We open to a crowded bar in downtown Saint Louis. Surrounded by the chatter of her fellow employees, our protagonist, a young designer named Sara Barnett, looks to a karaoke machine resting in the corner. She walks over, selects a song, and with microphone in hand and courage in her heart, she begins the seasonal classic, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
No photographs or recordings of this event exist, but those present remark at the magic of the moment. There are people who are surprisingly good singers. Like, “Wow, Janice from accounting can carry a tune.” The voice of young Sara is in another class. More akin to saying, “Why aren’t you on Broadway?” As you get to know her, you discover this “hidden talent” is neither hidden, nor a talent. She has no fear in sharing her abilities, every one of which, was forged from hard work and tireless dedication.
Act 1: Curtain’s Up
It was in Benton, Illinois where Sara refined her aptitude for the performing arts. The childhood home of John Malkovich has in part, lead to a thriving musical theatre scene in this idyllic Midwestern township. She took to the stage as Mrs. Potts in Beauty and Beast, Cosette in Les Miserables and the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods.
These performances were a source of confidence for the budding star. She feels at home on stage and in the spotlight—but not out of a starvation for attention, but a love for the craft. This passion for musicals makes sense, especially considering Sara’s propensity for unwavering focus.
In 2nd grade, Sara was the star of the accelerated reading program. For those unfamiliar, this nationwide initiative encourages students to read books, take tests to ensure they absorbed the information and awards points for every book read. If a student earns enough points, they’re typically awarded a coupon for a personal pan pizza.
According to Sara’s teacher, nobody had ever earned a hundred accelerated reading points in a single school year. Young Sara heard this claim and proceeded to spend every night reading two books and taking tests the next morning. Her evenings were spent exploring Magic Treehouse, Boxcar Children and other age-appropriate fiction. This amounted to reading over two hundred books, earning her a trip to Pizza Hut and the satisfaction of being the most well-read 2nd grader in the country. Clearly, her teacher didn’t know who she was dealing with.
Act 2: Ruling the Stage
Sara has always been drawn to people who approach their skillset in a state of thoughtful, continuous improvement. Whether working with your hands, your voice, or intellect—Sara can appreciate a strive for perfection. In step with this pursuit of flawlessness, Ms. Barnett was the valedictorian of her graduating class.
Ms. Barnett was the valedictorian of her graduating class.
When pressed about her grades she contends that not even an A minus can be found on her transcript. Which upon reflection, makes one wonder exactly how many questions she actually got wrong throughout her academic career? Paradowski is fortunate she doesn't relish the sight of blood, because Sara would surely have thrived in her original desired profession—brain surgery.
After acquiring the Adobe suite in college, Sara decided to develop her newfound abilities by designing posters for one of her favorite bands, Coldplay. Over time her Tumblr generated quite a following and eventually earned attention from the bandmates themselves. Her designs have been used for tour posters and basically lead to free Coldplay tickets for life. There is a funny ritual that happens every time the group announces a tour. She receives an email from their manager asking how many tickets she’d like and viola they appear in will call. Mind you, all of this came from Sara’s idea of a “goof-off” project.
Act 3: An Encore in Design
In keeping with her habit of excellence, the day after graduation was the first day of her new job as a graphic designer. This might be her most impressive feat yet. No wasted time, no dilly-dallying, no period of aimlessness typically found in the lives of a twenty-something. Sara has the unique accomplishment of being a grown up before growing up.
All of this, eventually brought her to Paradowski. Despite being young in years Ms. Barnett brings a wealth of experience beyond what her resume might suggest. She has the wisdom, discernment, and settled confidence required to thrive in a fast-paced, deadline-driven business. Her Creative Director Steve John sums it up best:
“Once and awhile...a creative comes along who just has ‘it’. They have a way about them. They’re creative beyond measure and you find yourself slack jawed at their work. It’s even more rare that said person is humble and a delight to work with. I think everyone would agree with me that Sara is one of those people.”
But the Sara we enjoy today would not exist without the influence and support of her family. The connection between her and younger brother Tim, is clearly much deeper than that of typical siblings. She speaks about him with great respect and admiration.
And of course there’s her mother Roberta. Throughout all of Sara’s ventures—theatre, choir, college, and design—mom was a constant and assuring presence. This continuous support has lead to Sara crediting her mother for everything. Clearly, this remarkable young woman must have been raised by an impressive one in her own right.
And what’s next for this budding young professional? Who knows. But whatever it is, you’d be wise to get to know her. We’ll all be calling her boss someday.