When Jill Snodgrass' husband died 11 years ago, she turned a tragedy into an opportunity.
In the late 1980s, Snodgrass turned an event-coordinating job at the News Tribune into a career in the event-planning industry, a field which hardly existed at the time. As she grieved about a decade ago, she took the chance to forge a new life in the Florida Keys, just as she forged so many things on her own before.
"My son was going off to college, so I was also an empty nester," Snodgrass said. "I always wanted to buy a sailboat and learn how to sail. So I lived on a boat for a year and met my fiance."
Snodgrass, a Columbia native, attended the University of Missouri and Lincoln University. She started spending winters in the Florida Keys and now lives and works there the majority of the year. Each spring and summer though, she comes back to Mid-Missouri to live at her home near Jefferson City on the Osage River and work at her event-planning service, Daily Plan-It.
Snodgrass works closely with the Jefferson City Convention & Visitors Bureau on several projects, including coordinating Thursday Night Live and its related events. Snodgrass played an instrumental role in the city's preparation leading up to August's total solar eclipse, when 25,000 visitors from around the world descended upon Jefferson City.
Her career as an event director is just one chapter in a long event-planning career. Previously she worked with many meeting, convention and travel clients. She's also worked in the political arena on inaugurations and state and national Democratic Party conventions.
Her lasting mark on the industry came from three event-planning books she wrote that teach people how to become an event planner and how to start an event-planning business, one of which is read in college classes.
Q. Who has invested in you and your career?
A. "Myself. I pretty much put myself through school, and I started my business with no loans. But I couldn't have done it without the support of my family. I say that because when I started in the event-planning field, it really wasn't a field per se. There wasn't really anyone who paved the ground before me. So I kind of started from scratch. Lots of community women, on the other hand, that I've been in association with, I have absolutely looked up to as women business leaders in the community for sure."
Q. What choices have you made to invest in yourself and your own success?
A. "Starting my own company was a big step, but something that I always felt like if I could just continue to work hard I would be able to build it to the level that I wanted. I also took some time in between to actually work for Ikon Office Solutions for a short period of time doing incentive travel marketing and putting together trips for their sales people. That gave me a lot of additional experience that I wouldn't have otherwise. After that, I was able to parlay that into doing my own corporate clients, and I was doing travel incentive programs all over the world for a time."
Q. Of what professional achievement are you most proud?
A. "Back in the day, I was the contractor who was selected for the (former Gov. Bob Holden's $1 million inauguration celebration in 2001, Missouri's most expensive inauguration), which still makes me laugh; but that was unique. I also did the fallen firefighter memorial after 9/11; that was an honor.
"Beyond just being selected to be the principal contractor for various events, I also have written three books. They are industry books and have helped a lot of new planners get started, and I've had the opportunity to be a mentor to probably hundreds of planners."
Q. What do you see as the biggest issues facing women in the workplace?
A. "There is still some levels of inequality as far as pay is concerned as far as a woman and a man doing the same job, but personally I try not to let that be any kind of obstacle. It's maybe easier when you are a business owner, because I'm able to pick and choose my clients at this point. So I don't really see a lot of barriers at my stage in my career and at my age that someone who's maybe just starting out might face."
Q. What drives you most in life and in your career?
A. "What drives me most is having the opportunity to only do events for clients and organizations that I am passionate about and believe in. I'm at a point in my career where I choose the events that I want to do and how they contribute to the overall wellbeing of my community and then being able to have time to enjoy my family and do the things that I want to do in my free time. Creating a good balance between what you do and doing what you love."
Q. What advice would you give to a woman entering the workforce?
A. "As far as succeeding, find your passion. Find what you really love, and try to make that your career path and to recognize very importantly that work is only a portion of your life."
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