Heavy Metal, Horses, Harry Potter and a New Kentucky Home for Kim Bennett

When Kim Bennett stepped foot on Lexington, Kentucky soil in 2008 little did she know that one month later she and her husband Rod, son Jakob and daughter Brianna would call this place home. Kim had spent almost her entire life in Edmeston, NY and if you’ve never heard of it, no surprise. “Edmeston’s population is about 1700 and the Elementary, Middle and High School are all one school with two classes per grade,” she commented.

I was discovering interesting details about Kim as we chatted at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games headquarters in Lexington where she now holds the title of Director of Hospitality Programs.

“Moving here was the first big move that I had ever made outside of college,” explained Kim, who graduated High School in a class of 46 students and then went to SUNY Cobleskill for two years where she majored in Travel and Resort Marketing. “Growing up in such a small town molded me as a person as far as values and morals but also it pushed me into the career I now have. I knew I didn’t want to grow up in a small town.”

Determined to see more of her country and the world Kim put all her energy into learning the travel industry. Kim recalled her state of mind and determination in those earlier years. “I decided that I was not going to stay in this small town. I am going to go down and I am going to run a resort and get into the hospitality industry.”

Before long those dreams vanished when Kim couldn’t find a job. “So, I became a corporate travel coordinator for Proctor & Gamble.” With headquarters in both Norwich, NY and Cincinnati, OH she worked in the NY office but “1 ½ years into it they moved their headquarters to Cincinnati and I was low man on the totem pole.”

Kim decided to look closer to home in hopes that she might find something interesting and luck was with her. “I found a job at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown just 15 minutes from Edmeston,” she commented.

As soon as Kim mentioned Cooperstown I recognized the horse connection and immediately the name Jane Forbes Clark came to mind as the two are synonymous. Jane is without a doubt one of the most familiar names in many horse circles as a rider, owner and past president of the American Horse Shows Association. The Clark family has lived in Cooperstown since the mid 19th century. Jane has been a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board since 1992 and Chairman since 2000.

While Kim can’t boast the same horsey connection as Clark she does recall riding a friend’s horse for fun when she was a child. “In Elementary school one of my classmates had a neighbor that had a couple of horses so on the weekend I would go over and ride.” Kim never did a lot of riding but was able to get a sense of what captivates so many.

“Now that I’m living in the heart of horse country you never know,” she said insinuating that perhaps horses might enter into her life again one day. But for now that’s just a glimpse because at 37 Kim is the epitome of a true workaholic.

A Day in the Life of Kim Bennett

Kim’s morning starts at 6:00 when the kids are still sleeping. “I have a cup of coffee, shower and get the kids up and off to school by 7:20. By 8:15 or 8:30 I am in the office. First I look at the highlights in the local paper and then start with emails.”

Kim has both a business and inner office email and before she does anything else she makes sure she has addressed every email. She really enjoys this part of her work because those emails have proven to be her connection to the world.  “I love to see where my emails are coming from. It could be from Switzerland, Australia, Italy, you never know.”

Once the emails are up to date it’s onto the meetings, starting with the sales team and then any meetings she may have scheduled with prospects. With nary a moment to look at her watch, it’s between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. that Kim heads home ready to enjoy a family dinner prepared by her husband, who is a caterer and barbeque aficionado. Since Kentucky is synonymous with grilling, even Rod loves calling this place home.

Dinner is followed by talking about their days and then perhaps watching a movie with the kids or doing some other fun thing. After the kids go off to bed at around 8:30 p.m. Kim goes for her nightly walk.

You are probably thinking that now I’m going to say that she comes home relaxes and calls it a night, but for Kim her second wind is just starting to kick in. “By 9:00 my laptop is open and that’s when I focus on tracking sales. It’s about midnight when I close my laptop and get some sleep.”

You might wonder where all this energy for work comes from for a girl who grew up in a town of 1700 and who now sees herself as a “genuine, honest, hardworking, driven mother and wife,” but it was those around her while she was growing up that helped mold her into the person she is today.

“My mom and dad got married when mom graduated from High School and dad from College. Mom was always a hard worker and pushed us to ensure we were happy with whatever we did. She would always tell us to reach our goal by pushing ourselves. Mom would say, ‘be honest with yourself and do what makes you happy.’”

Her mom even reinforced Kim’s desire to not stay in Edmeston because she felt there was a lack of opportunity. For Kim it was not just about the job but also about the creativity and the goals that inspired her to leave.

Like her mom, Kim’s dad “was also a hard worker,” she continued. “Everything that my dad does he perfects and then moves on.” Her dad started skiing but once he became a phenomenal skier it was time to try something new. “So, he became a phenomenal carpenter. I think that goal of exactness is one of the qualities that has worn off on me; whatever I do I want to do it to perfection. If I see one email come through I won’t go to bed until I have responded to that email or finalized a contract. Whatever I do I have to do it until it is completed.”

While perfection is part of her business life, once home her mindset changes. “When I come home I just want someone else to take care of the details for me. That’s why we are such a great combination, my husband and I.”

Along with leaving the office behind come some of the other things in life where Kim finds joy. You might be surprised by some of her non-business passions. “I love heavy metal music, like AC/DC. I am an 80s girl. I think because it brings back my youth and a time in my life that was fun, easy and carefree. I was with my husband and we were High School sweethearts. I was captain of the cheerleading squad for four years and an all star soccer and softball player.”

While it’s no surprise that Kim also is an avid foody and wine lover, her ability to pair a good wine with the right food is undeniable. “Nowadays, it’s become almost an obsession,” she admitted.

