Two tickets to Paradise

Women of Influence: Barbara Emener Karasek

Tampa native Barbara Emener Karasek came full circle in her career when she and her husband, Tony, acquired Paradise Advertising in early 2018 from founder Cedar Hames. Earlier in her career, she interned under Hames when he was running the St. Petersburg office of the Earl Palmer Browne advertising agency.

“It gives me such chill bumps thinking about how we got here,” she says. “I worked with Cedar every day on projects and he taught me the business. He really inspired me to have a career in advertising and marketing.”

That career has led Karasek around the world and into experiences most only dream about. From her time working for the U.S. Olympic Committee and meeting heads of state, to creating NASCAR Champions Week in Times Square, to corporate vice president at SeaWorld  Entertainment where a branding project with Southwest Airlines led her to take the maiden voyage on a new airplane with two penguins as seatmates.

As CEO and co-owner of Paradise, Karasek and her husband are focused on growing their 32-person team and expanding outside of the hospitality market. This includes such vertical markets as food and beverage, as demonstrated by a recent partnership with Kahwa Coffee (see page 12). In their first 18 months, the Karaseks grew their client base from 14 to more than 20 clients.

“Our core will always be hospitality, but our transferrable skills mean we can grow businesses and brands anywhere,” she says. “There are no limits for what we’re doing. We don’t see ourselves as a marketing agency; we are a partner for businesses who want to grow.”

That “no-limits” attitude has served Karasek well throughout her life. As a student athlete, she once played six sports in a single school year. Her volleyball skills earned her a four-year scholarship to Furman University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She later earned a degree in strategic marketing management from Harvard Business School.

She points to her family and coaches as the biggest influences in her life. “I am thankful to have been led and inspired by people who pushed me,” she says. “The lifelong athlete in me insanely prepares to perform in life, and I am one who never gives up.”

Karasek hopes Paradise employees and clients, and the entire region, benefit from her drive and determination. She’s focused on growth, for all parties. “We will grow strategically with amazing clients and positively impact jobs in the community,” she says. “We also want to help our clients grow so they can create more jobs and give back to the community.”

Community is close to Karasek’s heart, especially the community that helped her get to where she is today. “I stand on the shoulders of the leaders before me and the women and men in the community who helped pave my way,” she says. “If I can lead the next generation, I feel thankful and blessed.”

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