YNGBLKPGH: Shayla Hawkins

By Shayla Hawkins | Photograph from Mecca Gamble

As the principle planner of {SHE}, Shayla Hawkins plans weddings and events in the Pittsburgh area and beyond. For more information, visit shaylahawkinsevents.com.

Like many, after high school, I went to college and studied business — something “useful” and “needed,” as directed by my high school guidance counselor. I graduated with honors and landed my entry-level management position in retail banking. Life was good. I did very well in the position, had great sales, and even went on to complete my Master of Business Administration while starting my career. I was on track to be promoted and grow within the company. However, after just a couple years, I was not happy and the job was no longer fulfilling. I felt physically sick going to work some days. So I asked myself the hard questions about what I really love and what my dream job would be. 

I always had a love for pretty things, details, and design. As early as high school, I would plan small celebrations for family and friends, not really thinking I could do it as a career or that I’m half creative, half business savvy. So when I began exploring careers I would love, it lead me to event planning. I began to reach out to local planners for shadowing and apprenticeship opportunities. I did not get the response I was hoping for in order to gain professional experience to see if this was a good fit for a new career or not. Eventually, I was able to shadow one wedding with a planner and it gave me the confidence and confirmation that I needed. Even in a saturated market, I knew in my heart I could become a wedding and event expert, set my brand apart, and create my own lane in the Pittsburgh market and beyond. And that’s exactly what I did. 

Within a year, I studied the industry, went through a certification class, networked with other wedding and event pros, and decided to create and market my own wedding and event planning firm. {SHE} was born. 

I remember posting on Facebook that I was having a career change and introduced {SHE}. Shortly after, a high school friend messaged me and told me she was recently engaged and I could plan her wedding. The journey began.

In my first year, I produced six events. Now, going into our eighth year, my partner Alexis Allen and I plan over 40 events a year. Every year and every new opportunity never ceases to amaze. We’ve built the best team and work with amazing clients, couples, families, and industry pros. We’re still growing, learning, and always putting plans and goals in place to reach the next level of success.

I would encourage everybody to do what they love. If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it. I had a clear vision, planted the seeds, and literally watched them grow, one opportunity at a time. I had no idea what connections and opportunities God had in store for {SHE}. Nor did I ever imagine that this was bigger than living my own dream out loud and that I would have a real platform to empower and inspire women, entrepreneurs, wedding industry pros, young professionals, and younger generations to do the same.

YNGBLKPGH is so necessary, simply because all you need is one. One person to light a fire inside of you. One person to show you it can be done. One person to share a journey that resonates with you. One of the biggest motivational factors for me was being connected to someone whose passion and talent was aligned with purpose. I’m extremely humbled to be a part of this movement that will push our younger people from dreaming to doing. This project has inspired me and shown me — even more so now than ever — that we do have a social responsibility to share, empower, encourage, and teach. YNGBLKPGH is going to offer that and much more to the youth in our city.


YNGBLKPGH will be released April 29 at a book release event at the August Wilson Center where youth, participants, and supporters alike are encouraged to come network, cheer on, and participate in a celebration followed by a panel discussion where select members from the book will open up and share with the youth about their stories and engage in a live discussion. For all sponsorship inquiries and to reserve your copies of YNGBLKPGH, please reach out to brian.burley@YNGBLKPGH.com and check out YNGBLKPGH.com.

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