From Growing Pains to Career Gains

Hosted By

Alana Muller

CEO & Founder
Coffee Lunch Coffee

Podcast Guest

Jeanetta Hawkins

Founder, President and CEO
Personal Touches by Jeanetta, Inc.

Episode Summary

Jeanetta Hawkins, Founder, President and CEO of Personal Touches by Jeanetta, Inc., takes listeners through the ups and downs of her decades-long entrepreneurial journey. Hear how Jeanetta found success as an event planner by taking advantage of every opportunity to gain experience and grow professionally.

“We were a young business, (we) didn't really know what we were doing. But they kept us on and we got better and better.”



Alana Muller 0:09
Welcome to, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.

Alana Muller 0:41
Hello, listeners, welcome back to podcast. Jeanetta Hawkins is the proud founder, president and CEO of Personal Touches by Jeanetta — a Christian, family-owned special events, design, production and event rental company, which she started more than 35 years ago. Her motto is “We decorate and you celebrate,” and I'm ready to celebrate with her on today's episode. Jeanetta Hawkins, welcome to podcast.

Jeanetta Hawkins 1:07
Thank you. Glad to be here.

Alana Muller 1:10
I am so glad you are and wow, “Personal Touches by Jeanetta.” What was your inspiration for starting your company? And what were the first steps you took to bring your vision to life?

Jeanetta Hawkins 1:21
First of all, believe it or not, I've been decorating since the sixth grade. I had a sixth grade teacher that pulled me out of class to decorate the stage for the school. And I also had an art teacher that I absolutely loved, and she kept me very active in art. So I did art shows, plays, and I would even play at home, decorating my best friend's porch. And we would have Christmas plays that I would write. So, I've been doing it almost my entire life. And then I had a candy store as a kid. And my grandmother, I had her to sell everything and collect money. So I've been an entrepreneur since I was a little bitty girl.

Alana Muller 2:11
Oh, so you came by this honestly. This was always in the cards.

Jeanetta Hawkins 2:15
It was always in the cards. But, as I got older, I ended up working in corporate America. And I worked for business schools. And I was in sales all of my entire career, young career. And so I took that skill, and that's what helped me build the business. But I also attended community college classes, you know, just to learn about the business side of it. So you know…

Alana Muller 2:44
So smart.

Jeanetta Hawkins 2:45
Yeah, so I'm still a student, I think I tell any entrepreneur, "You want to always be a student of your craft. Always."

Alana Muller 2:55
Yes, that is so true. And I mean, I think just sort of continuous learning, continuous development is so important. And I love it that a teacher, two teachers really, were responsible for you getting involved in this notion of decorating, as a craft, as an art, so early in your life. And gosh, isn't it true that teachers make such a difference?

Jeanetta Hawkins 3:19
They make a difference. Look at how many movie stars go back to their hometown, and they look for their drama teachers and all of that. So yeah, they play a very, very important role. And I know that we're going to probably talk about this on down the road, but that's something that I am very, very passionate about. Even though we've been in business for 35 years, I'm trying to get the business to a point where it doesn't require all of my time, all the time, so that I can reach into my community and pull some of those children out of there and introduce them to art in my industry, and hopefully start them on a new career path as entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs.

Alana Muller 4:07
Yeah, so cool. So cool. I just think that's, it's beautiful. And we know that that is something that makes a difference. So I love that that is part of the vision. I have to say, rumor has it that you have decorated and brought to life many world class events that included, as an example, dropping 6,000 balloons and confetti at a gathering to honor President George W. Bush. So, first of all, how did you get 6,000 balloons blown up and placed in the rafters? I want to know what time you started? What the process was? How you knew what your deadline was? But, but really, in all seriousness, what's been the most memorable event that you've produced, or one that at least has meant the most to you over all these years?

Jeanetta Hawkins 4:50
First of all, thinking about the 6,000 balloons takes my breath away. It does.

Alana Muller 4:57

Jeanetta Hawkins 4:58
Literally takes breath away. We were actually called to do that, it was so exciting, one evening. And I was shocked that you know, they had come through St. Louis but they were moving I think to...God, it has been so many years now. I think it was Oklahoma? Or somewhere we had to drive to a hangar.

Alana Muller 4:58

Jeanetta Hawkins 5:22
Yeah, we had to drive, we drove all night long. We got there in the morning. We got the balloons blown up. Fortunately, now they have machines. But starting out 35 years ago, I did have all of my nieces and nephews and children. Everybody was blowing up balloons when we did all of the grand openings for the Metrolink stations. So yes, we have machines. And we got an opportunity to drop 6,000 beach balls for the Backstreet Boys.

