Guest Services Manager, Topeka Zoo
What’s your background?
I have been with FOTZ for two years. Prior to my current position, I spent a year as an intern in the Topeka Zoo’s Conservation and Education department. My wife, Katarina, and I moved to Kansas from Kalamazoo, Michigan, nearly six years ago so she could pursue a doctorate in philosophy. I decided to go back to school and finished my degree in Public Administration from the University of Kansas. I previously managed a recreational park outside of Kalamazoo and have retail experience from my younger years.
What do you enjoy most about working at the zoo?
The atmosphere! I think it is so important for people to get outside their homes and experience the world. Zoos help bring new experiences and ideas to people, hopefully inspiring creativity, a thirst for knowledge and a sense of community. People come to the zoo to learn and have fun! My staff and I are here to facilitate that experience as best as we can.
What is one thing you know now you wish you would have know when you started?
When I took over the responsibilities of the gift shop, I was completely new to buying. I had such a raw understanding of costs and quantities that it created quite a bit of anxiety. Being able to reach out to ZAG (Zoo & Aquarium Buyers Group) members, such as Tommy Brown and Theresa Danneffel, really helped provide me perspective. I am continuing to learn, but feel like I now have a better grasp of how things work. Unfortunately, Leopard Spot (gift shop) is just one aspect of my work, which limits the amount of time I have to dedicate to it.
What is the best retail advice you could offer?
I think it is important to listen to your staff and listen to your guests. They will let you know what is working and what isn’t working. Feedback and evaluation is crucial to success.