Karen has worked in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry for twenty-eight years. During this time, she has served on both the agency and account sides and has been actively involved with the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), National Tour Association (NTA), American Bus Association (ABA), and Southeast Tourism Society (SETS).
Most recently she has worked closely with the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) in crafting a marketing strategy and advertising campaign for the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation to launch the Southwest Virginia region as one of America's last great undiscovered destinations. She has attended the Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism, VA-1 Tourism Conference, the North Carolina Governor's Conference on Tourism, and the Pow Wow international travel forum. For over twenty years, she worked closely with Visit Florida and the Florida Tourism Corporation marketing various resort communities across the Florida panhandle including Sandestin Beach and Golf Resort, WaterColor, WaterSound Beach, WindMark Beach, Alys Beach, and the Perdido Beach Hilton. She held board positions on the Pensacola Convention and Visitors' Bureau and South Walton Tourist Development Council. During this time, she was employed by Intrawest Destination Resorts (NYSE: IDR) based in Vancouver, British Columbia and the Malaysian multi-national corporation, Sime-Darby. In the late '90s, Karen launched and served as editor and publisher of two in-house publications, Sketches, a regional Northwest Florida biannual, and the vacation periodical, Souvenir. Over the past two years, she started and has been a primary travel, hospitality, and entertainment correspondent for a regional tourism and economic development blog. Her latest release is a travelogue about Maine. Travel writing is her passion and proficiency.
Karen is a contributor to the Downtown Blacksburg shopping blog, for which she interviews and profiles local shop owners and national chains. She does the same for local merchants and entrepreneurs as a correspondent for the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation blog.
Karen chronicles her experience with canine lymphoma as well as her transformation into a reformed Dogma in the dog-blog, Everything I Know About Cancer I Learned from My Dog. She has since lost her beloved Louie to the disease but is currently the proud mother of three rescues, two terriers and a chocolate Lab.
She has volunteered with the Wythe-Bland Animal Welfare League, written spay/neuter grants, and worked in nursing homes with their therapy dog, Sam.
Karen writes grants and annual reports, develops websites, and blogs for agriculturally focused non-profits in Southwest Virginia.
Karen played a key role in transforming the 26-mile stretch of the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast known as The Beaches of South Walton into what The Wall Street Journal dubbed "The Hamptons of the South" (circa 2001). It has also become known as "The Design Coast", for its concentration of master-planned new urbanist towns that brought the likes of Andres Duany, Leon Krier, Demetri Porphyrios, Robert A. M. Stern, Jacque Robertson, David Rockwell, Graham Gund, and other architectural luminaries together in the towns of Seaside, WaterColor, WaterSound Beach, Rosemary Beach, and most recently, Alys Beach.
Restaurants and food events have been an integral part of Karen's work in the hospitality industry for the past 20 years. She has been an event strategist and planner for the Taste of 30A (2000-2002), which celebrated the culinary heritage and traditions of the Florida panhandle, the first-ever Southwest Virginia Wine Festival in 2012, and the Sandestin Wine Festival (1992-1999).
She has been involved in the launch and/or repositioning of more than a dozen restaurants, including Sunset Bay Cafe, Elephant Walk Restaurant, Fish Out of Water, The BaitHouse, The Gathering Spot & Sushi Bar, Beach Club Grille, Rita Bar, Caliza Restaurant, WaterSound Beach Club, Harvest Table Restaurant, Heartwood Restaurant, Linkside Pub, and Fonville Press Coffee Shop. She has also worked closely with all aspects of resort food and beverage operations at the 2400-acre Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and 499-acre WaterColor beach community.
Karen's 20 years in the hospitality industry has afforded her the opportunity to cover a wide range of music events and concerts in a number of genres.
With 20 years' experience in the hospitality industry, Karen has covered a number of concerts, festivals, and events. Her most enjoyable assignment to date was covering Mumford and Sons' Gentlemen of the Road Tour. She has also written about FloydFest, and was an event strategist for the pioneering Digital Graffiti at Alys Beach, Florida. She was instrumental in strategizing and launching the first outdoor production of Telluride MountainFilm on Tour at WaterColor, A Taste of 30A, the first-ever Southwest Virginia Wine Festival, Summer Fete, and the Noche de los Muertos Halloween Party.
She has extensive event production and management experience and has served on the board of The Seaside Repertory Theatre. She has also facilitated countless fundraisers and other special events.
Karen continues the tradition of honoring things made by hand through her work profiling artists and artisans. She has represented `Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia Artisan's Network whose membership includes potters, fiber artisans, woodworkers, glass blowers, and mixed media. She has also written extensively for galleries and shop owners who feature handcrafted works and merchandise.
