2021 Connect Corporate 40 Under 40: Samantha Kearns, CMM

Samantha Kearns, 35, is the owner of Kearns & Company. She's based in San Diego. 

2021 Connect Corporate 40 Under 40: Samantha Kearns, CMM

Samantha Kearns, CMM, 35
Owner, Kearns & Company, San Diego

What I do:
My clients trust me to plan and execute their most expensive and largest public-facing initiatives. I bring their brands to life via trade shows, conferences, sales meetings, incentive trips, product launches and VIP customer events.  

How I got here:
I had 10 seconds of insane courage and jumped from a safe corporate position to starting my own agency. A senior VP and director of sales both resigned, and each approached me separately asking me to freelance. At the end, I had a chance to go back in corporate America and had a vivid dream that my toenails were being pulled out and that I was in a sinking school bus. … Needless to say, I politely declined, found additional insane courage and maintained my course of self-employment.  

My greatest career accomplishment:
The coolest project I’ve been part of was flipping a former prison into a homeless shelter, halfway house and soup kitchen in rural North Carolina. I spearheaded a nationwide challenge to improve your neighborhood. Flipping the prison was our grand-prize project. They received sizable money, national media attention and celebrity help, and it reduced the recidivism rate in the town by 60%. The program still stands and has changed countless lives. 

Impressive stats:
While I was new to my event planning career and still a corporate employee, I spearheaded 130 global events in 12 calendar months. I was hired with the understanding that the company did not know how many events they attended, why they attended them, nor had any ROI measurements in place. I got to work and built an internal planning, review and execution process for the sales, marketing and product development teams to follow. I don’t think I slept more than a few hours at a time that entire year, but I built a beautiful process that has continued to set the company up for success. 

What are you working on right now:
I’m really looking forward to the widespread return of live events. My clients all are very excited to get back to meeting face to face. In the meantime, it’s been exciting to learn how to plan and keep virtual events exciting and engaging. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the 360 video solutions, and plan to keep a portion of that in my live events moving forward. 

What I do outside of work: 
I teach yoga and genuinely enjoy running marathons. I live in Southern California so you can also often find me on a boat or near the water. 

Favorite vacation destination:
I hail from the Midwest, so getting back to Lake Michigan and to my family and friends is always my favorite place. New York City, Lake Como in Italy, everywhere in the South of France, and the Caribbean are all tied for second place. 

Favorite icebreaker line: 
“What’s been the best and worst part of our day?” It helps me to read the room and understand my clients. Listening to what they do and don’t like allows me to help plan their events better by understanding how I can amplify what brings joy and minimize the angst. 

Travel hack:
Death before a checked bag. Anything I need to be successful once I hit the ground is on or around my person. I’ll check my clothes and personal items before I ever check anything I need to bring for a client. And always arrive a day early—this allows me to assess the situation and catch anything that may need to be altered before the client arrives. 

Instagram: @kearnsandcompanyevents