Shannon Morgan: Life Lessons from a Small Town in Alaska

Shannon Morgan is half of the Mo-Minksi founding team. Her upbringing in Alaska was the foundation of her passion for delivering exceptional, real-life service to her real estate clients.


When she was little, Shannon Morgan lived in a bus. Not just any bus; a retro-fitted school bus that her parents drove from Minnesota to Healy, Alaska, where Shannon’s father took work at the open-pit coal mine, a job he would hold for 30 years while slowly building a beautiful log home on 17 acres outside of Denali National Park.


LESS IS MORE

In Healy, a town of 800, Shannon went to school with the same 18 class members from kindergarten through high school. “Cliques were nonexistent,” Shannon recalls. “Going to school with the same kids for all those years taught me you either get along with everyone, or you have no friends.” In Healy, no one worried about having designer jeans or the latest audio device. “Because the elements were so harsh, people spent their money on winter gear and snowmobiles. So we all had the same playing field. You learned to identify people based on who they were, not on what they had.”


The family expanded to include Shannon’s sister, Lyndsay, and brother, Josh. Caring for a family of five was not a simple matter. “The closest grocery store was 100 miles away,” Shannon remembers. “We’d plan those trips a month in advance, schedule all the medical appointments, and itemize the lists. If our ‘town’ trip allowed we’d squeeze in a movie.”


SHOOTING HOOPS

With so few recreation options, school was the focal point of the community. Sports were a big deal—and Shannon excelled at basketball. In Shannon’s junior year, her coach started talking about college scholarships. “He encouraged me to try out for a summer team that would tour Europe. They picked 12 high-school players from Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. I made the team.”


While playing in England, Shannon injured her knee. She was told to ice it and get back on the court. She did—and blew her ACL. Shannon spent her senior year rehabilitating her knee and had to abandon dreams of a basketball scholarship. “I didn’t know who I was or what I had to offer outside of basketball. It was a sad, lonely, scary year for me.”

Shannon attended University Alaska Fairbanks before deciding to move to Washington. She planned to attend Shoreline College while gaining resident status and then transfer to UW.


FROM SNOW TO SEATTLE

During a summer in Denali working for Princess, Shannon met Ben, a soft-spoken 6’ 7” student at Ricks College. They became instant friends, which lead to something deeper. They were married by Shannon’s father on September 11, 1999, in the town she grew up in.


Shannon and Ben were both accepted at UW, but were daunted by the cost of living in Seattle. They’d also been accepted at WSU Pullman, where they could live affordably. Decision made. In 2002, they graduated, Shannon with a BA in psychology. While Ben pursued a master’s degree, Shannon worked in assisted living for developmentally and mentally challenged adults. “It was hard, but I loved it,” Shannon says.

Two years later, Ben completed his masters in business and got a job in Seattle that required international travel most of the week. The couple moved to Renton and had their first son, Braydon. When the baby was six months old, Shannon took a job as a property manager in Northgate, which she could handle with Braydon in tow. Meanwhile, the couple socked money away for a down payment.


In 2006, with the real estate market at its peak, Shannon and Ben purchased a modest split-level home in Port Orchard. In 2007, their second son, Brooks, was born. Shannon stayed home with the boys while developing a business in portrait photography. The family economized as much as possible—hoping to move to Bainbridge Island. In 2011, that plan came to fruition. “We bought a house in North Town Woods and we loved it from the beginning,” Shannon says.


MAKING IT WORK

While Bainbridge was a dream come true, Shannon and Ben had reached a breaking point in their marriage. Knowing they wanted to minimize disruption to their kids’ lives, Shannon and Ben rented an apartment in the International District and each week swapped places, one of them always staying with the boys in the house they called home.


Abruptly, Shannon had gone from being a fulltime mom to having her kids just half time and needing to build a livelihood. She felt lost. “For 14 years I’d supported someone else’s career. Now I had this enormous pressure to get back on my feet in a short amount of time, and I was paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do or how to start. It literally took me to my knees. For six months, life fell apart.”

As Shannon figured out who she was, she returned to the lessons she’d learned in Healy: At heart, people are the same. We grieve, we celebrate; we’re all just clinging to the rollercoaster carriage as it rolls and twists.


She connected with other divorced women on Bainbridge, made new friends, and got to know herself. She purchased a three-bedroom condo in Winslow and devoted herself to remodeling the unit and decorating the boys’ rooms. She found that being the head of her household was deeply empowering. It was scary too, but somehow necessary. “I felt, and continue to feel solely responsible for the life I chose to create. Big or small, good or bad, it’s now on me.” Inspired by her interest in design, psychology, and reconnection to community, Shannon earned her real estate license and joined a locally owned brokerage.


CONTRACTS, CLIENTS & CONNECTIONS

As she built a client base and hit her stride, Shannon found a natural alliance with fellow agent Terri Kaminski. The two formed a partnership that can best be described as the Jack Sprat of real estate.

One example of their symbiotic fit is Shannon’s passion for the legal side of real estate transactions. “My favorite part of this job is the contracts,” she notes with a smile. “The strategy, the legal terminology, the clearly defined rules—I love it. That was a complete surprise to me.” She and Terri have also carefully curated a team of experts in escrow, title, home inspection, mortgages, and building trades who prioritize customer service. “We only refer clients to people who share our philosophy.”



Shannon’s understanding of our shared human experience is the underpinning of her work as a real estate agent. “It’s about that connection,” Shannon says. “Buying a home is one of the most vulnerable times in someone’s life. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying for the first time or the fifth. That’s where I’ve found my upbringing to be an asset. We’re all people. My life experience has given me an ability to understand where people are at emotionally. Real estate is a microcosm of life. There’s not a transaction in which I don’t learn something new, either personally or professionally. It’s an environment of constant growth. I have found growth to be painful, yet beautiful. It keeps me humble and I filled with gratitude.”

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