Today we’d like to introduce you to Sweeney Mae.
Sweeney Mae, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always been an achiever. Ever since I was a little girl, attending an elementary school in the Philippines, I’ve always been motivated by awards and recognition. I have always worked hard, so my parents can be proud of my accomplishments. Both of my parents were in the US while my sister and I were in the Philippines for the majority of my childhood. It always motivated me to receive awards, certificates, and recognition because it was the best way I could show my parents that I worked hard.
My childhood played a big role in the way that I am today. At the young age of 13, my parents put me in charge of managing our household finances, which meant that they sent me a monthly budget to handle expenses while they were both working hard in the US. I had to mature fast but I somehow didn’t miss out on my childhood. We also had to hire help to take care of my sister, who is nine years younger. At that young age, I understood what it meant to work hard and I was trained how to balance a tight budget.
At 16, we were finally approved by the US embassy to migrated to the U.S. It was a long and expensive process (but that’s another story). I attended high school in the Seattle area and received my bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Washington State University (Go Cougs). I was a dance captain in high school so it was only natural that (my best friend and) I started a dance organization on campus at WSU. I hustled my way through college. I am a proud recipient of the Bill Gate’s Achiever’s Scholarship amongst other grants but I literally worked three jobs to earn extra cash. My mother helped me with my rent although, as most Filipino moms, she wished I went to nursing school but I felt that Marketing was my calling.
After college, I worked for Macy’s Northwest as an assistant buyer for their Fashion Jewelry department, where I helped manage a 17m department across 50+ Macy’s locations. It was a great first job out of college but it lasted only two years because of the recession. I was laid off. Then, I worked for Expedia as a contractor for several months and due to all their layoffs, I wasn’t able to get a permanent position. Around that same time, my father passed away due to lung cancer and he was the last thread that kept me in Seattle. I stayed to help my mom take care of my dad at that time.
In 2009, while unemployed, I told all my friends and family that I am going to take a much-needed vacation to California. I stayed with my other (half) siblings in Orange County and never returned home! I didn’t have a job nor did I have plans but knew that I had to move to sunny California. I hustled! I started looking for events that I can attend or volunteer on Craigslist and I got involved in a Hollywood nonprofit giving awards to filmmakers and celebrities. That was a great event and I met so many people that eventually led me to a gig producing a fashion show with 12 designers and 60 models in Hollywood within six months of my move to Los Angeles. It was a successful show! I continued to do more fashion shows and eventually registered my first business, Events in the City LA. I did several weddings, baby showers, grand openings, and more! I even worked as an assistant to one of the popular Iranian Comedian, Max Amini. We produced events that packed the Comedy Store multiple times and even took the show to Bethesda, Maryland. Those were the exciting times of pure grass roots hustle!
I continued to look for a full-time job and after a year of searching, I finally found a job as Marketing Manager for SouthBay Pavilion, a regional shopping center in the City of Carson at the end of 2010. I’ll be honest, it was a tough decision to decide to slow down my hustles and choose a gig with a regular paycheck. The center needed a lot of work. This mall was dying and it needed a lot of work. In a way, I just shifted my hustles to help bring life to SouthBay Pavilion. I produced events that at first had an embarrassing amount of attendees, I had to beg organizations to hold their events at the mall. After a few months of hard work and consistent personal development, SouthBay Pavilion is now an award-winning shopping center! I have won multiple awards for several programs I’ve produced at the mall from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). These awards meant that we are playing with the “big dogs” like Westfield malls and the like! I have a very minimal budget but I know how to stretch my dollars given my training when I was 14! Things really do happen for a reason.
In 2013, I wrote my first book on Amazon called The 10 Step Guide to a Successful Event. I probably need to write a 2nd edition to it but it was a no frills type of book. It’s short, sweet, and to the point! My consistent success in event production inspired me to write that book. I figured there must be something different I’m doing that’s making it very easy for me to produce my events.
