Sean O’Keefe: Atlanta’s Lifestyle Expert Gets Personal on Life, Work and Turning Everyday Occurrences Into Something Special

Sean O’Keefe of Sean O’Keefe Events has made quite a name for himself in the city of Atlanta in a relatively short period of time. This is due to both his magnanimous personality and his keen ability to unite others around a common cause in a very meaningful, measureable and effective way. He is best known for designing signature events for various local charities in Atlanta including the Shaken Not Stirred Gala (Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance) the CDA Down Home Derby (Child Development Association) and many more. In fact, during the last eight years, he has worked with local nonprofit organizations to raise more than 12 million dollars for their causes. However, he is quick to point out that these events raise much more than just money. They also raise awareness and awareness he states is the “first step in making a positive difference in the lives of others.”

Making a positive difference in the lives of others is of the utmost importance to Sean. This is true in his professional life as well as his everyday interactions with individuals. Originally from St. Johns Newfoundland, Sean spent a good amount of time with his grandfather in a small town called New Melbourne. Here, his grandfather taught him essential life skills such as how to jig, clean and cook codfish, how to compost, and where to plant blueberries. The invaluable lessons he learned from his grandfather have shaped every aspect of this life. He laments the fact that these important skills are no longer being passed down to future generations. He states, “With both parents working and the rapid pace of our super technology, there is a whole generation of people, ‘millenials,’ who are at a loss as to what to do.” Sean may be just the person to teach them. It is obvious that bridging the gap with the 20 something generation and helping them to swing back to more face-to-face interactions is definitely a priority. His goal is to share with them “little things that make life more delicious and bring us together as a community and as a family.” He strives to show young people that they have the tools they need to make everyday occurrences really special. Case in point: as we were talking on the phone, Sean fixed himself a cup of herbal tea. There was nothing special about the tea itself, he noted, it could be purchased anywhere. What made it special was the fact that he was using honey produced in his garden by his hives of more than 80,000 bees to sweeten the tea. By the way, his garden also features a fig tree that is laden with figs during the summer months. If you are friends with Sean or perhaps even an acquaintance, you may just be lucky enough to share in the bounty from his garden in the form of fig preserves, fig-infused cocktails, fresh herbs, tomatoes or other home grown treats. Sean loves to share the bounty of his garden with friends. And, he loves it even more when the circle is completed. “When I give someone some figs from my garden and they return to me with some preserves that they produced from my figs, that is a beautiful thing.”

DHD flowers in feeder

To call Sean an event planner is a drastic understatement. Culinary expert, floral design specialist, organic gardener, avid beekeeper, these titles certainly apply but still do not quite paint the whole picture. Perhaps “Atlanta’s Lifestyle Expert” is the closest thing to the truth. Sean arrived in Atlanta after spending almost 17 years in Santa Barbara, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles where he worked as an Executive Chef in a boutique vineyard as well as a personal chef to A-list Hollywood celebrities. When his partner at the time who is originally from Georgia asked him to move to Atlanta, Georgia, his first response was “to Georgia, excuse me…where?” Upon his arrival in Atlanta, he quickly figured out that he was going to need to re-invent himself in order to succeed. He found that “people do not spend money in Atlanta the same way they do in Los Angeles. The money is definitely here, but is not spent the same way.” Since there was no market here for a private chef, he then began to think about how he could recreate what he did for individuals in LA for groups in Atlanta. That question was answered when he met Donna Smythe, Executive Director of the Child Development Association (CDA). A Kentucky native, Donna was missing the Kentucky Derby and wanted to stage one in Atlanta as a fundraiser for the CDA. Sean took to the task and the “Down Home Derby” was born. Now in it’s eighth year, The Down Home Derby has become one of Atlanta’s signature events and is not to be missed. All this success and recognition has caused him to become a local celebrity. To date, Sean has appeared on NBC, CBS and The Weather Channel. He enjoys a weekly appearance on NBC’s 11Alive Atlanta & Company on Tuesdays at 11:40 am where he shares lifestyle tips on everything from mixing a great cocktail to cooking a fabulous meal and serving it in your home for a dinner party.

One interesting fact that Sean shared with me about himself is the fact that he is extremely shy and a bit Agoraphobic. This is a shocking revelation from a man with a vibrant personality who spends his professional life wowing people. He told me that in the past, his shyness has been mistaken for aloofness. I found nothing about Sean that I perceived as aloofness. However, when he is alone in his garden listening to the flutter of 80,000 bees at work in their hive, this is where he truly feels relaxed, comfortable and at peace. It is this personal time and activity that fuels who he is in his professional life. Given this new bit of knowledge, it was not surprising when he answered the following when asked about the greatest challenge he had faced in his professional life: “The belief that I am the person that everyone thinks I am. Living up to this image keeps me on my toes and scares me to death.” It is not surprising that Sean is doing something that frightens and challenges him everyday. As a young gay man growing up in Newfoundland with very few friends and in a difficult home, he was forced to really develop who he was. Each move that he has made geographically and in his professional career has served to further strengthen that confidence.

One thing that is abundantly apparent about Sean is the fact that he truly loves the city of Atlanta and has embraced it at as his home. He states the following about our great city: “If you show the city that you care, the city will take care of you.” He clearly cares about where Atlanta is going and with over 75 events a year including weddings, bar mitzvahs, charity balls and more, Atlanta has been good to Sean and to Sean O’Keefe Events. When asked about his biggest accomplishment in life he responded that it is the fact that he actually figured out who he was early enough to do something about it. He credits his move to Atlanta as one of the most fulfilling experiences in his life and says that although he really liked the guy he was in LA, he loves the guy he is in Atlanta. When asked about his future plans, he says that he will continue to be true to who he is and approach life on bended knee. I have no doubt that he will do just that.

About the Company:

Sean O’Keefe Events is an event design and planning firm with a special emphasis on culinary and floral design. They specialize in social and corporate events. As your chosen event partner, the dedicated team at Sean O’Keefe Events pledges to deliver unforgettable memories and a transformational event experience. If you would like to get more information about the company, please visit their website at


Written and Posted by Beth Schultz on Behalf of Concierge Services of Atlanta, Inc.

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