The Howard Group Inc. wins Better Business Bureau’s Business of the Year for a second time

A Snohomish County event production company, The Howard Group Inc., has been awarded the Better Business Bureau’s highest small business honor — the Business of the Year Torch Award — for the second time in Western Washington’s.

Over 300 Western Washington businesses are nominated for this honor annually after being evaluated for integrity, customer service, ethics and innovative business practices. This year, the judges, all unbiased, third-party representatives of a variety of organizations, selected The Howard Group for the top place in each of those categories for a second time.

“We were over the moon and we were humbled,” said Howard Group president Kevin Howard St. John.

Robert Andrew, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington described the companies that win this award as the elite of the elite who stand out above fierce competition. In praise of The Howard Group, Andrew said that he believed the company should serve as a model for other businesses.

Jean Hales, president/CEO of the South Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce, also had praise for the organization, saying, “The Howard Group exemplifies the high quality of our business members and reflects well on the local business community.”

The Howard Group is a multi-faceted event company noted for offering a wide array of unique special event services. These range from personal affairs such as arranging weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and the like to big corporate functions, trade shows and product launches. One of the company’s divisions is particularly well known for planning and executing spectacular graduation night parties.

The company is especially noted for providing much of the equipment and décor for their events from their own large warehouse. It is filled with giant props, lighting, backdrops, games, DJ equipment and everything else that could be needed to create a memorable event. Almost everything can be handled by the company in-house.

Howard St. John credited the company’s success to their commitment to truly listen to their clients’ ideas and to try and make those wishes come true. This isn’t always an easy task as clients aren’t always sure of what they would like, he said, and even when they are, they often have a difficult time articulating their wishes.

He said another important element of an event service is to offer complete support to the customer from start to finish. The customer has to feel they have someone there with them to support them every step of the way.

“The journey to the destination is often as important as the destination itself. You can do a fabulous job on an event but if getting there was a nightmare, the overall experience of the client is unsatisfactory,” Howard St. John said.

The events firm was founded by Howard St. John just over 25 years ago. While in high school, he lost a friend in an alcohol-related accident. It brought home to him the need for every school to have a alcohol and drug-free party to attend on graduation night.

In 1983, he established the Grad Nights division to provide alcohol and drug-free grad night parties. These parties have a reputation for being so much fun that kids really wanted to go to them rather than attend the unofficial “kegger” parties that so often have tragic results.

“I truly believe we are saving lives,” Howard St. John said. “Based on national statistics, 6 to10 additional kids would be killed each year if we weren’t doing what we’re doing. The death toll spirals on graduation night.”

Howard St. John is not only a strong advocate for children but also sits on the board of several charities such as Seattle’s Table and others. The Howard Group is also known for its corporate events. One favorite that stands out in Howard St. John’s mind was an event for Boeing’s United Way campaign many years ago. The company had expressed a desire to really focus the audience’s attention for the moment when the company vice president would appear to make his speech.

The stage was set with an elaborate balloon wall display in the shape of the American flag. Artificial fog rolled across the stage and music played in the background. Next, a pipe and drum group marched on the stage and began to play the national anthem.

“At the end of it, the entire balloon flag exploded revealing the vice president,” Howard St. John said. “That was fun.” It definitely got the attention of the employees, many of whom still talk about the event, he said. Another event was set up in a client’s warehouse with a marquee tent to make the cavernous space more intimate and attractive. The Howard Group even had pedicab drivers transport guests across the warehouse.

“An event has to be successful,” he said, “so it becomes a good legacy. If it is a horrible event .. that will get out.”

For more information, call The Howard Group Inc. at 206-363-4100 or visit Each division has its own Internet website.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Bothell biotech CEO resigns after domestic-violence allegation

Clay Siegall co-founded Seagen, which develops therapies for cancer patients. He’s accused of attacking his wife.

FILE - A sign at a Starbucks location in Havertown, Pa., is seen April 26, 2022. Starbucks says it will pay travel expenses for U.S. employees to access abortion or gender-confirmation procedures if those services aren't available within 100 miles of a worker’s home. The Seattle coffee chain says, Monday, May 16, 2022, the benefit will also be available to dependents of employees enrolled in its health care coverage. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)
Starbucks will cover travel for workers seeking abortions

Amazon and Tesla also will provide the benefit. Walmart and Facebook have stayed silent.

A barista pours steamed milk into a red paper cup while making an espresso drink at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Pike Place Market, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Seattle. It's as red as Santa's suit, a poinsettia blossom or a loud Christmas sweater. Yet Starbucks' minimalist new holiday coffee cup has set off complaints that the chain is making war on Christmas. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Interfaith group asks Starbucks to drop vegan milk surcharge

They say the practice amounts to a tax on people who have embraced plant-based lifestyles.

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to keep canceling flights at high level for weeks

Flight cancellations since April will continue. The chaos has been damaging for Seattle’s hometown airline.

FILE - An airplane flies past the Boeing logo on the company's headquarters in Chicago, on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001. Boeing Co., a leading defense contractor and one of the world's two dominant manufacturers of airline planes, is expected to move its headquarters from Chicago to the Washington, D.C., area, according to two people familiar with the matter. The decision could be announced as soon as later Thursday, May 5, 2022, according to one of the people. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing expected to move headquarters from Chicago to DC area

The move would put Boeing executives close to their key customer, the Pentagon, and the FAA.

This 3D rendering shows Sila's 6000-foot facility in Moses Lake, to be used to manufacture lithium-ion anode battery materials. (Business Wire)
New factory in Moses Lake will bring hundreds of new jobs

The plant will manufacture lithium-ion anode battery materials for cars and cellphones.

Dr. David Kirtley at the new Helion headquarters, Antares, in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022  (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Helion Energy: New Everett company has the sun in its eyes

The firm is the winner of a new award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County, called Opportunity Lives Here.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring is this year's winner of the Henry M. Jackson Award given by Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Photographed in Marysville, Washington on April 25, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Jon Nehring: Longtime Marysville mayor who’s nurtured growth

He’s helped steer the city’s transformation and is winner of the Jackson Award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

Monti Ackerman, recipient of the John Fluke Award, is pictured Thursday, April 28, 2022, outside his office in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Monti Ackerman: A passionate volunteer and calculator whiz

The Fortive executive is the winner of this year’s Fluke Award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

Rep. Mike Sells, D-38, is the recipient of this year's Henry M. Jackson award. The award recognizes a visionary leader who through partnership, tenacity and a strong commitment to community has created lasting opportunities to improve quality of life and positively impact the regional economy. Photographed in Everett, Washington on April 29, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Rep. Mike Sells: He fought for WSU Everett and worker rights

The retiring legislator is the recipient of the Floyd Award from Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

People sit outside the recently opened Amazon Go facility Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Mill Creek, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Cashier-less Amazon Go buzzing in Mill Creek grand opening

Locals came to check out the high-tech store, with $3 avocado toast and cameras watching customers’ every move.

Joel Bervell (Courtesy photo)
TikTok med student @joelbervell named top Emerging Leader

Joel Bervell, who highlights disparities in medicine, took top honors at an event for 12 rising stars in Snohomish County.