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Meet Shon Barnwell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shon Barnwell.

Shon, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Frustrated in watching people I know and love spend a pretty penny on events only to receive substandard services, I decided to be the change I wanted to see. I spent 25 years reshaping Air Force organizations on five continents and decided to leverage my expertise in project management, team building, logistics, and process improvement to become an entrepreneur. In 2014, my first business, Shon Barnwell Events was launched to deliver professional, engaging, and memorable experiences for clients and their guests.

In August of this year, I launched my second company, Barnwell Publishing to release my first book, Leadership Is About Behavior, Not Titles. The book offers tools and insight to help others positively influence workplace culture and take care of our most valuable resource – people! The release date is 11 December.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I retired from the military, I had a network, expertise, discipline, and determination all working in my favor. I decided to combine my passion of bringing people together, making spaces welcoming and hospitable, and my love for details to create amazing experiences. I had clients before the business officially launched! My typical client is an African American woman with a military or corporate background who values excellence but is too busy to manage the countless details of event planning. To date, Shon Barnwell Events has planned over 215 successful workshops and special events; managed a budget of $3.5 million dollars, and delighted over 35,000 people.

I have enjoyed my entrepreneurial journey immensely! The look of joy and awe as a client and their guests enter a ballroom is absolutely magic. People recounting fond memories from an event – years after the gathering – makes my heart smile. My greatest challenge has been transitioning from private and special events to large-scale corporate workshops and conferences and government contracting opportunities. My company is a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB), and Minority-Owned Small Business (MOSB). More than 95% of our vendors are veterans or the spouses of military members. I’m determined to excel in the contracting market space. I was selected to attend the Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) in Maryland a year ago. I am making baby steps but continually moving forward!

Barnwell Publishing and Shon Barnwell Events – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I truly believe each of us have a story to tell. With the launch of Barnwell Publishing, I decided to highlight my unique advantage – I’m a leader with a military background who is an African American woman. I rose to the highest enlisted rank of Chief Master Sergeant (E-9). In the Air Force, only 1% of the enlisted force holds this rank. I want Barnwell Publishing to help women and minorities with a military background – or the spouses of military members – to share their phenomenal stories. People ready to publish books on children’s topics, poetry, leadership, and more have approached me. I want Barnwell Publishing to launch speaking careers, drive corporate training content, and help others realize their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Shon Barnwell Events remains a one-stop full life-cycle event management company. We plan cruises, travel destinations, as well as create memorable events and impactful training workshops. We are currently working with a client who’s celebrating their 50th birthday over the course of a year in 2021. We have planned a spring birthday kick-off cruise; a birthday party event in Las Vegas during the summer; and an all-inclusive resort destination in the fall. Shon Barnwell Events manages everything – ground transportation, flight and hotel booking, venue selection, excursions, entertainment, cruise booking, invitations, hospitality, contract management, negotiations, and more.

Shon Barnwell Events are known for our uncompromising attention to detail. No planning factor is too small. We are dedicated to creating events of excellence. We leverage efficiency, innovation, and engagement to ensure our clients and guests are completely satisfied with all services. I am most proud of our commitment to listening, exploring, and manifesting the smallest event detail that adds value for our client and event attendees. When I hear the words, “How did you know that?” my heart smiles brilliantly! Shon Barnwell Events believes every measure of a clients’ investment – time, money, and reputation – should be maximized.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest military moment has been creating next-generation leaders!

My proudest Shon Barnwell Events moment is moving a mom to tears of joy after she viewed a decorated venue for her daughter’s Sweet 16 event. The mom arrived from her deployed location in Afghanistan a few days before the party. As the parents departed the venue, I heard them say in perfect unison, “We would have never been able to make that space look so pretty!”

My proudest moment as a veteran entrepreneur has been being a two-time Institute of Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) VetSmallBiz Challenge finalist. Regardless of the final outcome, the selection reinforces to me that I’m walking in my purpose.

Currently, I am proud to release my first book, Leadership Is About Behavior, Not Titles. In 2016, I hosted a workshop where an attendee asked if I had a book on leadership she could purchase to share with her General Manager and Human Resources team. As a nationally recognized veteran entrepreneur, I began conceptualizing the idea of writing a book. Fast forward four years later and I am set to become an author in a few months.

My final highlight was having the opportunity to serve as a Production Assistant to the Brown Wynn Agency out of New York during the 2017 Black Enterprise Women of Power (BEWOP) Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. It was immensely refreshing to see so many women of color – in positions of power, prestige, and influence – in one space sharing, uplifting, and networking! 

As I ascended the ranks in the military, I was often the only enlisted member, or the only woman, or the only African American – or sometimes all three in the room or at the table. I am eternally grateful to CEOs Toni Brown and Tina Wynn for the opportunity to serve each successful, intelligent, and brilliantly poised woman of color during the three-day event!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photos taken by Shon Barnwell

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