The owner of the center really appreciated all my hard work and generously took care of me every year during the review and bonus process. They even expanded my responsibility to help other malls they purchased in Washington and Atlanta. They trusted me to jumpstart marketing programs and campaigns in other markets until they were able to hire a local Marketing Manager. I was soon promoted to Marketing Director. Marketing is my passion. I spend my free time studying, attending webinars and/or seminars, learning the trend, reading about what’s new, and etc… I try my best to stay on top of the trends and it has positively affected my role as a Marketing Director. I just deployed our mobile app campaign and it’s surprisingly doing well despite our concerns of people not wanting to download another app. It’s all in marketing!
My passion and knowledge in marketing have also helped other organizations I’m involved in. I’ve been a board member for the Carson Gardena YMCA, Vice President of Communications for the Women’s Business Council of Long Beach, and Past President of Carson Gardena Dominguez Hills Rotary Club. Currently, I serve as the City of Carson’s Public Relations Commissioner, Board Member of the Carson Sheriff’s Station Support Foundation, VP of Marketing for the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce in the SouthBay and Los Angeles Area, and Board Member of the L.A. South Chamber of Commerce.
Recently, I’ve been a part of the best selling collaborative book called Unscripted: How Entrepreneurs Leap and Find Success. In that book, I share the story of how I found my confidence in attending a new school in America. It was the most overwhelming experience to walk into an American school and having to speak English. I knew how to speak English of course, but I never had to do it 24/7 and make new friends. It’s a great story and the book is filled with other short stories from several entrepreneurs.
I am frequently requested to speak or run workshops for small businesses and so I recently started MAE DAY MARKETING. They always say it’s important to have multiple streams of income or that we need something personal to work on outside of our jobs, right? MAE DAY MARKETING came about because I realize that business owners, including my close friends, always needed rescuing when it comes to marketing. They want to achieve something but need help in figuring out what steps they need to take or how to create a strategy. I love running workshops and encouraging others on how to think differently when it comes to marketing. I don’t do it because I feel like I have something to teach others. I do it because I know I can help them think differently, that will result in less dreadful moments with the way they approach marketing.
Additionally, for fun and fitness, I am a Certified Zumba Instructor and I teach at SouthBay Pavilion every Saturday Morning at 9 am. It’s a part of my award-winning “Mall-mentum Campaign” I designed to help fight obesity and keep our shoppers in shape!
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It hasn’t been a smooth road for me. I experienced several heartbreaks and it had nothing to do with boys or men!
The struggle started when I was 14. My father has always lived in the US since before I was born. He would only come home during Christmas time. My first heartbreak was knowing my mother had to move to the US when I was 13.
Leaving me in charge definitely made me who I am today, in hindsight. When I finally migrated to the US, I hated leaving my friends, who were basically my family for most of my childhood years. I attended an all-girl Catholic school and I spent the majority of my childhood with them! In the Philippines, we were in school from 9 am – 5 pm. My parents migrated us just before my senior year and that was the second heartbreak. I had one more year to finish school with my best friends but the move could not wait!
Then, when I moved to the US, the school system decided it was best that I repeat my sophomore year because of my age and that was my third heartbreak! I was a smart student and accepting that news felt like a demotion.
The fourth heartbreak was when the recession happened and I was laid off from Macy’s, I loved that job and it was my first job. I felt so proud but it didn’t last long. I didn’t get a chance to climb the ladder as I had planned but it taught me not to feel attached to a job.
Then, when I moved to California, I was a part of this big project that had so much potential. I won’t even get into the details but we later find that the CEO was insane! Meaning, he kept doing the same things over and over expecting a different result. I was a part of the group that he assembled to get it off the ground and running and we were so excited but many of our ideas were shot down. It was heartbreaking when I finally realized what a waste of time that was. He hired us to see the project through but crippled us with all of his disapproval. The project never came to fruition.
When I started Events in the City LA, I had to deal with so many disappointing people who fell short of the promises they made. I’ve lost money working with the wrong people. Now, I am more selective and I go through a vetting process before I decide to work with anyone.
