Shelby Elmore is the director of marketing and brand design of Ascend Hospitality Group, a Black- and female-led locally owned restaurant group based in Bellevue. “My job is to be the North Star of each of AHG’s 8 concepts to ensure that everything — from marketing, and advertising, to design and innovation — fits the different immersive guest experiences.” Learn about Shelby Elmore…
Hometown: Boulder, Colorado
First job: A sales associate at the local Vans shoe store.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WA: Drinking rosé on top of a mountain regardless of the season, Champagne on a boat in the summer or exploring new restaurants and cocktail bars all over the state!
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Building a rock star team under the department I lead at Ascend Hospitality Group. We are so dynamic, and I fully believe we can accomplish anything together. We call ourselves the #Wolfpack (yes, we even have matching and branded Yeti travel mugs). We have the perfect blend of empowerment, accountability, and trust between our small but mighty team of three. It has taken me years to develop a team this strong — I think most people go their entire careers without it. Shoutout to Erin and Jake!
The biggest obstacle you overcame: I come from a background of experience-based marketing, such as events, influencers, collaborations, etc. When the pandemic hit, like everyone, my world was turned upside down. I had to figure out how to take what I know about experiential marketing and turn it digital and immersive. Now, everything that you see from us is an experience in itself, even if it is not in person. Even a flat image or 2-D ad is enveloping and allows the person viewing it to feel like they’re already part of our brand’s experience before they enter the restaurant.
Someone who inspires you and why: If I can become a perfect blend of Elaina Morris (AHG co-founder and CEO) and Jeffery Fredrick (restaurateur, AHG Operating Partner, concept developer and designer of Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi), then I will be content. They equally inspire me in different ways. Elaina is a powerhouse leader with a heart of gold. She inspires me and everyone in our organization daily to be the best person they can be. Jeffery is the only other person I’ve met in my life that has a brain that operates the way mine does. He is also a master protector of brands and has an intense desire to do what has never been done, constantly elevate the task at hand, and pays attention to detail and the guest experience on a micro level. It’s actually exquisite, and I aim to be at his level of thinking one day.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Research, practice, pivot. Over and over and over. I say pivot instead of fail because inevitably things will always go differently than you plan in this business. But it is never a failure if you can figure out how to pivot in a way that produces the same result or something better. Research ALL the time. I am constantly analyzing what other restaurants do, finding inspiration and setting the bar higher for what we do. Never stop practicing. So much of what I do relies on my creativity and design capabilities. I have to present all of the time to ownership and help others see what is inside my head, which requires a lot of graphic design. I’ve been self-taught since I was 17 and still get better every time I create something. Never stop practicing!
Favorite quote: “Great marketing will kill a bad brand.” –Jim Sullivan
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I love fast cars. My dad named me after Carol Shelby and the line of Shelby cars. I helped him rebuild an engine when I was a kid, change the oil, and he even had me change out my own brakes and rotors growing up. We’d go to every “The Fast & the Furious” movie premiere together, and to this day I am still obsessed with the movies and the cars!
What makes someone fabulous: To summarize Maya Angelou, people will always remember you or an experience by how it made them feel. If you can make people feel genuinely good, that makes you fabulous.