We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Bennett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karen, what role has risk played in your life or career?
All new businesses are a risk but when you have opportunities backed by knowledge and experience the risk is greatly diminished. I took the risk a long time ago when I left Chicago for an opportunity that presented itself in New York City with a prestigious trade show. While I was there I learned everything I could to better my knowledge in the fashion industry. Years later when I left, I again risked everything and started COAST Fashion Trade Show. With only an American Express credit card and faith I went out and started my own trade show. I had developed a lot of strong relationships through my attention to detail and always responding to exhibitors’ questions and needs. They knew my standards and taste were on par with theirs. I started to fill a void in the regional marketplace. Taking this risk was the best thing I’ve ever done. The risk was compounded by my being a single mother with 3 children to support. I used that fear to push myself to provide for my kids. The risk paid it’s self off I’ve been in business now 14 years and I love what I do. I believe that you must take that risk to better yourself and your career. Everything in life has a risk but this was one decision I was happy I made.
Please tell us more about your business. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
What sets me apart from the others is the look and vibe of COAST are consistent. I’ve developed my brand to appeal to higher-end retailers and I’m proud of all the vendors and retailers that have supported me. Today’s business environment is very challenging, it’s defiantly not easy. Its made a tough industry tougher and I have to resolve those issues in new and creative ways, whether by going back to basics or sourcing new ways to solve problems. I’m learning lessons all the time and I’d be remiss if I thought I knew it all and my lessons are not the same as anyone’s.
I think the world should know that small businesses employ the largest number of employees, generate more tax revenue, and stimulate local economies more than large companies. I’m proud of the impact COAST has made on the areas I’ve been in. My story is the American story that so many share, that through hard work, strong principles, and willingness to take risks I’ve supported myself and my family.
What should our readers know about your business?
COAST is a business to business fashion trade show. It is held in the Miami Design District four times a year at the Moore Building. The show is intimate so that buyers from shops in southern Florida, the Caribbean, and as far north as New York City attend to order product for their stores seasons a head of time. Over the years it’s taken blood, sweat and tears to get to the place I am today. With hard work, perseverance and faith I keep going. As many trade shows are going digital during the pandemic. I don’t fully believe that you can get the same effect or see the product the same way. You need to be up close and be able to really see the colors and fabric of the product. I have stuck to what I know and will keep COAST as a traditional show. I have had to decrease the size to keep it safe for all who attend but it’s still worth it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Some of my favorite places to bring friends to are Lucali, 27 at the Freehand, Uchi in Wynwood, Red Rooster, Cote, All Day Cafe, Under the Mango Tree in Miami Beach and my favorite old school standbye Casa Tua Miami Beach. Some fun things I like to do are paddle board on the bay, hangout at the Standard Spa & pool, shopping in Brickell & The Design District, and visiting the Rubell Museum, Pérez Art Museum, Bass Museum of Art Miami Beach and of course the Wynwood galleries.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to thank the one person who had faith in me, Joey Bozzo. She was the one who called me up after I left a job and she said to me that I needed to do a regional trade show in Miami. She said that all of the brands and showrooms are behind you and will support you. I have to say that if it wasn’t for that call one day in November, I don’t know where I would be today. She was on the phone with me all day until I secured a location for my first show in Miami in January of 2007. I thank her for the support and loyalty in pushing me to take that risk
photo credit to Jessica Amerson