takes four easy steps to book with CEI: 

  1. Select a lively virtual team event on the CEI website
  2. Select an available date in December 2021 or January 2022.
  3. Select your time:
    • 6 am
    • 8 am
    • 10 am
    • Noon
    • 2 pm
    • 4 pm 
    • 6 pm
  4. Contact us for your special discount before December 15th at 312-540-1000 or and mention Promo code AteemaFriend for a special discount!

Once everything is booked, the only thing left is to bring your virtual team together to celebrate with a lively game-sharing experience. 

Need more information? Please check out

Planner Profile: Q&A with Valerie Luporini

Valerie Luporini is the Vice President of Corporate Events at Inland Communications, Inc. and a seasoned meeting and events professional that spans more than 25 years. Her expertise, creativity, and experience is admired by the planning industry and she has shared that insight with us! Check out our first Planner Profile below:

What meetings and events trends do you see taking off in 2020?

Sustainability - I believe sustainability is becoming the norm in our industry instead of the exception. In the past, it was nice to see recycling bins at an event, it showed that the host cared about the environment. Now, I'm happy to say, attendees are expecting sustainability to be a priority. From full-service apps that create paperless events to zero-waste lunches this trend is being taken seriously.

Experience Based Events and Venues - Creating an event that offers a new experience to attendees is now necessary to hit registration goals. We're living in a world where I believe the average attention span is less than 8 seconds and everyone is looking for instant gratification and constant stimulation. A meeting in a hotel ballroom with classroom seating and a detailed PowerPoint presentation is no longer productive. Event spaces need to be unique and planners need to create an interactive experience to maximize audience engagement and content retention.

Mindfulness - I'm personally very excited about the mindfulness trend growing in our meeting and events industry. Whether it's a short meditation, group run or an entire platform for larger meetings, mindfulness is front and center and attendee feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Helping the attendees disconnect from their everyday allows them to be more engaged.

What has been your biggest challenge in the meetings and events industry?

Working with tight budgets and short turnaround times has been a challenge throughout my career. More recently, my biggest challenge is finding new venues that can provide different experiences for my attendees.

What is your biggest career highlight?

I have been blessed with a great career and have planned hundreds of events over the past 30 years. The one that will always standout for me is an international board meeting. I was a young planner and was tasked with hosting a week-long board meeting for members and their guests. There were many components and challenges that came with this event. Not only was it an international meeting for an elite group but it had multiple sessions running simultaneously. Meeting content had to be developed, normal logistics had to be coordinated and managed and excursion options had to be offered. One of the highlights from that project was using a set of famous stairs as the venue for our black-tie event at the end of the program.

What is your best advice for a newcomer to the planner industry?

I always tell new planners to choose an industry that they are passionate about and develop their planning skills within that space. If they like health and fitness, they should find a company that can use their skills and plan within that world. A good planner can make their skills work in any industry but it's important to keep their passion alive. They should work in an industry they love.

How did you get started in planning meetings and events?

When I was 10 years old, I asked my mom if I could help with my little sister's birthday party. As soon as she said yes, I started planning. I came up with a theme, handmade all the invitations, worked on designing the event (made decorations), and enjoyed watching it come together on the day of her party. Although it was put on hold for several years, my passion was discovered.

I was hired by Cirrus, a division of MasterCard International, to assist the Vice President shortly after I graduated high school. One of the main components of my job was planning meetings and events. The passion that started when I was a kid came alive again. I immediately started planning domestic and international meetings as well as corporate events and marketing programs. Almost 30 years later, I still love what I do.

What tools or technology do you love that can help other planners?

I believe our relationships and the skills to develop them are the most important tools we have as planners. Technology is always changing, so the best advice I can give is to commit to working with peers and suppliers to help you stay informed.

If I had to pick one technology component, I'd say registration software. I have used a few throughout my career and now more than ever the process needs to be easy, quick and secure. It's important to spend the time to research the multiple products that are available and work with peers to choose the one that best fits the project and budget.

What is the most interesting event idea that you've heard about or implemented yourself?

I am amazed every day when I open my email and see all of the events that our peers produce. I recently attended Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference and have to say I've never attended anything like it. Their attention to detail when planning the attendee experience was noticed and appreciated. They hosted over 170,000 registered attendees for this multi-day event and did it seamlessly. I loved the idea that they aligned it with their corporate core value of making a difference in the world and provided an environment that addressed the mindfulness trend through programing and extreme sustainability efforts. I felt that they provided an engaging, educational and entertaining experience that allowed each guest to maximize their experience and time out of the office.

What is the most important element to a meeting or event and why?

For me it will always be the overall attendee experience. Strong content doesn't mean a successful event. Time is our greatest commodity and with so many options we need to make sure we're hosting and attending events that offer the best return on our energy. If someone is taking time out of their busy schedule, they should be offered easy registration and an engaging event with an environment that makes it easy to retain the information that shared.