Devoted. Sophisticated. Motivated, and more. Shannel Sams is an up and coming force to be reckoned with in the industry of event planning. After feeling constrained to her “9 to 5” desk in corporate America, Shannel combined her unique talents as an artist with her love for serving others to establish UNMARKED., an exceptional planning and design company for every occasion.
A Springfield, Massachusetts native, Shannel’s journey started while completing her senior internship at the College of Charleston. She was guided by an industry-known leader who gifted her with an extensive skill set to stand out as a powerhouse in her field. From stitching with a sewing machine to redesigning an entire room, Shannel learned how to bring a blank space to vibrant life.
TRW: What was your motivation to create UNMARKED.?
SS: I started UNMARKED. in 2016 while on maternity leave. I loved being home, and I didn’t want to devote so much time to the company I was working for. There’s more to life than sitting behind a desk, and I was ready to give my own dreams as much as I was giving to others. I started brainstorming how I could combine my love for art with event planning. I was given the vision of UNMARKED. when I saw an empty event space as a blank canvas – there’s so much opportunity to splash creativity and “paint” a client’s vision.
TRW: That’s absolutely beautiful! What does UNMARKED. offer?
SS: My team and I curate stylish events with our creative vision and the client’s desires in mind. We offer full-service planning and design, from event setup and breakdown to venue guidance, layout and design, and even budget management. We believe in putting our clients first, so we craft each event individually to our clients’ requests.
TRW: I remember when you were printing your business cards and creating your website. It’s incredible to see people speak their dreams into existence.
SS: Yeah, there’s never a perfect time to start your business and tap into your dream. Take the first steps and invest in yourself!
TRW: There’s also A LOT that goes into starting a business. Many people think it’s easy, but there’s so much behind the scenes work. Can you walk me through your daily schedule?
SS: My workday is very extensive when I am in the research phase of an event. It involves everything from researching the perfect vendors to small details, like décor elements. Once I compare pricing, I create an all-inclusive cost estimate to ensure that our client’s budget and vision is maintained. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my work, and I give each event my all. Sometimes, I’m up well into the night, preparing for the big day!
TRW: What’s your favorite part about planning for events?
SS: The flexibility to work from anywhere, anytime! I get excited when an event is approaching because I love ensuring everything is packed perfectly with my inventory sheet. I’ve also had opportunities to be a part of some enjoyable events, which I’m grateful for. Some of my favorites include a gender reveal and baby shower for twins, a corporate holiday party, and a luncheon geared towards women entrepreneurs. Each event has been different, yet they were so rewarding in their own way.
TRW: You’ve got some pretty diverse projects in your portfolio! What’s it like planning for a family gathering versus a corporate event?
SS: I love family gatherings and celebrations – I feel like I’m a part of the family! Corporate events have a completely different vibe. I enjoy working with them because their vision represents a brand and highlights the company’s uniqueness.
TRW: Speaking of diverse projects, tell me what diversity in the workplace means to you?
SS: As an African American woman, I’ve felt like I had to prove myself twice as much as my white counterparts. I felt like I had to dress and talk a certain way for people to take me seriously. It’s actually quite draining to be both bluntly and passively treated differently when you are putting in the same quality work, or sometimes, even more work. These experiences have taught me to be unapologetically myself.
I plan to open an event venue to bring communities together within my walls. I want to have an open-door policy where families of all backgrounds feel welcome to celebrate their cultures. I’ll create a team that is inclusive of all backgrounds, and I want everyone I work with to know that I see them, their gifts, and their talents. I want to teach and propel the next wave of planners to be their best so that they can serve ALL communities.
TRW: We’re rooting for you and UNMARKED., Shannel! When you’re not running the business world, what do you enjoy doing?
SS: My family means the world to me. I love teaching and playing with my son, eating good Jamaican food, reading positive affirmations on Pinterest, and talking to my best friends. Little things bring me joy!
TRW: I know, right! The little things matter the most. With the rapid change going on surrounding racism in our country and the Black Lives Matter movement, how would you educate a colleague or friend that is wanting to provide support and help change the current narrative?
If I could educate someone of a different race on how to help eliminate systematic and historic oppression, I would say, “I am the mother of a Black son who is currently two years old. My husband and I pour love and light into him daily, buy into his gifts and talents, and we teach him how to respect himself and others. At some point when he enters the world on his own, people will automatically label him without having any background on the home he came from. If I was not there to defend him, I would need you to stand in for me regardless of what you look like and protect and defend my son in my absence. I would also share education on what goes on in the home of a Black family, and that Black families teach our children to emulate love and kindness.
TRW: Any advice for creative moms in business?
SS: Your child will learn hard work and dedication, and they’ll see that there are truly no limits to what they can do. If they fall in love with your craft, you will have a business you can pass down and keep in the family.
Thank you, Shannel, for sharing your flowers with us.