The Greatest Showman: Corey Mandell

Corey Mandell is a showman; entertainment is in his blood. It’s a passion he has turned from a part-time gig at eighteen, into a career that has taken him across the globe and back; to the homes and dinner tables of some of the world’s elite, including celebrity, royalty and some of the most successful business leaders of our time.

Working as a DJ while attending York University, Corey quickly realized this was something he could turn into a real business. Driven by his love of entertainment, Corey had the vision to merge disc jockeying with live interactive performance. The concept blew up, and his idea revolutionized the entire industry, creating a wave that saw hundreds of companies across North America following suit. By twenty, Corey had already made his mark with a business that employed over 100 staff.

The next step was to introduce AV services to the existing interactive games and amusement activities so that he could capture more of the bar and bat mitzvah, weddings and corporate event market. His business exploded, and by the mid-’90s, Mandell Entertainment Group had over 250 staff and was providing services to more than 1500 events per year.

Cee Lo at Foster Foundation Gala credit Andy Wright

Having conquered his goals, Corey sought out the next opportunity, which turned out to be a venue. He started by restoring the old Capitol Movie Theatre in Toronto to its original art deco facade and rebranding it the Capitol Event Theatre, following that up with the York Event Theatre. His next move was brilliant. He created Toronto’s first supper club aptly called “Lobby” which through his larger-than-life persona and his multimillion-dollar connections became home to the who’s who of Toronto and international celebs.

Pointer Sisters Performing at Childhelp Gala Phoenix 2019. Photo by Bob & Dawn Davis Photography.

Seeing the economic turn coming in the 2000s, Corey sold his venues to focus on producing large-scale corporate events. His goal was to take what he had created in the private sector with social events and reproduce it on a far grander scale in the corporate world. And… being that we are talking about Corey Mandell, it worked. Soon after, Corey gained the attention of some of the world’s largest brands. Organizations like Bell, KPMG, Roger, CIBC, MLSE, Mount Sinai, Sick Kids, TD, Roots, KIick, the CAFA’s, McDonald’s and Stand Up to Cancer were all looking to bring that Mandell magic to their creative events.

They say it takes a single moment of impact to change the course of anything, from a business to a relationship to life. For Corey, that moment came when he met Michael Ravenhill, CEO of the David Foster Foundation, and the catalyst to Mandell Entertainment’s growth in the US corporate event market.

David Foster at the Winnipeg Foster Gala. Photo by Suzanne Teresa.

One of the greatest moments of Corey’s career was being chosen by the David Foster Foundation and being given a chance to work on a world-class stage. He says, “it is like playing amateur hockey your whole life and then stepping on the ice to play an NHL game and not only fitting in but scoring goals.” Producing the David Foster Galas was one of his most stressful experiences but also the most significant transformations in Corey’s life, getting it done and then knowing he could do it. The night he produced the David Foster 30th Anniversary Gala in Vancouver at Rogers Arena, Corey recalls standing at the back of the arena and just taking it all in. “It indeed was mind-blowing to see it all come together. The night raised over 10 million for the David Foster Foundation. It was truly an incredible event”.

4.1 Million Raised in Chicago Gateway For Cancer. Photo by Bob & Dawn Davis Photography.

Mandell produces six to eight high-profile events per month throughout North America. Each project is original, and each one pushes the boundaries of production value while appreciating the guest’s experience. There is a saying at Mandell that they live by, “the guest’s experience needs to be an original experience – and even if they have seen it before, they haven’t seen it like this”

“I love to see the vision come together. We are always challenging ourselves to do the next big thing, and seeing it come to fruition is the ultimate reward. The excitement in working with world-class stars and stepping into their world and being respected as show producer is a huge reward”.

And we can see why. He has personally worked with incredible talent including Steven Tyler, Stevie Wonder, Kiss, Earth, Wind and Fire, Cee Lo Green, Carrie Underwood, Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Bieber, Chicago, Michael Bolton, Reba Macintyre, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Brian McKnight, The Beach Boys, Graham Nash, Bob Weir, Jay Leno, Howie Mandel, James Corden, Wayne Brady, Seal, Sheryl Crow, Michelle Obama, President Clinton and Bush… to name a few.

