HER: Jo Anne Howell, Community Visionary - The Bend Magazine

HER: Jo Anne Howell, Community Visionary

Jo Anne Howell, Community Visionary's commitment to celebrating with the community, organizing the perfect events

Portraits by Shoocha Photography | Hair by Evana Reyna, Melissa Rocha & Christopher Jarred | Makeup by Frankie Reyna | Styling by Alexa Gignac, Julian Gold Corpus Christi

Entertaining is in Jo Anne Howell’s blood. She describes her upbringing as that of a quintessential entertaining family — one in which no life moment was too small to celebrate. She credits a lot of this to her two grandmothers. When she was a teenager and Martha Stewart’s magazine came out, she collected every single issue. “I had towering stacks of her magazines in my room. I’d look at every single one of them and just think, ‘I want to do this one day; I want to bring people joy in the way she does.’”

As the owner and creative vision behind Oh Goodie Design + Events began to create a family of her own, Howell’s innate entertaining skills flourished. In Laredo, she sat on the board of what she calls the “newcomers club,” and was responsible for organizing play dates and bunco nights. She spent three years planning exhibits and programming for a children’s museum, and it was there Howell really began to discover just how much she loved making things work for the enjoyment of others.

“If we couldn’t afford something, we’d build it ourselves,” she said. “We would do whatever it took to make sure the kids had an enriching place to be, and that was one of the first times I had the feeling of putting my skills to use and seeing the fruits of my labor in other people’s faces.”

With years of experience from planning birthday parties for her three children and friends, by the time Howell and her family moved to San Antonio in the early 2000s, she was more than ready to keep the ball rolling.

Portraits by Shoocha Photography | Hair by Evana Reyna, Melissa Rocha & Christopher Jarred | Makeup by Frankie Reyna | Styling by Alexa Gignac, Julian Gold Corpus Christi

“Jo Anne has been the brains behind countless events for our family and business. She is truly a visionary when it comes to her craft. She takes every idea and turns it into a wonderland. Even the the tiniest details are mastered without us having to delineate or worry about a single thing. The love and care she puts into her work undoubtedly shows in the final outcome.”

Mary Margaret Sahadi, client

Oh Goodie Design + Events is now a full-service event planning and styling service. If you’ve attended an event in the Coastal Bend in the last eight years, chances are Howell’s abilities were behind it. While her love for the craft knows no bounds, her outlook on this city and the community of local vendors is notable. Howell didn’t know a single person when she moved to Corpus Christi in 2011, but with hard work and determination, her contact book filled up and she began to make a name for herself among clients and vendors in the area. When she and her husband split, she had a choice to make: Move to be with family or continue as a trailblazer in the local event planning industry. The reason she stayed, both then and to this day, has everything to do with this community. 

“Why would I turn my back on this community that gave me everything I have?” she said. “I couldn’t have built Oh Goodie into what it is today if it weren’t for the Coastal Bend. When I think about this community, and especially the community of vendors I work within, I think about the people who own these businesses, and it just means so much more to me than collecting a check. I can’t turn my back on something like that.”

When COVID hit, that same love for people played a part in Howell’s “Party in a Box.” Howell partnered with several local businesses to deliver the perfect entertaining kit straight to customers’ doorsteps — allowing people to gather (even if it just meant having a party for four in the living room) and support various local businesses at the same time. 

Howell has devoted her time, energy, passion, talents and resources to making this community a better place to play. Her compelling vision for what entertaining means goes far beyond pretty tables and chairs. Parties don’t plan themselves and Howell eats, sleeps and breathes her work, until the very last moment of the party. “It’s a living, breathing experience,” she said. “Every minute detail is a part of the big picture and it’s my job to put the puzzle pieces together.” There’s no problem or client request too complex for Howell. She makes the job seem easy, but don’t mistake her confidence for a lack of hard work. This job is no piece of cake. Talent is a part of the success formula for Howell and her thriving business, but it often takes more determination and dedication than anything else to achieve what she’s been able to.

At the end of the day, her love for entertaining knows no bounds, and speaks to why she got into the industry to begin with: It always comes back to the people. There isn’t a bride she’s sent down the aisle without shedding a tear; in nearly 10 years of business, she’s hardly raised the price for kids’ parties; and the community of businesses, vendors and clients she works with have become a chosen family, for which she is incredibly grateful.