Alana Muller 5:54
OK, that's very fun.

Jeanetta Hawkins 5:56
That was incredible. And we got, we were given tickets. So it was awesome to see, like 2,000 four- and five- and six-year olds screaming at the Backstreet Boys back in, you know, the day.

Alana Muller 6:10
Oh my gosh.

Jeanetta Hawkins 6:11
Yeah, but my most memorable ones. Weddings are, you know, very sentimental. Always. You know, you fall in love every time you do a wedding. And you think it's so magical and beautiful. But a lot of my non for profits, we do things for Jackie Joyner. When we do that and create that Olympic look for her, and then how she engages in the children. I think those kind are, you know, pretty special in any of my non for profits that reach out into the community. All of those are very, very special to us.

Alana Muller 6:44
I just, I love it. And it's I mean, I can first of all, I can just sense how much it means to you in your voice, but also just seeing that vision come to life and, you know, imagining what it could look like, and then you actually produce it. That's got to be so special for you and for your team.

Jeanetta Hawkins 7:01
Yes, it is. It's exciting. We tell our clients, when you're happy, we're happy, we're not happy until you're happy. But a lot of it comes to me in a vision. You know, I have dreams and visions. It's really weird how it happens. But it can hit me and I can see the whole room. And once I see it, it's easy to put it together and to communicate it to my team. But they're always amazed because sometimes they don't really know or see the whole vision. They just know the pieces that I assign them to. But once it's all done, they're all just in awe, including myself.

Alana Muller 7:42
Yeah, yeah. I bet well, and I bet that, you know, you've obviously engendered a lot of trust in them that they, you know, they trust you. And so, they believe that this vision will come to life. So obviously, the way that you communicate, the way that you express each person's responsibility and role must be very clear. And they believe in what you're putting together. So I think that's very cool.

Jeanetta Hawkins 8:06
Well, thank you. I do go behind them sometimes. And sometimes they go behind me. So if we have time, I wanted to tell you just a quick little story.

Alana Muller 8:17
Oh, do it. Yes, I gotta hear it. Go ahead.

Jeanetta Hawkins 8:20
So my, it's a family business. So all of my kids were raised in the business. I never, I can't say never, but usually I didn't give them money. Anything that they wanted, whether it was a car, shoes, clothes, or whatever, I would give them hours. So they would have to work in the family business. But as they grew in it, they grew and they were even more talented than I.

Jeanetta Hawkins 8:20
And so I would, my daughter and I, my son and I, we would go back and forth, "This is what I want to do. This is what I want to do." And they were like, "Well, Mom, you know, this is, this looks better. This is what you should do." And I said, "No, I want to do it like this. And I'm the mother." So they would all, my kids are very respectful. So they would say, "Yes, ma'am." So I would leave and come back. And lo and behold, they would do what they wanted to do. I would walk in the room and go, "Oh my god, that's amazing." And they were right. So we have little inner cat fights that we laugh about all the time. But my adult children, I call them, are very, very talented. And they're really good.

Alana Muller 9:31
So cool. So cool. Well, so talk a little bit about relationships. I mean, that's, you know, for me, relationships are where it's at. That's just, that's the thing that drives me personally, it drives my business, and I suspect the same is true for you. How have you built both your personal and your professional network and what has that meant to the growth and longevity of Personal Touches?

Jeanetta Hawkins 9:54
Well, it is everything. We had the opportunity to be a part of the Jamestown Mall implosion. You know, they did the wrecking ball and all of that last Tuesday. And so I was working with the Port Authority and one of the senators was speaking and he said, "We can move as fast as our relationships." And I said, "Wow, that is so true." You know? And our relationships are everything.

Jeanetta Hawkins 10:24
When we first started, we were doing proms. And actually, when I first started, I was a recruiter, a high school recruiter. So I worked with all the high schools. And when I decided to start the business, I went to all the counselors at the high school and asked them, "If I were to start a business decorating, would you support me?" And they all said, "Yes." And so we start doing proms. And then there was a young lady that came into my life that saw one of our proms, named Donna. She was an event planner and she worked for Xerox Corporation, but she was starting her business. So she reached out to the school to find out who I was. And this woman literally changed our lives because she pulled us in on a project to do all of the Metrolink grand openings.

Jeanetta Hawkins 11:19
And so it was a disaster. It was a disaster.

Alana Muller 11:24

Jeanetta Hawkins 11:25
We did. I mean, we were a young business, didn't really know what we were doing. But yeah, but they kept us on and we got better and better. And we all had to work outside where there was zero degree weather or 110 degree weather. And I told God, I said, "If you ever let us go inside of a building, I promise you we'll do a good job." So we learned all of the logistics in doing business in the worst possible elements. So when we got inside of a ballroom, we were able to do it. But long story short, Donna opened the door for Metrolink, Metrolink opened the door for doing the Rams kickoff rally and working with FleishmanHillard, which was the third largest in the country, and number one in the country.

