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Powerful Women: Let's Talk - 107: Noelle Frost

Shelley Irwin welcomes Noelle Frost to the podcast

Noelle Frost has over 30 years of experience in hospitality, marketing, events, and entertainment. She calls herself a professional troubleshooting cheerleader. She’s broken fundraising records and learned a whole new industry just in time for a pandemic. Noelle Frost is our guest for this edition of Powerful Women: Let’s Talk

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Full Transcript:


Narrator: Produced by women about women, Powerful Women: Let's Talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world, transforming who we are and how we live.

Shelley Irwin: With over 30 years in hospitality, marketing, events, and entertainment Noelle Frost literally calls herself a professional trouble shooting cheerleader. She's broken fundraising records learned a new whole industry just in time for a pandemic. Plus, she's never eaten a Big Mac - so let’s welcome Noelle to Powerful Women: Let's Talk. I know where we're having lunch!

Noelle Frost: Hey, I'm with you. I guess today's the day for breaking the 50-some-year record.

SI: And that's OK, Big Macs are good but maybe we’ll go for a salad instead.

Noelle Frost: I would love that.

SI: But you are here, much that you do have on your resume and I'm going to get right into the world of hospitality events. When did you know that you are game for this profession?

NF: About 20 minutes ago? (laughs) You know, it really came about serendipitously. Big word right there to kick off the interview. I feel like, you know, the more you dive into entertainment, the more you dive into events, the more you dive in hospitality, they're really all tied together. It's about “the show must go on.” It's about making people feel comfortable and enjoying being in the moment and getting the most out of that moment, whether it's a social occasion or corporate occasion. So I think really all of them are really tied together. And it really, you know, when I was in college, there were no, there was no Johnson Center for Philanthropy, you know, a nonprofit work. There was no degree in event planning, you know, things like that. So I really just kind of found my way through doing a lot of different independent projects and volunteering for stuff and one thing just led to another

SI: I’m picturing a little Noelle Frost, a 7 year-old gathering the family and giving the announcements. Was there any of that in you?

NF: Well, at 7, I wanted to be a veterinarian because I was in love with animals, however, yes, I was definitely the kid…so, we lived in Florida at that time. So we definitely had like the neighborhood kids that we always gather around in our house. We'd invite him over to some of the pool we were always doing, you know, fun things, putting on little shows on the porch and stuff like that, mini circuses with our dogs and cats.

SI: You can still do that, too.

NF: I’m thinking about it.

SI: Educational journey. What was it then?

NF: Yeah, well, my official educational journey after high school down in Southwest Michigan, Go Lakeshore Lancers, I came up to Grand Rapids, went to Aquinas College to study communications and public relations. And most people thought I was a music major because I spent so much time there. But I was really just involved with the performing groups because that was my true passion and love. But I would say the majority of my education for events and hospitality and entertainment really came from living the life

SI: And your first corporate job out of college, introducing a new form of entertainment.

NF: At the time, this is going to age me, Shelly (laughs). So my first corporate job out of college, about 6 months or so after I graduated, I worked for a division of Thorn EMI who at the time was a big record label owner and owned a lot of entertainment ventures. And they were bringing a new concept to America and to corporate marketing. And it was called (Japanese) which means “empty orchestra.” Most people now call it “karaoke.” And so, yeah, we were one of the first people to bring that to people, you know, far and wide here in America and how it was used in corporate marketing and events was we had a contract with Pepsi and Ray Charles and the Raylettes. They had a little diddy, a little jingle. And we would take this jingle and this machinery and this music to conferences and trade shows and grocery store parking lots, just all sorts of places that I it boggles my mind now when I think about it and we would literally do the jingle to show people how karaoke worked and then try to encourage people to get up and sing, you know, their favorite rock tune our country to honor whatever. It's hard to believe that it's just become such a household thing now.

SI: But other careers of come your way.

NF: Yes, well for over 11 years I was a professional vocalist in Chicago was very lucky to be able to do that live my dream of being a full-time singer and making a really good living at it. So I was the lead singer on the Odyssey Cruise Ship at Navy Pier. I did over 2500 cruises in my career. It doesn't leave a lot for your social life for most of the year. But that's okay. Because I like I said, I was I was very lucky to get to do that. Most people don't even, you know, get the chance to do something like that. That even part time, let alone full time. I met my husband there, he was also a full-time musician and we had a business together and it was really great. But I did that after working for the corporate marketing company that brought karaoke into town, they wanted to promote me but to do that, I had to move to another city and the cities they were going to move me to I just wasn't really that thrilled about. So I said, you know what? I'm going to get a shot and I quit my job and I moved to Chicago, not knowing a soul. I auditioned for a band. I interviewed for a job and I got them. I said, all right, well, it must be that I meant to be here 2 years then I’ll go to LA, then I’ll go go to Boston, theb Denver…like 2 years everywhere. And 17 years later, I was still in Chicago. So that was that was that job. After that, I worked doing a lot of event planning and actually corporate concierge work in the Loop in Chicago. And then when we moved back to Michigan, you know, all sorts of jobs I've had here which have been really great work for the Grand Rapids Chamber, which was an excellent experience to re-ignite my familiarity with Grand Rapids because it changed so much since I went to college here, worked at my alma mater Aquinas for a little while. And then, of course, the Alzheimer's Association before I ended up in my current job, working from home as a field marketer of for an international tech company. It's crazy.