Chicago Gateway for Cancer. Photo by Bob & Dawn Davis Photography.

Being a top producer means everyone wants a piece, and it’s always a balancing act to manage your relationships with the industry while managing the development and maintenance of your brand. Corey handles this by staying focused on the end game; the client and blocking out the clutter. He only works with people and companies he sees as being the best in the business. He creates fluid, trusting relationships that allow him to hire them when he needs the support, and on the flip side, he white labels his services and supports many of the country’s best event planners.

Everything Mandell does is handled by the same team who travels with him wherever he works. The team is growing every year. Loyalty, connection and comfort are paramount to being part of Corey’s team. They trust each other, and this is key to producing the high-level work they do at the pace required to execute flawlessly every time. The team is like a family, something Corey is fiercely passionate about. His wife and four children are his greatest accomplishment and priority, and without their support and love, he says none of this would be what it is, and none of it would matter as much.

David Foster Foundation Gala – Andy Wright Photography

In the Mandell world, everything is about putting on the greatest show, and everything is moving fast. Everywhere Corey goes, he’s thinking up new experiences and his creative and fascinating mind never stops. He finds inspiration in obscure spaces like a movie he is watching or attending his daughter’s dance recital. Corey says,

“it’s what you create out of that inspiration that counts. My passion for event production stems from the creative aspects of the job. Starting with a simple idea and watching it bloom into a full-scale production is what ultimately inspires me to do what I do daily”.

Corey keeps a journal with every detail in a daily diary, and he’s been doing this since he was 19. Do you know who else kept a daily journal of their lives, ideas, inspirations, and thoughts? Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Frida Kahlo to Kanye West and Sir Richard Branson. There is something here for the rest of us to consider.

Giving back and being able to create change is a massive driver for Corey Mandell. He truly believes that there are no shortcuts.

The Cast of the Greatest Show Chicago Gateway for Cancer. Photo by Bob & Dawn Davis Photography.

Corey comes from a place where you live your life, you succeed, and you give back. He understands his success is not a solo adventure, and he is deeply passionate about the causes he has pledged his support to. The David Foster Foundation is one of them, along with the Sinai Foundation, Gateway for Cancer, Childhelp and his personal cause, the One Family Fund, which is an organization that helps victims of terror in Israel. Each year Corey sponsors 30 children from Israel to attend his Camp Timberlane for three weeks. These are children who have been directly affected by terrorism whose lives have been shattered.

Children are at the core of Corey’s life. Those he supports through his endeavours and, of course, his own four little ones. He is eternally trying to keep family time as family time. One of his greatest loves is camping. As a child, he grew up at Camp Timberlane (an overnight camp in Haliburton, Ontario). Timberlane gave him his first stage and audience. One of Corey’s biggest idols, Lorne Michaels, of SNL is also a Timberlane Alumni. It was later in life that Corey learned it was at Timberlane, where Lorne imagined and created Saturday Night Live. Corey finds a connection here because Timberlane is also where he conceived the idea of his entertainment business. It must be something magical in the air up there.

Oprah Winfrey at the 30th Anniversary Foster Gala, Vancouver. Photo by Suzanne Teresa.

Corey decided to buy the camp in 2006 and has been running it ever since. The camp plays a pivotal role in his life. It’s a place to surround himself with the energy of children; it offers a break from the daily hustle and is a conduit to give back to those in need. It also provides Corey and his wife Lauren time to spend as a family doing what they love and ensuring their children have the experiences he was lucky enough to have as a child.

As a leader, a success story and an icon in the industry, Corey has been through some wild experiences. I asked him what his greatest legacy will be and if he knows yet what he wants to leave behind.

“I have produced thousands of events. I have helped raise millions of dollars for charities around the world. I have touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of children. What more can I ask for?”

His advice to those just starting in events is not to underestimate what it takes to put on a great event.

“You cannot do it yourself. You will need to surround yourself with people who are better and more experienced than yourself. Share the accolades with others and empower those around you to want to work for you. You will be surprised at how quickly your brand will grow. There are no short cuts in this space. Put in the time, and you will reap the rewards”.