Arts & Ideas: Philly Event King Michael Wink

Michael Wink

Michael Wink is a young entrepreneur from Philadelphia with a diverse skill set and tremendous networking skills. His unique ability to conceptualize large scale events and marketing campaigns has set him on a path as a rising star in the industry. Michael holds a degree in Specialized Technology from Williamson College of the Trades, arguably the top Trade school in the United States.  After his 21st birthday he quickly developed a passion for nightlife and began organizing events in bars and night clubs. Michael’s events on most occasions would test venue capacities. It was not uncommon to see him jump in behind a busy bar to pour drinks or mix up shots. He was never afraid to jump in and get dirty when needed. The next stage in his career was more behind the scenes in the casino industry where he produced events such as New Years Eve parties, concerts, and bikini pageants for Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino. Michael also booked DJ’s and set up the first series of Pool Parties at Valley Forge Casino which led to the development of the Valley Beach Club on the Casino Property.

In 2013 he took a step back from events and answered a call from a friend who at the time worked for Stephen Starr’s catering division. For the next year he worked with a small staff that prepared and served food for more then a thousand people a day. With his passion for food and events in hand, he went to some old friends and began brainstorming Ideas for food festivals. What came next would make history in Philadelphia. In November of 2014 the idea for The Philadelphia Cheese Festival was born and Michael was instrumental in its development. He was a driving force in the marketing of this major event. In early October of this year he and his team had sold out the venue at Lincoln Financial Field and reached over 2.2 million people on social media, a remarkable feat by any standards. Michael was featured on multiple local and national broadcasts and publications for his involvement in the event. Since The Cheesesteak Festival Michael is working to launch a new marketing and branding company based in Philadelphia with some other top players in the industry. He also has big plans for 2016 in the works such as a free concert at Penns Landing on Memorial Day to benefit Veterans in Philadelphia. Michael has Signed on to help with “Mascots for a Cure”  to break a Guiness World Record in Philadelphia and raise funds to fight pediatric cancer.   He is also busy working on developing other food festivals, concerts and more casino events. In addition he’s hinted towards some big events maybe coming out of China town. We caught up with Mr. Wink to see what drives him and his ideas.

Classic Entourage: Thanks for sitting down with us. You are the most loved man in Philadelphia. You are the one who brought warring kingdoms together. The battles of cheese steaks has been raging in Philadelphia for decades. Bringing everyone together is legendary alone. How did you get everyone on board for the first ever Cheese steak festival? 

Michael Wink: Thank you very much  I don’t know about the most loved man in Philadelphia but I appreciate the kind words.

 To answer your question the lesser known shops were the easiest to get on board. When news of the festival went viral on social media those were the guys that were eager to get their name out there and sign up. The majority contacted us. I had people reaching out as far as Florida and even Hamburg Germany in the first few weeks of my marketing campaign. The more iconic shops like Pat’s, Geno’s,Tony Luke’s, Steve’s and Delassandros took a little bit more work. It’s a common misconception that these guys are rivals. This could not be any further from the truth. Some of the best memories I’ll take away from this project are sitting at news stations with Tony Luke, Frankie from Pat’s, Geno and Steve from Steve’s Prince of Steaks.  The way these guys interact telling stories and razzing each other could be a reality show.

CE: Take me through a day in the life of Mr. Wink. 

MW: Everyday something new pops up it’s quite the adventure I’ll tell you that. I start my day anywhere between 5 and 6 a.m. I like to start it off by cooking a little breakfast. Cooking for me kinda helps me focus and centers me it’s more therapeutic really.  The events after that typically vary from day to day whether it be hopping around from meeting to meeting, dealing with endless phone calls or diving into some work putting pen to paper. My days do typically get away from me. Any spare minutes are usually spent scrolling threw Facebook, Instagram and Tinder. I like to look at how other people are interacting. See what topics are trending and use that to draw inspiration for events and marketing tactics. I usually like to be home around dinner time when I can to cook and refocus. After that I usually get lost in whatever project I’m working on at the time. I like to work on multiple projects using one to escape from another when things get too redundant so I stay fresh. It’s time for another social media smoke break ( just an analogy I don’t smoke)  skipping around on facebook and swiping right on a few pics.  Now it’s usually anywhere between 12 and 3am in the morning if it’s not too late I’ll try to sneak out to the bar maybe to do some socializing. I try to get out a few times a week when I can. Then before I know it, it’s time to start all over again picking off the next day’s projects.

Michael Wink

CE: What are your goals within the Philadelphia market? What does Philadelphia need to improve on its lush history and bring more vibrant individuals such as yourself to the city?

MW: My goals in the Philly market are simple…I I want to take the whole thing over. It’s kind of a joke but at the same time I’m serious. There’s so much room now to grow in Philadelphia. I’m not one of those people that thinks that the city has to change to help me out in any way. Instead I look at it more like what can I do for the city? How can I help the city of Philadelphia? How can I help some striving some new businesses grow?  How can I stimulate markets? As the next generation of entrepreneurs moves threw the ranks it’s our job to sculpt and shape Philadelphia in the way that we would like to see it become.

CE: Can you name some trends in the city that you would like to see end whether it be style of attitude wise?

MW: Style wise and I think you’ll agree with me here. In Philadelphia and across the country it drives me crazy that we are a dress-down society I was always captivated by the style of dress in the 40’s and 50’s all the guys at adorned suits and ties. I put on a tie every day even if it just to got to the corners store. It makes me feel confident and it lets you know that I respect you enough to get dressed regardless who it is that I may encounter. You attract what you project. If your down on your luck I’m telling you go dress up look the part I bet things start to turn around and you have a better day.

CE: What are your plans for future events and festivals?

MW: You want the top secret information? The next few projects I can tell you about right now are; New Years Eve at Harrah’s Philadelphia in the new Block Event Center. An interesting one will be called “Mascots for a Cure” I linked up with a guy from Oregon heavily involved in the mascot world and we will be attempting to break a Guinness Book of World Records for most mascots in one place. That will be at end of February in Philadelphia. The event will help benefit pediatric cancer research. I will also be organizing a free concert at Penns landing during Memorial Day weekend to raise money for some veterans organizations. I’m also working on some other large scale food festivals to take to other cities, I have some big things in works coming out of Chinatown, some other concerts, comedy shows, and casino events. I just can’t get to specific right now.

CE: Any living legends that you look up to?

MW: I don’t look up to to many people but one person that does come to mind is Gary Vaynerchuk  Founder of Vayner Media. This guy is icon in the social media world. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur and you don’t know who Gary is you need to look him up and watch some of his videos.

CE: What is your advice to anyone starting a new event?

MW: Find another city to do it in, this one is mine. I say that jokingly.

Events are a tough business you really have to love doing it and possibly be a bit crazy. Be prepared to work 20 hours a day for months on end. Have the stress of knowing you having large sums of money tied up in costs and fees. Coming to realization it’s going to take a miracle just to break even. Praying the weather holds out, hoping people actually show up. It’s so easy to literally lose everything you have at stake. But if you are able to pull it off there is no better felling in the entire world then being behind the stage or a DJ booth staring out into a happy crowd and knowing that You did that. It’s a feel that few people in life ever get to experience and the reason I do events.

CE: Thanks again for sitting down with us!  Hope to see great work coming from you in the near future. 

MW: Thank you! I had a great time and I wish you all the best of luck with your own projects.

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