Women in Hospitality: Theresa Ellsworth
A Journey of Empowerment, Strength, Resilience, and Innovation
In the dynamic world of hospitality, where experiences are crafted and customer satisfaction is paramount, women have been steadily carving their path as influential leaders. These trailblazers bring a unique perspective – combining empathy, creativity, and business acumen to redefine the industry's landscape. In a candid conversation with Theresa Ellsworth, VP of regional sales for Sertifi, we explore her remarkable journey and the evolving role of women in the hospitality sector.
Mimi McNulty: Good afternoon, Theresa! Thank you for joining me today.
Theresa Ellsworth: Hello! Thank you for having me.
MM: Let’s start with an easy question. How long have you been in the hospitality industry?
TE: I started my first job in 2006 so, wow – it’s been 17 years, almost 18!
MM: Have you always been on the sales side of things?
TE: I've not always been in sales, but I've always been on the vendor side of the hospitality industry.
MM: Where did your hospitality journey begin and what brought you to Sertifi?
TE: It all started in college. I attended State University of New York at Plattsburgh where I got my bachelor's degree in hospitality, restaurant, and tourism management. From there, I started working at Springer-Miller as an Implementation specialist and was there for just shy of 15 years. In 2021, I was the director of sales in the spa division when our VP of sales, Michelle Young, who I had worked with at Springer-Miller, asked me to come aboard as the director of sales for regional accounts at Sertifi. Michelle has always been a mentor and role model for me, so I was excited to learn more. She raved about the culture, the product, and the company’s reputation, and I thought it was a good opportunity, so I jumped at the chance.
MM: Who or what influenced you to build a career in hospitality?
TS: I did an internship between my junior and senior years of college at Wild Dunes Resort right outside of Charleston. I was part of the recreation department and got to behind-the-scenes and see how the resort was run. While I was there, I got really excited by the thought of this property growing and how I could be involved. I thought the resort’s general manager was the greatest. She was always well put together, confident, and everyone respected her. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to be like her.”
MM: So, you have had 17 years of exposure to the business. What has your experience been like being a woman in the hospitality industry?
TE: Well, I think that having a bond with other female professionals has been key. When I was in college getting a degree in hospitality, there were not many females in my program, so I did not have a lot of female connections. When I got my first job at Springer-Miller, where they hired 5 to 10 people at a time in “classes,” a lot of my class members were women. At the time, I didn't really think much of it, but I have maintained those friendships to this day, and they have helped me throughout my career.
Outside of those friendships, my career has really run the gamut. I have had to navigate difficult situations like anyone else, like being talked down to or having my ideas dismissed, but I've also met a lot of people, men and women, who make a point to lift you up, compliment you, recommend you for things, and build your confidence along the way.
MM: Do you think women stepping into more leadership roles has influenced the industry in any way?
TE: Yes, I do. When I was at Springer-Miller, I got to work with lots of women in leadership. Working with these strong, powerful women who could run these large, luxury spas in places like Las Vegas was an amazing learning opportunity. The spa industry continues to grow year over year, and many are led by females. We see female representation, especially in leadership, growing in all industries. Whether it's hospitality, tech, or others we are seeing more inclusivity, collaboration, productivity, and ultimately more revenue.
MM: Why is it important to have female leadership?
TE: I think that sometimes men and women can have different views or ideas, so it’s good to be as inclusive as possible. Also, I'm just going to say it: females – particularly moms – get things done and know how to multitask. Just this morning, my son was sick, and we were at the doctors for two hours. But now I'm here, at the end of the quarter, ready to finish strong! Also, when it comes to female empowerment and equality, women want or need to take over every aspect of business. We want to coexist with men with the same number of responsibilities and the same amount of influence.
MM: What have you learned as you have grown as a professional?
TE: First and foremost, I have learned the importance of taking responsibility for your own actions. When I was so young right out of college, it was so easy to blame others or blame other circumstances for why things didn't work out the way we had planned or the way I had wanted them to. I think as you develop and gain experience, you realize that that doesn't help anyone. When you take responsibility and, most importantly, gain insight from the situation, it's all a learning experience.
MM: What has kept you motivated as you've climbed the ladder of leadership?
TE: I love mentoring others, so having the opportunity to grow my team and help people who work under me by teaching them things that I have learned has been a great motivator. And learning from them as well.
MM: Do you have any other advice for women in business?
TE: I would say, when it comes to leadership or sales leadership, you need to find your strength, lean into what you are good at, and learn from yourself. Use your past experiences to help you today. It's all about what brings you joy, what you are good at, and how you use that to the best of your abilities to help everyone around you.
MM: With that, thank you for taking the time to share your story with me today, Theresa.
TE: It was my pleasure!