Sheila McDonnell networks her way to business success

Born and raised in the Bay area, Sheila McDonnell moved to Del Mar 18 years ago and settled in Carmel Valley five years ago.

She founded the Women In Business Symposium, which celebrates its 10th anniversary at the May 14 event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The dynamic symposium is a networking event with speakers, roundtable discussions covering a variety of topics, sponsors and exhibitors.

McDonnell has been an active member of the Del Mar Kiwanis for the last 17 years. She is the founder of the Ugly Dog Contest, which is happening March 8. Proceeds will go to Helen Woodward Animal Center, Friends of the Del Mar Parks and Rancho Coastal Humane Society. She has been active in the San Diego Coastal Chamber for 10 years. Last year, she was given the honor of being Women of the Year.

McDonnell has also been in the horse racing industry for 30 years and has worked at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for 18 years. She works in two departments - horsemen’s services and group sales.

What brought you to Carmel Valley?

The love of a house, which we bought.

What makes Carmel Valley special to you?

It’s a great place to live.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Carmel Valley?

I’d widen State Route 56 and add a dance hall.

Who or what inspires you?

My mentor, Mary-Ellen Drummond.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Charles Darwin, Joel Osteen, Larry King, Nancy Grace, Dr. Laura, Barack and Michelle Obama, and my husband, John McDonnell.

What are you currently reading?

I am not reading any books right now - just newspapers.

What is your most prized possession?

My friends.

What do you do for fun?

I love traveling, parties and dancing. I do a lot of networking, which is fun for me!

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

Creating the Women In Business Symposium.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Just do it!

For more information about the Women in Business Symposium, visit the Web site at