And talk about obsessions. Kim is a true Harry Potter freak who has read every book. “It takes me away from my very detailed organized life of numbers, excel spreadsheets and reaching goals. It takes you into a fantasy world where your mind can be creative. Whenever I was reading those books my husband would joke because he knew he could not interrupt me.”

But Kim’s husband and son have their own things that they like to do as they both are avid outdoorsmen. “My husband is a hunter and they both love to fish.”

As a family, “we go to the movies, go swimming and we love to go out to dinner. I like to swim. When I was younger we had a pool.” But most of the time you won’t find Kim in the water but rather sitting out in the sun watching the kids play in between reading a nice book.

Some of Kim’s Guiding Lights

But truth be told, Kim spends most of her waking hours either working or thinking about work. And while her parents helped ingrain that in her, so did her grandmother, who is still alive at 92. “She lived through the great depression,” explained Kim. Nowadays her grandmother, who lost her husband seven years ago, continues to live on. “She lives by herself in the same house she always lived in.”

The admiration that this devotee has for her grandmother has had an impact on her. “When I think of what she’s been through in her life and how she has overcome those challenges and survived to be a woman of great integrity it humbles me,” she admitted.

Kim’s grandmother came from the Ukraine and arrived in the U.S. not knowing a word of English. When the school wouldn’t let her enter until she could speak English she learned it from her neighbor.

When it comes to business advice the attractive brunette turns to John Boggs, “a very dear friend in California that is a professional sports agent and family man and is extremely successful.” Instead of using the word hardworking, Kim referred to John as someone who is “driven. He has been through it all and he also moved his family on a whim and has become very successful. We talk a lot,” she explained.

It’s the template that these people have crafted that helps guide Kim, who was born on July 25, 1972, has achieved more than most women her age. Her greatest accomplishment so far was in her last year working in Edmeston. She’d spent 13 years (1994-2007) as Director of Special Events and Travel for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. Her last project was as the lead coordinator of the 2007 Induction.

When 75,000 people arrived into little Cooperstown a new record was set. “Pulling that off in the confines of a small village with such magnitude and scope was enormous. I feel honored to have been a part of that especially knowing that I coordinated it.”

No doubt that success was in the back of the minds of the WEG administration staff that inspired Kim to consider coming on board as part of their team. It was probably why they gave her a special guided tour. They knew that if she could feel, taste and be a part of this incredible state that she’d be inspired to join their ranks.

“I was taken by the beauty of Lexington and Kentucky. They had it set up where I went to the Kentucky Horse Park and had a tour with John Nicholson before we even started talking about the task at hand. Then they took me to Keeneland, all these iconic places. They were saying don’t you want to move down here and be a part of this beauty. “

While pretty much sold on the idea personally, how was she ever going to convince her family that this was the right move, especially since all her extended family and relatives live in New York? The WEG team knew just the trick. “Let’s bring your husband down,” they suggested.

“We came down for a weekend and we drove all over,” she explained. “It took us about eight hours to decide this was where we were going to move our family. One month later we moved to Georgetown and now even after WEG ends we plan to stay. We have fallen in love with the southern hospitality and the short winters.”

A New Life, A New Home and A Job That Gives Kim’s Life Meaning
So, while Kim’s home life may not be filled with horses and horse tales, when she enters the door at the WEG headquarters she is totally immersed in dealing with people who have shown her a passion for horses that she compares to the enthusiasm she felt at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I was dealing with people that were sophisticated in the baseball world. They expected certain levels of service in hospitality. And they were great supporters and great lovers of baseball. It helps me to relate to people in the horse world who have a similar passion. These are sophisticated individuals who are devoted to their sport. They expect certain levels of service and since I already understood that, this job was a great fit for me.”

Yet, it’s not just that level of comfort but also the challenge that inspires this hardworking woman day after day in a job that demands her full attention. “At the Baseball Hall of Fame I had reached a glass ceiling. I couldn’t go any further and so it was time for me to leave. And then there was WEG, and suddenly I’m engulfed in great energy and enthusiasm and surrounded by people who are truly motivated.”

It’s a big change from the lull she started to feel after the Induction ceremony. “There was no challenge left. The blood, sweat, tears, transportation, security, housing – all of those details for five years but then when it was done I realized it was time to move on. I haven’t felt that way here because it is a challenge every single day. Here you have to be on your feet all the time taking risks. And when it works it’s exciting and very gratifying.”

So for now her need for a challenge is being fulfilled and the satisfaction of being together with her husband for 14 years gives her life balance.

“I am so thankful for the support that my family has given me to take my career to the level that it is at. My husband has always been Mr. Mom. While I was traveling he would take the kids to school. He is a special man and it was an adjustment for us to come down here but the whole family has been so supportive. And now the teachers and the community have really embraced us. They know we are here for the long haul!”

And so after an hour’s worth of talking I had just one last question for Kim and it was to know what advice she would offer someone who had goals to achieve and dreams to accomplish in a world of hospitality and event organization.

“Be prepared,” she quickly responded. “It is not easy in the event coordinating world to jump right in and come to a level of respect. You have to work your way up. You have to be prepared to put in long hours and be very detail oriented.”

Yet Kim wanted those admirers who are hoping to one day work in her field to know that all the hard work is worth it.

“It is a crazy world but it is very self gratifying. You work towards that big event and it is so great. And remember when you get there to take a deep breath, step back, take a look at the end result and be proud that you had a part in all of that coming together and being successful.”

Now Kim has her own goal in mind. She’s looking forward to the day after WEG 2010 ends when she can take that deep breath, step back and stand proud!