Founder Stories – Sarah Shewey
The Portal is following the journey of founders and their companies to showcase their backgrounds and what they learn along the way. Since every founder’s road to success leads them in different directions, we hope their stories can provide any entrepreneur at any stage of their own journey with helpful lessons and insight.
Sarah Shewey is the founder of Happily, one of the largest online event planning resources. Their services bring together different, experienced event planners, coordinators, and assistants to help people plan and run events. So how did Happily come to life?
Building the Foundation and Starting the Journey
Entrepreneurship runs in Sarah’s blood, having been born into a family that’s run multiple businesses in the Orange County area, specifically in Huntington Beach.
When she took an introduction to entrepreneurship class during her undergraduate career at USC, she realized, “Oh, maybe I am an entrepreneur!”
From there, it was only a matter of landing on the right idea and building it out.
After graduating, Sarah worked in Boston as a freelance event coordinator for a few high-profile events, one of which was named Boston’s party of the year. She went on to continue building her experience in the event space with different groups, including the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, and the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach.
During her time working in events, she had the opportunity to work with other freelancers and professionals in the event space. Sarah expanded her skill set in event planning, working in areas such as catering and venue management before wanting to turn her attention to audio and visual technology.
But as she continued to work on building her website and the blog, she quickly learned that her variety of experience wouldn’t be enough to make her stand out from her competition.
Defining Her Voice
When she was thinking about how to differentiate herself, she asked: what is it that people make fun of her for? These would be the things about her that would stand out and make her memorable.
Around 2006, Sarah started putting together the website and blog to start talking about her experiences and insight in event planning. She thought back to her experience in the event space in Boston. Sustainability hadn’t been as big a concern there, so she decided to write on sustainable event planning.
It was the post that kicked her off the ground. Between being approached for NPR and even Oprah, Sarah had gone from being a girl with a blog to being the girl to know if you wanted to throw great events and create memorable experiences while also maintaining sustainability.
It was Sarah’s stance on sustainability that eventually led her to her position at TEDActive around 2008, one of the beta tests of TEDx.
It was during her time coordinating these events that she experienced the struggle that organizers face in trying to find experienced people to help run events. There wasn’t a place or a platform for organizers to find freelancers that would be able to help plan or be there on the day of the event to execute.
And thus Happily was born. Event planners with different skills and specializations could team up to work on projects, and people organizing events could come to them for their work.
Since Happily’s creation, they’ve since continued to grow and provide services to event organizers both in and out of the U.S.
A Word of Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing that Sarah wishes she knew before she started on her entrepreneur journey, but if she had to pick one, she advises to think creatively.
Too many people thinking that raising money will be the answer to their problems. If something’s going wrong or they come across a difficult situation, money won’t always be the answer. Instead, thinking creatively about the problem or the task at hand will be much more useful.
No matter the situation Sarah has found herself in, from hiring the wrong person to building the wrong product, she’s found a way out of the situation or the way to make the most of it by handling it creatively.
“One of the best things about being an entrepreneur,” Sarah says, “has been watching my way of thinking stretch and grow.”