On A Mission: Shayla Hawkins Events Founder Shayla Hawkins

http://michaelwillphotography.com

http://michaelwillphotography.com

Photo by Michael Will
Interview by Thomas Agnew

Our 5th “On A Mission” feature is Founder and 1 of 2 Principle Planners of {SHE}, Shayla Hawkins. Event planning is no easy task with hours upon hours of coordinating the perfect celebration outcome. And after seeing her and her teams work on a few events (mainly her exquisite event she did for Peachie Wimbush in 2015), we had to connect with Shayla to learn how she managed to create such an impeccable planning service firm.

What was your background in professionally before creating your boutique firm?

Before starting my own wedding + event firm, my background was sales/retail banking. I was a manager for one of the bigger local Pittsburgh banks.  My undergraduate and graduate degrees are both in business.

At what point in time did you know or have the feeling that you yearned to do something other than your profession?

It got to the point at my management job where I just got really unfulfilled and unchallenged. I thought I wanted to climb the corporate ladder. I was great at my position but I wasn’t passionate about it at all. I would sometimes feel sick going to work and that’s when I knew I had to figure out a career change but more importantly a career that I would love.

Did you have experience in coordinating event before creating the {SHE} brand?

Prior to branding my company, my experience in events was solely personal. I would plan small affairs for family and friend’s life occasions. When I started giving thought to what I loved, it easily came back to planning events. So, I reached out to local planners to see if I could shadow. No one responded for months and then finally I got an opportunity to shadow a planner. I attended one wedding and it was all the confirmation I needed that I could create my own lane and make it my own in a very saturated industry.

Your events are top notch and stylish experiences. Go through the planning of your first few events..

One of our first weddings was in Washington, DC. and I took Ericka along with me. It had a small budget but I was on a hustle to build our portfolio. I really appreciate clients who believed in {SHE} in the early stages so I went above and beyond our service description with a ton of hands-on and DIY and things they didn’t pay me to do. I designed plus executed the whole wedding-literally! Ordered wholesale flowers, created the centerpieces, and did the lighting-played all the vendor roles. We were beyond tired and exhausted. Our feet burned the entire next day.  I think Ericka still hates me for that weekend [laughs]! But even in that moment of complete exhaustion it was so rewarding to see it all come together. It’s truly magical seeing all the details and vision come together. That is the moment I look forward to with each wedding and event along with the pure happiness on my clients’ face. That wedding was a learning experience and it helped shaped what our business structure would be and what planning vs design services we would offer because there is a difference.

How much more efficient was {SHE} when you added Alexis and Ericka to your team?

Alexis and Ericka have helped build the brand immensely. {SHE} simply would not be what it is today without them. Alexis is now a managing partner along with her principle planner title so we truly are one in the same. They are simply team players that embody the brand as their own; it’s invaluable and I’m so appreciative because you are only as good as your team. We mesh really well together, balance each other out, inspire and mentor our budding staff, and have a fabulous time working together! We’re friends first so I’m blessed to share this journey with two amazing women, sisters I’ve never had. We also have amazing coordinators and support with Sequoyah, Meredith, and Jackie.

It’s safe to say your client base is building at a good rate, your portfolio is booming, how do you envision your planning services making a bigger mark going forward?

Our motto is to live inspired and celebrate stylishly! As an entrepreneur, I’m never not working and always thinking about the next level of success and growth for our brand. Our goals and focus will always derive from continuing to do good business allowing us to be a source for brides, women, industry professionals, and other entrepreneurs. I am extremely fortunate to walk in my purpose, live out my dream, chase new dreams, and do what I love; everything else will continue to follow.