Starting fresh in Los Angeles was a challenge as well. Finding new friends and selecting the right people to trust is a consistent struggle. I’m so happy I have reached a point where I have a great circle of friends locally and others out of state that continues to support my projects or become my voice of reason.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I have always considered myself as an entity. I am my own brand and I take pride in any work that I produce. I specialize in marketing, event production, and creative strategy. I bring my expertise, tenacity, and work ethic in everything that I do.
My personal mission statement is: “To use my talent, charisma, knowledge, and serial optimism to inspire confidence and creativity in others! Make a difference by helping people realize they are capable of their full potential.”
If you follow me on Instagram, you will find that my posts are always positive, empowering, fun, and at times, thought-provoking.
As a Marketing Director at SouthBay Pavilion, what I am good at is always finding new ways to excite shoppers to come to SouthBay Pavilion. It was a challenging process to rebrand the entire center but I have done the work and it is paying off. The center is more alive now with new national stores and a plethora of ongoing events. I have a proven track record of bringing exciting energy to any project that I am a part of.
I am very proud of my work ethic. I can wear many different hats because I keep my mind open to learning and mastering new things. They say a “Jack of all trades is a master of none” but that’s only a partial statement. The complete statement is followed by “…but oftentimes, better than a master of one!” I know a little bit of everything when it comes to marketing and event production. I can be a photographer, videographer, editor, graphic designer, sound engineer, director, stylist, copywriter, and etc… I figured if I learn many of these things, I can do a lot of grassroots work in-house or that I will be more knowledgeable when I hire people who can provide these services for me.
I am optimistic and very well-rounded and it might not set me far apart from others but I know how difficult it can be to find people with the same work ethic. I do my best to give back by hosting workshops, talking to college students (at Cal State Long Beach and Dominguez Hills) and sharing tips and advice to the marketing class.
I am most proud of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished. To say that I can think of a day in my childhood when we sometimes didn’t have running water or electricity and I found myself (one time) walking a mile to get water from a well due to a bad storm, it humbles me. I’ve had 3rd world and 1st world problems in my life so far and that’s pretty mind-blowing and humbling.
I’m also proud of the brunch club that my collaborators and I have recently started called the Thinkers and Doers Brunch (@WeAreThinkersandDoers). Once every quarter, we host an exclusive brunch inviting women who are proactive and progressive with their business or career. I love to surround myself with like-minded people and instead of looking for events, I decided I can host my own and gather amazing women in one room.
I’ve also recently joined a venture to develop a one-of-a-kind mobile social and lifestyle app that will help us save time when coordinating events and itineraries between other people. I am very proud to be the only female in this executive team. The app is called MYCTY (@MyCtyApp). It’s going to be the next big thing!
What were you like growing up?
I was a very jolly kid and I still am today (jolly and a big kid). I was always flexible in that I can play alone or I can play well with others. I had to mature fast and assume a lot of responsibilities as a teenager but if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.
I loved to dance and perform as a kid because my mom always entered me in pageants and contests. It was a rough start when I was younger but I eventually felt comfortable being on stage in front of a crowd and I’m grateful for it because it is a big part of what I do now in my career. I’m often requested to MC events and I rarely feel any stage fright.
I was an only child for nine years so I’ve always been outspoken and a little bossy. When my sister was born, I was very nurturing to her and she considers me like her second mom now.
I’ve also always been a prankster. So much so that I got six stitches on my head from attempting to scare my cousin and ended up falling off a ledge and hitting my head on a tree trunk. Don’t feel bad for me, the entire thing was funny. I am full of personality and I always love to have fun!
- Unscripted: How Women Thrive in Life, Business, and Relationships: $12.99 (Paperback) and $5.99 (Kindle)
- Unscripted: Entrepreneurs Leap and Find Success: $12.99 (Paperback) and $5.99 (Kindle)
- 10 Step Guide to a Successful Event: $3.99
- Marketing 2-hour VIP Mastermind: $300
- Website: www.sweeneymae.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/sweeney_mae
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/sweeney_mae
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/sweeney_mae
- Other: www.mycty.com
Rocky Velasquez, Photo Makers in Carson