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Conversation With Shawna Haggerty On Varsity Level Event Coordinating

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Innovation and vision are key to the success of any worthwhile startup. Founders put themselves (and their assets) on the line in the beginning and are justly rewarded if and when their project takes off. I have always hated the saying, “behind every great man is a great woman,” mostly because I think misogyny belongs in the same place we’ve put mullets and shoulder-pads. Digressions aside – it is fair to say that behind every great startup is an amazing team of individuals working to make it great.




We’ve highlighted Under30Experiences before on KillerStartups. The company and it’s founder Matt Wilson have captured the attention of a few of our writers because both he and the company embody what we are all about. It’s proof that despite the odds, the right mix of passion and perseverance can actually result in something revolutionary. In addition to Matt’s vision, a dedicated group of young pros have taken the idea of making travel into something accessible and meaningful for other young professionals into a profitable, viable reality.


Screenshot at Jan 08 11-07-57Shawna Haggerty stands at a whopping 5 feet 0 inches, but this little bundle of moxie packs a punch. As the events coordinator she has been responsible for taking concepts off of idea boards and making them into a reality for their clients. Not a small feat considering these events take place in locations like Costa Rica, Iceland, and Peru. Event coordinating has already been named as one of the top five most stressful jobs of 2013 in a Forbes piece on the subject.


Even with that kind of ranking in mind, fellow coordinators would consider Haggerty’s work to be nothing short of varsity level event coordinating. Here’s what this pocket-sized powerhouse has to say about being a non-entrepreneur in a startup world.


Ok so… let’s start easy. What’s the first thing you do at work everyday?

Well I don’t go to work everyday. I’m at home.


So how does it start? How do you click into work mode?

Honestly – try to find a different spot in my house, because I live at home and there are so many different rooms and there’s so much going on at my house that I need to find a different spot everyday to try and keep me in work mode.


Obviously it’s a little bit different working from home and frustration looks a little different than maybe in an office environment, but how do you handle the kind of daily grind and frustration when something’s just not going right?

You know, when it comes to working day to day with a team that is all over the country slash all over the world um instant-messenger is kind of what drives frustration because you can’t always communicate exactly what’s going on. So I pick up the phone. If it has to do with me, with just a struggle a challenge – I probably do some sort of Mashable, YouTube something that clicks me out or honestly I just go walk around and find my dog.




How do you approach office culture if you’re all working remotely. Like how do you team-build?

Um when you are stuck in a bungalow with two boys, one bathroom, and no doors other than the bathroom door – you gotta work that out. Caesar and I have clicked instantly. I mean we’re just meant to work together – we’re such good friends but we go back and forth really easily from friend to co-worker. There is really no particular switch or anything. I just say “ok I gotta talk to you about work” and then we go from there.


Event planning means that you are planning this whole thing. So where do you get your information. How do you know – let’s take Nicaragua as the example – You’re in Massachusetts so how do you get that nuanced, really, really specific information that your clients are going to need from all the way over here?

You mean how do I get from Nicaragua as Matt’s crazy idea to actually happening? Research… I just finished my Masters at George Washington University… I focused on event management and sustainable development. So I have an academic background in all sorts of pieces of event planning, but that helps to a point… You have to be willing to ask for help and you have to do your research, you have to know where to look. There are things that have to happen when you do an event. Safety… logistics, contracts, all of those things. But then there’s the research about the local community and your vendors, and honestly my vendors ROCK!


It’s pretty fair to say that startup people are a unique demographic. How do you think working with entrepreneurs or startup people has affected the way that you work?

Entrepreneurs are – big wild and crazy ideas or just these visions that way beyond… My role is to take those big ideas and break them down so we can actually get there… I think working with these really creative people has helped me to become more creative in how I plan events and the components I add to them. I think I feel things a little bit more… that tingle that excitement when things launch. Because I can see where it came from, how we got there… it’s just this crazy feeling I get.


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