Exhibition World (old) Issue 5 - Page 14

Stateside with Stephanie

Be a risk taker , not a risk seeker

Stephanie Selesnick , reports from SISO ’ s Summer Conference : Women ’ s Leadership Forum
ith a mix of almost


70 up-and-coming exhibition leaders and industry veterans , the SISO Women ’ s Leadership Forum ( WLF ) was held the day prior to the organisation ’ s Summer Conference in the US in early August . The interactive day focused on helping attendees be better leaders .
Rachel Wimberly , EVP business development and M & A US , Tarsus Group and chair of the day-long event said : “ The SISO WLF was thoughtfully planned with the help of a few great people from the SISO Women ’ s Special Interest Group . By starting the day with a workshop led by speaker Karen Gifford speaking about ‘ Positive Intelligence ’, the idea was to open everyone ’ s minds and have them look within to see what steps they could take to help not only themselves , but also their teams .”
The afternoon was spent on tactical issues , kicking off with Entrepreneur Talk , a panel discussion featuring Martha Donato , president of Mad Event Management ( and president of the Women in Exhibitions Network North America Chapter ), Jennifer Hoff , president of both Taffy Event Strategies and the Trifecta Collective , LLC , and Michelle Metter , partner , Fast Forward Events .
Creating and maintaining an exhibition management company from scratch – along with launching and managing exhibitions – is not for the faint of heart . There is no corporate safety net . If you fail , it ’ s your own money lost , not the company ’ s . If you lose a show management client , it can take a long while to replace them – along with the displaced income . All three women discussed their respective entrepreneurial journeys , then moved onto to share knowledge and advice . Metter , who ’ s company owns and produces the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival ( consumer ) and SommCom ( B2B ) said : “ Being uncomfortable is good as an entrepreneur – if you get too comfortable , you aren ’ t doing enough .” She suggested : “ Collect people around you that help you succeed .” In other words , build a team that is invested in helping to grow your shows and business .
Donato has launched over 33 events to date . With launches , she advised : “ Trust your gut . You can ’ t be risk adverse . You must be a risk taker – not necessarily a risk seeker . Make sure to have a ( financial ) safety net if the event is cancelled .” She has a consultancy business which helps fund launches while they get up and running .
Hoff , who is both show organiser / manager and helms a private equity-funded M & A company , said that the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is that there ’ s a lot of work involved with the business
Top : Stephanie Selesnick
“ Trust your gut . You can ’ t be risk adverse . You must be a risk taker – not necessarily a risk seeker .”
of having a business . “ My first two years involved a lot of juggling and wearing many hats ( sales , finance , marketing , administration ), then as I began to hire people and take on more business , it became about processes for the company . Presently , it ’ s no longer all about me personally growing and managing the business . There are others in the company who now have those responsibilities . It has and will change .” She ’ s up to 20 + employees .
Metter said her title is , “ Chief problem-solving officer all the time . I ’ m head of HR , IT , Finance . Our company is idea rich until we can afford to launch new products and events . When you take a risk , sometimes it falls short , and you have to be prepared for that .”
14 Issue 5 2022 www . exhibitionworld . co . uk