Michele Wilde is a volunteer for Dress for Success, a group that provides professional clothing and job readiness programs for women re-entering the workforce. Wilde helps women hone their interviewing skills. Lila Photos
Michele Wilde is a consummate planner. For the past 23 years she has worked at The Breakers in Palm Beach, where she now serves as director of conference services and event sales, handling hundreds of conferences, weddings and special events each year.
“I’m obsessively organized,” said Wilde.
She and her team produce conferences and events for groups ranging from 20 to 1,500 people. When planning weddings and parties, they pool their creative talents to come up with interesting themes.
One of Wilde’s favorites was a railroad theme, which was a nod to Henry Flagler, the railroad magnate who founded The Breakers in 1896. As the guests came into the ballroom, it was like entering a railcar. The windows were actually video monitors that showed scenery passing by, and the “train” made stops in foreign cities, with a food course and entertainment specific to each location.
“We’ve done miraculous things here,” said Wilde. “It’s the fun part of our job.”
Besides the creative aspect, what Wilde likes most about working at The Breakers, which has remained in the hands of Flagler’s heirs since its inception, are the company’s values and ethics and the expectations.
“They permeate our culture and really make such a wonderful work environment,” said Wilde. “This is a place that people love, and they give it their all, so it makes you work harder every day.”
One of the core values of the company is giving back to the community, and a number of volunteer activities are made available to all of its employees.
It was this volunteer commitment of the company that inspired Wilde to get more involved in charity work. About four years ago, she became a volunteer for Dress for Success Palm Beaches, an organization that provides professional clothing and job readiness programs for women referred from more than 70 agencies in Palm Beach County, helping them re-enter the workforce and rebuild their lives.
“It’s an incredible program,” said Wilde, who does mock interviews with the women during weekly training sessions, and then provides their mentors with feedback on each interview.
Since it was founded in 2010, Dress for Success Palm Beaches has served more than 2,400 women and has been very successful in securing jobs.
“It’s very rewarding working one-on-one with these ladies and helping them get ready for their next step,” said Wilde. “Once you do it, you realize what a difference you’re going to make for somebody by being generous with your time.”
She is on the organization’s board of directors and chaired its Style for Hope luncheon last year at the Kravis Center. It’s held every March and helps to raise awareness, which is something that Wilde wants to focus on more.
For the past three years, Wilde also has served on the board of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, and was named vice president this April.
Wilde got her start in the hotel business working as a lifeguard at the Cherry Hill Inn in Cherry Hill, N.J., during her college summer breaks. She was promoted to reservations, then the front office and then to the sales office.
She came to Florida in her 20s for the warm climate, and because her grandparents were living in the Pompano Beach area. She worked at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, and then at the Sheraton Design Center in Dania Beach, where she met her husband, Darrell. She was working as a catering and conference manager and he was a banquet manager.
He would set up a wooden table for her in the ballroom that he was preparing, and she would sit there and write her contracts. They would work until all hours of the night.
“Hospitality people think alike,” said Wilde. “We have a great work ethic; we love people and love the pace. It takes a specific person. We both have a passion for it.”
Wilde and her husband, currently general manager of Wycliffe Country Club in Wellington, settled on Hypoluxo Island in Lantana, where they reared their two children, Max, 23, and Gabrielle, 21.
Wilde’s grandmother, now 98, still lives in the Pompano Beach area and swims every day. Wilde visits her every Saturday and takes her food shopping and does a little work for her at her place. Sometimes they hang out at the pool.
“She’s my buddy,” said Wilde.
So how does this hotel executive manage to balance job, family, friends and volunteer work?
“My biggest challenge is scheduling,” said Wilde. “Finding more hours, but I tend to make it work.
“I use my calendar religiously. I plug in all the things that are important to me personally, and I plug in my work responsibilities. For something that’s important, I schedule the time.”
— Marie Puleo
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A. I grew up in Cinnaminson, a small town in New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia. I learned simple, hometown values that continue to serve as my foundation, and a balance to my work environment in the luxury market. My background and family also keep me grounded amidst the pressure of my career.
Q. What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A. I was briefly in retail, but my career has primarily been immersed in hospitality.
I am extremely proud of my team when we work together on large, logistically intricate, hotel-wide events. I love when we come together to achieve success and are able to raise the bar, which ultimately impacts our guests.
My corporate team has been with me collectively over 100 years! They are experts in their field, and work with the most discerning clientele. They are dedicated to their discipline and are true partners and advocates to their client’s event success.
This summer, The Breakers was fortunate to host an elaborate and iconic wedding industry event with preeminent planners, vendors and colleagues. Our event sales team rose to the challenge, planning crave-worthy events and experiences from coffee breaks to the chandelier-filled gala.
Q. What advice do you have for a young person selecting a career today?
A. When you decide on a career, do what you love with people who inspire you. Dedicate yourself — heart and soul — to it. And take time to volunteer; it instills a sense of perspective, humanity and awareness about what is really important in life.
Q. How did you choose to make your home on Hypoluxo Island?
A. My husband found the neighborhood while driving to work in Palm Beach from our house in Boca. We still feel lucky to have found this little gem tucked away in east Lantana.
Q. What is your favorite part about living on Hypoluxo Island?
A. The privacy, the nature and my neighbors.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
It’s not unusual to find me listening to old school classics like Tom Jones or Louis Armstrong.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. “A party without cake is just a meeting.” — Julia Child. Life and gatherings are centered on food. Breaking bread is best done with family and friends. Enjoy, have fun and always find an opportunity to wow!
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. My husband is very driven, very loyal and very dedicated to his family. He is an amazing partner and strong core of our family. He is smart, well-read, a life learner, and has a great sense of humor. I can always count on him to be thoughtful and honest in his advice.
Q. If your life story were made into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A. Sandra Bullock or Cher.
Q. What’s your favorite cause/charity and why?
A. Dress for Success Palm Beaches has been an incredible blessing in my life. In addition to providing business attire for women in the program, we also provide professional development. I provide career coaching for women in their quest to re-enter the workforce. Through programs at Dress for Success, we help clients realize and identify their strengths and self-worth. By offering love (sometimes tough love), attention, whatever it takes, we help them gain confidence. It is a hands-on, emotional and human partnership — I share their success and gratitude. It is very rewarding.
To find out more about Dress for Success Palm Beaches, visit palmbeaches.dressforsuccess.org.