May 10, 2022
113: An Entrepreneurial Journey with Mahoganey Jones We are delighted to be speaking with a rockstar in our industry today! Mahoganey Jones is a truly inspiring individual, and she is very well-known in the meeting and events industry! She is the Founder of Event Specialists and the first Canadian Event professional ever to become a Certified Digital Event Strategist!
She tells her fascinating story, talks about the birth of her company, Event Specialists, and shares her thoughts, insights, and experience.
Mahoganey is an event expert. She founded and runs Event Specialists, one of Canada’s pre-eminent event production and management firms. She is the FIRST (yah, the first!) Canadian Event professional to become a Certified Digital Event Strategist. She also considers herself a poutine aficionado!
It has been 17+ years since Mahoganey took a jump into the Events world – and she still wakes up each day with a real love for her work! She has won numerous awards for her contributions to the events world, including the 2021 “Event Professional of the Year” & “Top 100 Most Influential People in the Events Industry.”
Growing up, Mahoganey wanted to be a pediatric oncologist. So she began volunteering at a local hospital on her fourteenth birthday. She then got hired by the hospital to be on their events team and part of their fundraisers. She wanted to know where the money from fundraisers came from and how it would get used. She then realized that there was more to events than the eye could see.
An event professional
Throughout her career, Mahoganey has only ever worked as an event professional. When in university, she planned career fairs. At the time, she saw events as a way to pay for her education because she still wanted to become a doctor.
Her first job
Her first job out of university was as a kinesiologist. At the same time, she was asked to join health care fundraising campaigns and an events team to help plan campaigns for the provincial government. Her mentor at the time also suggested that she did events.
After deciding to try a career in events, Mahoganey found it hard to find a job without having a degree in event management. So she created a job for herself, and Event Specialists was born!
Fueling her business
She planned a wedding show and a business trade show to get clients and fuel her new business.
The main prejudice Mahoganey encountered in her early career was ageism. Her husband did the registration for her all her early events, and people often assumed that he, or someone else who looked older than Mahoganey, was the owner of Event Specialists.
Entrepreneurs Organization (EO)
During the time when Mahoganey still lacked the necessary processes for collecting payment from her event clients, she heard that EO was looking for a manager for Canada. She applied for the position, got the job, and found that the organization full of people who talked and sounded like her.
Learning from her role
She learned a lot from her role at EO. She learned from how their team approached event design and how all the different chapters across the world shared similar thought processes. It re-kindled her love for events and pushed her back into running her own business.
A challenge around diversity
One of Mahoganey’s biggest challenges as a black female in the events space has been that everyone wants to fill the diversity quota. She feels that those who fill the quota because they have to have missed the mark, and she believes that color-blindness is not something real.
A love for content and production
Mahoganey started in the events world as a freelancer with a business name and only took on contracts that she herself could fulfill. However, after spending years in the industry and continuing to develop professionally, she realized that she had a love for content and production. So she started looking at events differently.
An AV company
Mahoganey feels that if she had known the event tech world first, she would have owned an AV company rather than getting into the planning side.
Mahoganey does not like planning. She loves the strategy behind how an event can be monetized and strategizing ways to put emotions into a space so that people feel something and walk away with the intent she wanted them to have.
The next five years
Over the next five years, Mahoganey will remove herself entirely from the planning side of Event Specialists. She will continue strategizing and go back into the teaching space because that is where she loves to be!
At the start of the pandemic, Mahoganey saw people returning to the fundamentals and realizing that an event is not always the best way to fulfill the need or goal of a company. People also started to question how to measure the success of an event.
Now, she feels that people have regressed to shorter timelines again. They are also going back into panic mode and rushing to own what hybrid or virtual look like.
We are now reaching a point where true talent will shine, and Mahoganey hopes that innovation will come back.
The time has come
Mahoganey feels the time has come for us to settle down and stop saying that we are post-pandemic and want things to go back to pre-pandemic. We need to avoid falling back into how we have always done things, live in the current state, follow current trends, and continue to evolve as an industry.
Connect with Eric
Connect with Mahoganey Jones
On Twitter (@mahoganeyjones)
On Instagram (@mahoganeyjones)