SI: Life has not stopped for, you know, let's stop here and talk about your fund raising. You've broken records for bringing in dollars. What drives you to work so hard to make this happen?

NF: I think it's really your passion for the cause. You know, the two that… and they've both been broken since then. So let's not, you know, go crazy with my accolades there because I just love that. That's like the one thing that you can do and pull off that you really want to see broken, right? Not your timing in a marathon, you want to see your fundraising, you know, records broken because that means good things are happening. So I would say, you know, when you can invest your time and passion and really follow that and cheer lead other people, you know, into that passion and finding other people that have that passion and really showing them how their either their investment of time or their investment of treasure can really benefit others. The one was back when I was in Chicago, it was the Mutt Strut so it's a big fundraiser for Chicago Canine Rescue. And we just had a wonderful time with that event. And then the other one was on my Walk to End Alzheimer's. My first full-time year here, we were happy to break some records with that. When you hear the stories and they touch your heart, no matter what your passion is, how do you say no? You don't you you have to get involved and you have to do it. You also have to protect your heart to, you know. I still am a very big advocate for animal rescue and for Alzheimer's research in the association. But sometimes, you know, after you've worked and lived it 24/7, you've got to kind of step back and be passionate about it in other ways.

SI: Tell me much this voice of yours want this to come into play? You know, for many it's a dream. You made it happen.

NF: Yeah. This loud voice. So, actually, both my parents were entertainers. Believe it or not. My mom was a professional singer and my dad was a professional comedian. I know people will be like really? You could make a living doing that? Well back then they absolutely could. You know, they did the big resorts in the Catskill Mountains, and then they did the big cruise ships in the Caribbean. And then they my mom was a singer in the U.S.O. during the Korean War. I mean, they just they did Voiceovers for commercials. They just they really had a wide depth and breadth of how they use their talent. So for me and actually my brother to, you know, we just kind of grew up in the house singing to records and singing to each other and also performing for each other. But, you know, just really kind of having that extrovert kind of personality, even though you might be an introvert, that extrovert personality when you're a performer. Really I was just so lucky when I went to college, you know, I was obviously very involved a theater and choirs and all that in high school. When I went to college again, like I mentioned, I wasn’t a music major, but I wanted to keep involved with singing because it was just… I loved it so much. And I had an incredible, two incredible mentors. You've had Nancy Summers here on before, who is wonderful. And she was the chairperson music department. And then I had incredible instructor named Steve Salinas from the vocal jazz ensemble there. And I just learned so much about being a performer and how to set a music system and, you know, all sorts of stuff let alone actually using your voice and then just taking chances and auditioning for everything.

SI: Well, and that's what I mean, taking a risk. Tell that young listener, you know, who's listening now go ahead and take a risk.

NF: Absolutely. And you know, I have friends who are teachers, you know, who direct vocal groups and high schools and middle schools. Run camps and things like that. And every time I've been asked for advice, that's what I say. Try everything, audition for everything. You get experience you, you know, you learn more about yourself what your strengths are, what you need to work on. And if you get something, you don't have to take it, you know, but put yourself out there. The way I got my dream job on the ship was because I audition for another band. And one of the guys that was running that band said, you know, I know somebody who needs you. And he reached out to the director of entertainment for the cruise ships and said you need to hire this girl. She's the one you're looking for. I mean, if I had gone to that audition, who knows, right? So you just you have to put yourself out there and, you know, for any kind of performer you've been on stage, you know, rejection is hard. You know, it's not an easy thing to put yourself out there, but the more you do it also, I think, the easier it becomes. And it's just such a wonderful way to learn about yourself. And the more you do you build confidence you realize you're building your confidence just one day you're owning it.

SI: You do not have time for a Big Mac. What about singing the national anthem where’d this happen?

NF: Oh, my gosh. Well, when I was at Aquinas they were so great to me, they used to invite you to all the sports programs there and do that. And then I got to sing at the graduation for the college, which was amazing. But I really got to take on the big stage doing that because I got to sing the national anthem for the Chicago White Sox twice on their home field. So yeah, in front of thousands and thousands of people and also at Soldier Field I got to do it once too. Just really cool opportunities. You just… again, taking a chance sending an email, sending a demo of me singing in my Chicago apartment Capella and they're like, yeah, come on down. You know what's worst they could do? Not reply to my email?

SI: What about those puppies in your life?

