By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
From a 1929 home in downtown Delray Beach, Renee Radabaugh, CMP runs a global organization that produces 150 programs a year for businesses, nonprofit organizations and associations all over the globe.
Headquartered in Delray Beach, Paragon Events celebrated its 30th anniversary on Oct. 20.
Under Radabaugh’s leadership, Paragon Events employees have planned meetings, conferences and events in 62 countries.
“I am really, really proud of where we have come from,” she said. “I also don’t for a moment take it for granted.”
Radabaugh started out her career doing social work before transitioning into the hospitality sector.
She worked in the hotel business and was relocated to Boca Raton to helped open the Polo Club in Boca, what is now an Embassy Suites and the Four Seasons in Palm Beach.
It is the white glove service she learned in the hotel sector that she brings to her business, Paragon Events.
“I felt like I understood what clients wanted,” she said after working in the hotel industry. “So, I built a business around it.”
She was working in a flower shop she owned, a high-end boutique where she designed arrangements for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, when her daughter, who was 2-years-old, pulled at her leg, told her to “take off her fancy clothes” and stay home to play.
She went to the event, took the next day off to stay home with her daughter and realized she could create a company where she could balance her career and family.
So, she worked to launch her business and eventually landed a large account that she said, “Catapulted me into this journey.”
Along the way to building her event empire, which began in Boca Raton, she was introduced to the city to the north, Delray Beach.
Delray was about to celebrate its 100th anniversary and Old School Square’s then director Joe Gillie reached out to see if Radabaugh could help with some of the celebration planning.
Her husband, an executive chef, helped with the catering and she helped work on the event production.
Not too long after, they opened a restaurant, Dakotah 624 on Atlantic Ave. It was opened for 10 years and then they sold it.
They fell in love with the city, sold their home in Boca and moved into a home in Delray.
Then, they bought a building on 3rd Ave. in the arts district, which became the home of Paragon Events.
Radabaugh joined the chamber of commerce and served on the board, sat on a committee for the Pineapple Grove Arts District and bought the plaza that will soon become The Ray hotel in Pineapple Grove.
At the time, it had a defunct Piggly Wiggly and auto store in the plaza. They renovated the plaza and helped turn it into the shopping area that exists today. They also purchased a building by the Camera Store, renovated it and sold it.
All the projects were done as Paragon Events grew. She said they only put a sign on the building about 4 years ago.
Of the company’s 32 employees, about 22 are located in Delray. Other team members are located Boston, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond, VA, St. Augustine and Washington, D.C.
They have produced events in places as far away as China, Japan and the Maldives.
“It’s a collection of really talented people who are big thinkers and creatives and its about delivering and hospitality,” she said of her team.
Paragon Events provides all types of services in house that needed to put on an event including branding, graphics, copy and creative.
From registration to data collection, Paragon keeps track of all of that information for their clients.
Over the years, she said the challenge is staying on top of technology. She remembers using fax machines and sharing one computer to register conference attendees. Now, it is about understanding social media and what software is the right program to invest in.
“I think that technology is a friend and foe,” she said. “When we started, the big technology was a fax machine and sharing a $3,000 computer. Social media has been the biggest change.”
She said she is always learning especially when it comes to learning how to communicate effectively with the consumer.
“I think when you stop learning, you stop growing,” she said. “I have never stopped changing.”