An outdoor enthusiast drawn mostly to whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, and rock climbing, Karen relishes the opportunity to cover these and other recreational pursuits. Her most extreme endeavors to date are skydiving, bobsledding, and getting pinned under a Class V hydraulic.
She surfed the 2008 release of the Gauley and has recently written about the game-changing 2013 America's Cup and the release of the Class VI Russell Fork River. She was involved in the launch of the Appalachian Spring initiative to promote the Southwest Virginia region as an outdoor recreation destination.
Even though Karen has practiced marketing for over 25 years, she has only recently started writing about it.
Karen has worked on the promotion of non-profit fundraising events throughout her career. In 2011, she added grant and annual report writing to her repertoire.
Karen enjoys following and reporting on business news and trends. She especially likes helping entrepreneurs become discovered.
Karen closely follows the renewable energy scene. She is particularly interested in the adoption of offshore wind farms in the U. S.
In 2010, Karen lost her beloved 10-year-old Jack Russell Terrier to what she suspects was chemical-induced canine-lymphoma within two weeks of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that threatened her hometown of Pensacola, Florida. These back-to-back events profoundly and forever opened her eyes and changed her world view about the man-made toxins being imposed on our systems and the environment. She has since amped up her green energy advocacy and has re-evaluated and revised her lifestyle to Code Green. She has attended rallies and film screenings, where she has had the pleasure of meeting Robert Kennedy, Jr., Josh Fox, and Wade Davis, among others. She has also closely followed and personally supported the development of the Atlantic Wind Connection offshore project. She recently sat in on a business-centric climate change conference call with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and welcomew any opportunity to write on this topic.
Karen has written extensively for golf, tennis, sailing, fishing and children's recreation, as well as sporting events, like triathlons and tournaments.
She is an outdoor enthusiast who is especially drawn to extreme sports and has recently written about the game-changing 2013 America's Cup and the annual release of the Class VI Russell Fork River. She is into whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, and rock climbing. Her most extreme endeavors to date are skydiving, bobsledding, and getting pinned under a Class V hydraulic. She surfed the Gauley during the 2008 release. She attended and covered The Masters in 2011 and has been involved in the launch and repositioning of a half-dozen golf courses including the Rees Jones-designed Raven Golf Club, Tom Fazio-designed Camp Creek Golf Club, and the Davis Love III-designed Origins Golf Course. As a result of her efforts working with writers and panelists, each of these courses received Golf Digest's best new course recognition upon opening as well as other distinctions in their respective classes.
Karen has worked for commercial and residential real estate developers her whole career. She has been involved, both directly and indirectly, in the sale of over $1B worth of developed and undeveloped land.
She has helped to orchestrate the launch of numerous neighborhoods within the 2400-acre, 10,000 PDU resort residential community of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort as well as the 499-acre, 1,200 PDU WaterColor beach resort, 256-acre, 600 PDU WaterSound Beach community, and the 160-acre, 900 PDU new urbanist resort town, Alys Beach. Over the past twenty years, she has played a key role in transforming the 26-mile stretch of the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast known as The Beaches of South Walton into what The Wall Street Journal dubbed "The Hamptons of the South" (circa 2001). It has also become known as "The Design Coast", for its concentration of master-planned new urbanist towns that brought the likes of Andres Duany, Leon Krier, Demetri Porphyrios, Robert A. M. Stern, Jacque Robertson, David Rockwell, Graham Gund, and other architectural luminaries together in the towns of Seaside, WaterColor, WaterSound Beach, Rosemary Beach, and most recently, Alys Beach. Karen served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Florida coastal resort town of Alys Beach from its 2004 inception through November 2009. During that time, they consistently commanded substantial market premiums on the sale of both undeveloped land (home sites) and residential construction. Her team closed more than $90mm in sales under her purview. Home sales fetched record market levels of $1100 per square foot during a time when others in their competitive set saw consistent declines to $350-500 per square foot, and her team led the market with land sales at $159 per square foot and above. During that time, she was responsible for hiring, training, coaching, and motivating all sales, marketing, and front desk personnel in addition to coordinating all aspects of their business with legal counsel. She played a major contributing role, along with the Town Founder and Town Architects, in all product development and was responsible for launching and managing the resales division. Karen was personally responsible for generating over $40 million in sales, an accomplishment for which she was awarded Council of the Elite status at the 2006 ACES (Amenity Communities Excellence in Selling) Sales Conference. Her innate capacity for selling combined with more than twenty-five years' experience in the real estate industry, an incomparable product, and a strong sellers' market provided her with the necessary experience, confidence, and resources to accomplish this.