Alana Muller 12:12

Jeanetta Hawkins 12:13
Yeah, of a marketing firm. And so they used us to do…when the Rams came to town, 2004 initiative. I don't know if you were old enough to remember that.

Alana Muller 12:23
Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Jeanetta Hawkins 12:25
Yes. And so all the Metrolink stations and so then we started doing work for Bi-State and then, you know, it just started growing and growing and growing. And a lot of our clients have become our friends.

Alana Muller 12:40
Yeah, I'm sure.

Jeanetta Hawkins 12:41
I mean, you do annual events. We do a lot for the St. Louis Business Journal, The American, The Post, and you're doing annual events, 2-3-4 a year. So of course, now we're building relationships and a lot of them come to my home, I go to their home, I know their kids. So yeah, you're absolutely, absolutely right — that's how we built our business.

Alana Muller 13:05
Well in those early days, you said it was a disaster and one thing I was gonna ask you to do is, for our listeners who are listening from across the country, who may not be as familiar with St. Louis, what is Metrolink?

Jeanetta Hawkins 13:17
Oh, the Metrolink is our transit station…

Alana Muller
…system. Yeah. Right.

Jeanetta Hawkins
Yes. Our system. Yes, absolutely. So, you have Bi-State the buses and then we have the Metro. Yes.

Alana Muller 13:27
So, when you talk about being outside and any conditions, whether it was freezing, sleeting, sunshiny, burning hot, whatever it was, you are out there, so I can totally understand that.

Jeanetta Hawkins 13:40
Yes, yes. Yes, yes. And sometimes they asked us to cater, so we had hot chocolate and muffins and doughnuts and everything for them too.

Alana Muller 13:51
That's great. Well, well, so talk about something that you're working on now. Something that you're especially excited about.

Jeanetta Hawkins 13:56
We are, oh my God, um. We have gone from maybe three to four events a month to maybe three, four to 10 a week. So, yeah, it's been quite a challenge. But we can go back to, let's say, Jackie Joyner-Kersee's event is coming up, and that's a really fun event because we get to do all the props, we do the torches, and the rings, the Olympian rings, and the gold and all of that, and they really trust us. So we get kind of free rein. We just met with them. And so Jackie said, "The less I know, the less I have to question it."

Alana Muller 13:56

Jeanetta Hawkins 13:56
We don't tell her a lot. We just let her show up and do the wow factor. So that's one we're working on. And we just built a relationship with Forest Park Forever. So they have a fundraiser coming up where they're trying to revamp the ice skating rink.

Alana Muller 15:00
Oh sure.

Jeanetta Hawkins 15:01
Right, so they have all of their donors coming up. So we'll be staging that next week too. So I'm pretty excited about that one as well.

Alana Muller 15:09
That's great. That is great.

Jeanetta Hawkins 15:11
I could talk about all of them.

Alana Muller 15:12
That's so fun. I mean, I bet one is more amazing than the next. It's just incredible. That's so great. What advice do you have for business owners who inevitably face challenges in their own work? How have you overcome obstacles? And I'm sure that there have been many challenges that you've faced along the way, what have you done to overcome them?

Jeanetta Hawkins 15:32
I actually work with, I've worked with a lot of agencies that have resources. And I really cling to people that are, I say, they're smarter than me, or they're more knowledgeable in the business side of it. I will pick up the phone, I will text, I will email to get answers to problems and questions that I need. And then I also have, a lot of my clients are corporate, you know, there's CEOs and vice presidents. And I'll pick up the phone, and I'll run those questions by them too, and get advice from them as well. And then make my own decision based on the information that I got.

Alana Muller 16:14

Jeanetta Hawkins 16:15
Yeah, so I still pull on my relationships.

Alana Muller 16:17
So smart. I mean, so with that in mind, do you have a mentor or someone in your life who's had a meaningful impact on your career and personal journey?

Jeanetta Hawkins 16:26
Oh, I gravitate to mentors. Absolutely. I do. I do. I have several, I have several women. And then I have several men as well, mentors. I do. I can pick up the phone. But the other thing, if you're struggling in your business, you do want to pull on your mentors, but you want to, there's so much resource, so much information out here right now. I would just continue to educate myself and learn as much as I can learn, but you also want to have that person that you can cry on their shoulders when things get a little tough, a little rough. And just be ready to hear the truth. Because I've had friends who tell me to, "Just be quiet, stop whining and just move on."