NF: Yeah. Well, we're huge into rescue, we’re huge advocates for that. Right now, we never saw ourselves having doodles but we actually have two doodles currently. Both rescues from a wonderful organization. Dasher, a sheepadoodle who really had a terrible start to life, my poor little boy, and we're still working on him to trust people and actually be a dog. And our beautiful Layla, she's a golden doodle. And she was a puppy mill momma who once they used here, you know, they just kind of cast her aside. So we're giving her a home to be able to be happy and just relax. But we actually have fostered 13 puppies, not all the same time.

SI: Sounds like none of them stayed home with you, you weren’t a failed foster parent, but maybe you you…

NF: …I’d love to say that, but it was it was until well into…we had gone through many before we actually did keep one. And that was Macy our black lab mix and we had her till she was 12 years old. He just lost about a year…Oh, my gosh…COVID. What does it do to my timing? Right before COVID we lost her.

SI: And speaking of COVID, you actually did seek he the current job you’re in now during COVID?

NF: Actually, I didn't seek it. A friend of mine, again, that I had met through performance that I have known since I was 15. We've lived in totally different worlds. He's lived in the tech world and is a performer part-time. And I've done my work, you know, and we just a really close friends and one day out of the blue, he called me not knowing that I was thinking about a change. And he said, I can't believe I haven't thought of you for this before. What would you think of…and I was like, you're out of your mind…you want to work for a tech company work from home for tech company and as a contractor? I’m like, “no.” This is the worst idea you’ve ever had. And the more he told me about the job, I was like, you know, I am looking for a change. I'd like to challenge myself and try this. And I thought, well, I'm a contractor at the time. You know what? They're going to fire me in 3 months. Let's try it. You know, here I am 4 years later, full-time employee, you know, really loving it. Leading a lot of other people that join us in the field marketing team there.

SI: Which leads me to again, the piece of advice, if you're asked ore recommended by someone, take that as; someone believes in me and perhaps follow up.

NF: Yeah. I mean, how can you not? I mean, you inviting me here today, totally out of the blue. But I'm like, you know what, Shelley, who says no to Shelley Irwin? But I mean, it's you know, you have the chance to share a story. You have the chance to share some wisdom. You have the chance to say take a chance, right? And I think that's so important because so many of us, I think especially women kind of look for permission to try new things, or, we wait for the invitation all the time. And sometimes you just like I want to try that, you know, why not? You know, I'll get through it somehow some way. So I think that's really kind of an important thing that… and don't get me wrong. I still struggle with invitations. As you know, I will sometimes go, “really?” But, you know, things turn out great because you do take those chances. And and a lot of the you know, quotations or mottos or things like that people live by, I think those are the ones I gravitate towards.

SI: One more question when it comes to entertainment. So I’m in the audience…how much does your audience matter? Because sometimes… are you background music, are you entertaining? Where do you find your spots these days?

NF: Well, these days, anywhere anytime, honestly, for me, it's really about the audience. It's not about me. There are people that want to that write their own music that write their own lyrics that, you know, are putting on a show and want to be famous. And I'm all about that. You know, if you have that talent, sadly, that is not my talent. Haha, my talents taking other people's music and performing in a way that connects in the moment. So if my job is to set a cool vibe, you know at a corporate event and just make people feel like, you know, the setting is right for whatever the company wants. That's my job. If my job is to bring a tear to the eye of the father and the father daughter dance at a wedding, that's my job. You know, if I'm here to pack a dance floor and get people, you know, rocket and having a good time forgetting about their day of work and just, you know, enjoy. That's my job. It's not about Noelle the singer, it's about what's happening in front of me at this event or with this audience. That's my job when it comes to singing, not everybody's job and they're performing, but that's my job.

SI: Well, this is all about you and that first name. Were you a holiday baby?

NF: Oh, yes. Yeah. I was supposed to come January 3rd. My mom looked at the doctor and said this baby’s coming in December I just know it. And they didn't have a name picked out and my mom and dad were going between all sorts of names and they were decorating the Christmas tree and The First Noel came on and my mom said, that's it. That's it. My dad said you're crazy. It's coming in January. I arrived on December 20th brought home on Christmas Day in a stocking, not a blanket. Here we are.

SI: Entertainers for parents…

NF: Right? And married into the last name Frost so that’s how I knew it was for sure.

SI: Leave us with a motto or something to get us up and going.

NF: You know, following this conversation, I think the one that really resonates with me is following your heart will cost you, but not following your heart will be even more expensive.

SI: Noelle Frost, thank you for this time on our Powerful Women: Let’s Talk

Narr: Produced by women about women. These powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live. Want to hear more Powerful Women: Let's Talk? Get additional interviews at wgvu.org or wherever you get your podcasts. Please rate and subscribe. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer Public Broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University. The views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU, Its underwriters, or Grand Valley State University.

Shelley Irwin is the host and producer for The Shelley Irwin Show, a news magazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday. The show, broadcast at 9 a.m., features a wide variety of local and national news makers, plus special features.
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