Jessica Shea is the Founder and President of J. Shea, Inc. She started her own event planning business three years ago, but has been working in the industry since college. She graduated from Ithaca College in New York in 2003 with a degree in Sports Management.
She started her events career in restaurants, and then went on to plan events for the Washington Redskins. Her event background also includes working for an association for five years as their Director of Trade Shows, and at an AMC. Then, “an opportunity came around to bid on my first event, so I went for it, won it, and here I am today”.
Jessica always thought that at some point she’d like to go down this route. So, networking was an important aspect from the moment she entered the industry.
“I’ve always treated everyone with the upmost respect! If I didn’t have business for someone, I would take their call, and be upfront and honest. I accredit by former boss at HIDA for teaching me the ins and outs of this industry, and what it was like to be on the other side as a supplier because he used to be. It’s so important to be trustworthy, and my goal and hope was to establish a reputation that would follow me as I went off on my own in the future.”
As a business owner, you’re responsible for EVERYTHING! The first two years Jessica was completely on her own. Jessica’s responsibilities go from generating all the business, to planning and executing the events, to accounting (her least favorite!), IT and legal. Just something to keep in mind for any entrepreneurial spirits out there. However hiring her first full time Event Specialist, Kira Short has made life more manageable again and she is so glad she has her help now.
Shea, Inc. plans a lot of CVB client events, golf tournaments, and corporate conferences and events, both in the DC area and around the country. Their CVB events in particular, create experiences for their clients that are unique and exciting. “As a meeting planner you get invited to a lot of events, so you’re going to choose to attend the ones that are most appealing. Our motto is “Everything But Ordinary”. It’s our job to come up with those concepts and bring them to life. Whether it’s a conference or a special event, there’s always room for fun creativity”. In 2014, the events designed by J. Shea, Inc. for CVB’s had an 89% attendance rate!
Like many business owners, Jessica enjoys the independence and challenge that comes with it. “It’s great to own something. It can be worrisome, but it’s mainly fulfilling and exciting!” Being a business owner allows you to be creative. “You can think with the mindset of the sky is the limit every day!”
However, with this, there’s always the UNKNOWN and “it’s ALL on YOU as a business owner. Yes, you get the flexible schedule, but generally you find yourself working more hours than you would in another job. But because it’s yours, it doesn’t feel like work most of the time.”
We all make mistakes in the event world and as a business owner, and some dwell on them… not Jessica, she looks at those experiences as learning opportunities! “You never stop learning in this industry”. With every position Jessica has had in her career, whether she liked the task or not, she took the time to learn from it. “The combination of them all helped me understand so many different areas of the industry, which helps me every day with my business now.”
So, what has been Jessica’s biggest challenge? “Fall 2013, it was going to be ALL or NOTHING!” She was still the only employee and in her first full year as a business, had a baby that August, and had nearly 12 events to execute in a three month time frame. It was either sink or swim and Jessica had to find a way to keep going. “I may not have had a maternity leave, but I made it, and feel that has contributed to my success today.”
As a PCMA member, Jessica finds it incredibly helpful to be active within the membership. She’s built lasting relationships though its networking opportunities over the last six years. “Their education is also more cutting edge and provides relevant information to ALL types of planners, [PCMA’s] always taking risks and trying new things which is exciting for those attending their events.”
Jessica leaves us with this advice: “Try to learn about as many aspects of the industry before deciding what you want to be or do…and regardless of where you land, learn as much as you can in that position. I guarantee you will use that experience in a future job, and be thankful that you had it. ”
Please leave any questions or comments for Jessica below.