Alana Muller 17:19
Wow! You know, sometimes, sometimes that hurts, right?

Jeanetta Hawkins 17:23
I was looking for a little empathy, but hey...

Alana Muller 17:27
Yes, exactly.

Jeanetta Hawkins 17:28
The truth will set you free.

Alana Muller 17:29
Indeed, indeed. Oh, my goodness. Well, you know, it's important to have those people who will hold the mirror up to us, and especially if we're willing to listen to them, right?

Jeanetta Hawkins 17:38
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Alana Muller 17:40

Jeanetta Hawkins 17:41
And how many people have we had to tell, "Okay, shake it off. Here's a timer. It's over. Let's move on.”

Alana Muller 17:50
Well, I like to, I like to say, from a business perspective, if you're grieving over something, get your grief out, let it all out. And then tuck every bit of residual resentment into a big suitcase, zip it up, close that lid, slide it under your bed, never bring it out again, because nobody wants to hear it.

Jeanetta Hawkins 18:09
Let it go. Let it go.

Alana Muller 18:11
Yeah, yeah, so true. So true. Shifting gears a little bit, I know that you are really a philanthropist at heart. You even talked a little bit about that at the start of our conversation. How do you determine where to invest your time, talents and treasure in the community?

Jeanetta Hawkins 18:27
Believe it or not, the same way I have visions about everybody's event, I also have these [inaudible]. And so I don't sow into every pot, but if I feel passionate or compelled, I will. Because as a business owner, you really can give away the business. And I do have a bad habit of giving away the business. And so I have an accountant and I have a daughter that keeps me grounded. At least they try. Sometimes my accountant doesn't see it until after it has happened. Like we just met two days ago, she said "You've given enough for the year, do not. Anymore." And that's hard. Because the next day, I think I did give away something else, like a little something else. But um, I'm working on that part. I fail miserably on that, because I do have people that call and you know, want us to just give, give, give, give, and it's a business and I still have employees that I have to be responsible to. So you have to just create some balance and some boundaries, and maybe set a goal, you know, of the year. I'm talking to myself right now really because I have not followed any of these rules at all, but I think I'm gonna have to start, you know?

Alana Muller 19:53
Well, the good news is that we're recording this, you can listen to it over and over and over again to remind yourself.

Jeanetta Hawkins 20:00
Yes, yes, yes. Listen to yourself. Yeah, but really, it's just me being moved by certain things. And every event that we do, and I mean, every event, and we do about 500 events a year now. I throw a little extra in a pot. And it's to the point where my kids understand that. So they always throw a little extra in the pot as well. You know, so, yeah, it's like an old saying, you know, somebody might drop by, you want to have extra in the pot. So it's just like a little saying.

Alana Muller 20:32
So nice.

Jeanetta Hawkins 20:34
Whatever I think my client needs to make that event go a little, a notch higher, we'll do it. We usually will do it.

Alana Muller 20:43
Yeah. I love that. I love that. I have a friend who calls that "the comeback sauce."

Jeanetta Hawkins 20:49

Alana Muller 20:49
Right? A little bit of extra sauce, a little extra sauce and get them to come back.

Jeanetta Hawkins 20:49
I love it.

Alana Muller 20:55
It's just doing something a little extra special, a little, just a little extra kindness. And it goes a long way and it comes back. Right?

Jeanetta Hawkins 21:04
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Alana Muller 21:06
Yeah. I love that you do that. I love that you do that.

Jeanetta Hawkins 21:08
I do have one other event I just thought about that I am super, super excited about and it's become one of my favorites. And we have the opportunity to do the luncheon for the mayor.

Alana Muller 21:21
Oh nice.

Jeanetta Hawkins 21:22
We did the first one last year, but this year, we are really taking it to another level for her. And when you said that, you made me think about that because we are doing some extra things that she doesn’t know about. And we're so excited to be, and so honored to serve our mayor. We really are.

Alana Muller 21:40
Aw, so cool.

Alana Muller 21:41
Well, I have loved talking with you. Jeanetta Hawkins, where can our listeners go to learn more about you and Personal Touches by Jeanetta?

Jeanetta Hawkins 21:49
Well, we have a handle. It's at P, as in “personal,” T-B-J-S-T-L. Our website is

Alana Muller 22:03
Wonderful. Jeanetta Hawkins, thanks so much for being on podcast.

Jeanetta Hawkins 22:08
Thank you, it was my pleasure and it was great talking to you.

Alana Muller 22:13
Thanks for joining us this week on Be sure to visit our website, to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us., powering business leaders, one conversation at a time.

Alana Muller 22:37
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