In a world (or a ZIP code, for that matter) where far too many people seemingly spend their entire existence sitting on the sidelines, it’s refreshing to come across that rare individual who has built a life around doing just the opposite – always being on the front line! Meet Janet Holliday, 78209’s incredibly creative, caring, upbeat and seemingly untiring wife, mother and CE Group CEO noted for reaching out, being involved and, most inspirationally, just making big things happen. Yep, after a little reflection, it becomes obvious this remarkable, self-made individual, both personally and professionally, truly leads an “event-full” life.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Janet grew up in Beaumont within a loving household where, as she recalls, “I learned, early on, first to be happy and secondly to try and make a difference in the world.” And did she ever take that advice to heart. Fueled with a desire to contribute, as a student at the University of Texas in Austin, she majored in psychology and social work, then earned a master’s in social work. Houston was her next stop, where for 10 years she was tasked with directing the Harris County Mental Health and Mental Retardation agency. During this instructive period she ably handled event planning, public relations and fundraising responsibilities while acquiring, developing and honing the skills and abilities that would eventually prove to be so essential throughout her life. As she recalls, “Working in the improvisational, budgetary-restrained nonprofit world proved to be incredible training.”
One additional positive in her life while in Houston was meeting her future husband, Rob. The handsome Tennessee native was employed by the area Coca-Cola Company as its vice-president of public affairs. It was in this capacity that he received a call from a persuasive young lady seeking financial support for one of her projects. After that meeting, not only did Janet get a commitment, but she also got the guy! They’ve been married for 31 wonderful years.
GETTING HERE AND GETTING KNOWN
It was a job offer for Rob that brought the newlyweds to 78209 in 1986. He was involved in commercial real estate (which he still excels at today), while Janet was initially tasked with setting up their new Alamo Heights home and getting the Hollidays established socially within the neighborhood. They didn’t know a soul! While Rob kept his focus on land, Janet followed her mother’s good advice: “A city doesn’t come to you. You come to the city.” As a result, she became involved in a number of community activities as a volunteer. She recalls, “I offered myself to any and all organizations, groups, clubs and others where another set of ‘free’ hands might be needed.” Her first “gig” was stuffing envelopes for a fundraiser benefiting the Witte Museum. Other affiliations soon followed with such entities as the Southwest Foundation Forum, Friends of Ronald McDonald, the Junior League and anything associated with the Alamo Heights School District. She rapidly established herself as a go-getting, competent team player while also forming many lasting friendships.
On a personal note, amid all this constructive activity she faced the difficult loss of her daughter, Melissa, from a rare heart condition. While deeply saddened, Janet continued her community work while raising their son, Ryan, an Alamo Heights middle school and high school graduate who is now grown and also involved in commercial real estate.
LIVING AND GIVING TODAY
Janet Holliday has certainly come a long way from the vibrant young mother who first stormed onto the Heights scene so many years ago. Today she is recognized as one of San Antonio’s most accomplished (and busiest) businesswomen, seemingly involved in almost “everything.” Her very successful event management and marketing company, the CE Group, has turned the staging of mega “events” – not parties – into an art form for an impressive A-list of public and private entities across the nation. Professionally, she also serves on several industry boards and is an in-demand, motivating public speaker. She and her company also donate a generous portion of their time, talents and services to non-profits. For additional information about the CE Group and its capabilities, visit www.cegroupinc.net.
Away from the office, she and Rob also personally and financially support myriad worthwhile area organizations, many of them health and wellness related. Janet recently survived cancer. That experience, coupled with their late daughter’s illness, has given direction to their sharing. Both are committed to supporting the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Cancer Therapy and Research Center, the Charity Ball Association and others. She and Rob also founded (in their daughter’s memory) the Melissa Holliday – Graham Ladensohn Fund administered by Any Baby Can.
MAINTAINING A BALANCE
Being active in so many arenas, Janet has learned to manage a balance. Her day-to-day responsibilities are incredibly taxing, physically and time-wise, but somehow she seems to make it look easy and to smile while doing it. When queried about this superwoman capacity, an always buoyant Janet responds, “After my diagnosis, I realized just how fragile existence was. By keeping my priorities straight, and being blessed with a high energy level, filling each day by tackling problems and providing solutions — at home, in our community and at work — keeps my life very ‘event-full,’ and for this I am truly grateful!”
THE CE GROUP’S ‘09 CONNECTION
Founded serendipitously in 1990, Janet’s flagship event-management and marketing company, the CE Group, surprisingly got its start on the shady streets of Terrell Hills. She and Rob live across the street from San Antonio Spurs superstar Terry Cummings. Janet’s infectious can-do personality and boundless energy appealed to Terry. When he needed help launching the Cummings Entertainment Group, he simply “went next door.”
With Janet’s past Houston experience, she was able to hit the ground running. She enlisted the aid of friend and PR pro Lainey Berkus, and the pair went on to not only help Cummings’ project get underway, but thanks to the success of that first effort, quickly line up clients needing the same hands-on dedication, vision and commitment to excellence that Clever Endeavors — now the CE Group – brings to all their assignments.
Today, her company boasts 61 dedicated employees with additional offices in Austin and Houston. The firm has played a leading role in staging some of the city’s most celebrated events, including the grand openings of the Convention Center expansion, the San Antonio Central Library, the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River, the Briscoe Western Art Museum and, most recently, the new children’s Doseum.
BY ERNIE ALTGELT PHOTOGRAPHY BY ELIZABETH WARBURTON