INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN IN THE EVENTS INDUSTRY PART 6:
Shannon Leahy Events, CA USA.
Next up on my blog series featuring women doing fantastic things in the world of events is Shannon Leahy. I was drawn to Shannon’s Instagram account and the luxury look of her beautiful weddings and events recently; with incredible venues, gorgeous details and features by Brides Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and more- I’m really excited to feature Shannon’s thoughts here on my blog.
‘A Shannon Leahy wedding is characterized by clean line design, a carefully orchestrated flow and an incredible attention to every detail. She is renowned for her ability to remain calm in stressful situations and is beloved for her candor and creativity.’
Her offices are based in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and her accolades include being named one of San Fran’s top four planners by 7×7 magazine, and one of the best wedding planners in the country by Martha Stewart Weddings. Shannon has also shared her secrets and successes with aspiring wedding planners in her online course, WED School.
The passion behind Shannon’s planning really shines through her online portfolio and Instagram page, so I was keen to interview her and find out more about her work and her thoughts on the industry.
Can you tell me how you found your way into the events industry?
I helped my mother with her cocktail parties from a very young age. She taught me the importance of being a good hostess. I planned my first solo event at the age of 16; a 500-person benefit that raised money for a local children’s charity. A love of people, celebration and a commitment to the planet led me to planning fundraising events for environmental non-profits in Washington DC. I started working for an event designer when I moved to the Bay Area and learned the world of weddings from there. Shannon Leahy Events was officially founded in 2009.
Despite being a female-dominated industry, there are fewer women taking senior and boardroom positions- where do you think we stand today with the ‘glass ceiling’ for women in the world of events?
It does feel as though many of the larger event companies are still run by men in the events industry (rental companies, caterers, venues and hotels ) but there are always exceptions to the rule. Many women in the events industry approach their business as a lifestyle company, one that supports their ability to spend time with their family and have life-work balance. While that is a wonderful perk of owning your own business and working in a seasonal industry, I would love to see more women really THINK BIG about what’s possible in the events industry and take risks to grow their businesses further. I think many women tend to play it safe and keep things small.
What’s the motivation behind Shannon Leahy Events?
I’ve always been driven to professional achievement and am never satisfied with the status quo. I can’t stay at the same professional level for long without getting restless. The ultimate motivation behind Shannon Leahy Events is excellence and for me excellence is learning and improving our processes every day and taking ownership from our mistakes so that we can get better. I’m always striving to push the business further, taking calculated risks and saying yes to larger, more complex events and new business ideas that further our brand.
Where do you look for inspiration?
For decor inspiration I look to the experiences I have when I’m traveling. I am always inspired by restaurants, hotels, theater productions, rock concerns, retail design, interior design, museums and runway/fashion design. For business inspiration I like to read books and listen to podcasts.
3 top tips for aspiring event professionals?
- Experience. As planner/designers we’re often advocating on our clients behalf. You have to work for a vendor at one point or another so you can understand their points of view as well. Learning from someone else and their mistakes will propel you further, faster than trying to it alone.
- Curiosity. Ask questions to get to know your clients better so you can create an experience that addresses their priorities. Ask questions to get to know your vendors better so you can understand and explain their process to your clients.
- Specialize. When I started my company I didn’t start out trying to do corporate galas, non-profit fundraisers, company retreats, trade shows, social parties and weddings, they are all completely different worlds. I started with elegant, high-end weddings. Only recently have I expanded to include social events (baby showers, bat mitzvahs, birthdays, etc. ) for prior wedding clients.
Want to find out more? Visit www.shannonleahy.com to discover more information and inspiration from Shannon and her team and their incredible weddings and events, and www.wedschool.com to learn how to design stunning weddings yourself!