Lisa Kerbawy, the director of marketing at FireKeepers Casino Hotel, has built a successful career in the casino industry through creativity, perseverance and teamwork.
Originally, Kerbawy planned on a career in event management, but one day 13 years ago, as she was driving on the highway to her grandmother’s funeral, she noticed the new FireKeepers Casino Hotel signage inviting people to apply to work for the new casino. As her “Nana” enjoyed casinos, Kerbawy used this as a sign to apply and to start a new journey in gaming. Shortly thereafter, Kerbawy was hired for special events and promotions.
Prior to FireKeepers, Kerbawy was an event planner for a historic event venue in Michigan. Entering the casino industry presented a new challenge for her, but she tackled it head-on. With her background, Kerbawy liked creating entertainment experiences, making things happen behind the scenes, and watching everyone enjoy the results of her hard work. She applied that background to her new career by thinking of new and refreshing ways to put on promotions and events.
In one instance, when creating a November VIP slot tournament, Kerbawy looked for a way to immerse players into a unique atmosphere by transforming a ballroom into a replica log cabin complete with a log cabin porch entrance, comfortable sitting areas, and a giant stone fireplace facade.
Another time, Kerbawy put her own twist on the traditional travel package. Instead of a trip giveaway where the destination is already decided, she proposed the idea that the winner goes around the world with a $100,000 travel certificate and has the freedom to select the destination(s).
Kerbawy is very persistent. When she has an idea that she believes will work, she fights for it. Earlier in her career, Kerbawy pitched the unprecedented idea of an eight-car giveaway in one day. Despite her strong pitch and belief in the idea, management had concerns. They said to her, “Why give away eight cars in one day when you can spread it out over several weekends?”
However, Kerbawy did not give up. She knew that giving away so many cars in one day would generate a lot of excitement for the property. She repeatedly pitched the idea until eventually management compromised: an eight-car giveaway split over two weekends.
The giveaway was so successful that it led to an agreement for a one-day, five-car giveaway the next year. FireKeepers has continued the multi-car promotion to this day. It has become a staple of the property’s annual marketing plans and has generated a majority of their Top 10 revenue days.
Kerbawy lives by the belief of not being afraid of big ideas, and she looks back at the success of the car giveaway promotion as the epitome of that belief.
Teamwork is another attribute Kerbawy has embraced in her career. As she has progressed and learned, Kerbawy values that others have expertise where she isn’t as fluent. As she puts it, it is necessary to “rely on others who are experts in order to achieve your own goals.”
Kerbawy has embraced big and new ideas, persisting even when others wanted to take the traditional route, and leaned on others for help in order to achieve her goals. As a result, she is grateful that her hard work has been recognized in the form of being named to the 40 Under 40 list.
“It is truly an honor to be a part of this group of industry leaders,” she says. “To be nominated with such a wide pool of quality candidates and to be able to represent such a wonderful company/ tribe that continues to thrive in the industry is incredible.”