As told by Briana Stewart
Roxanne and Kendall Bennett know how to put on a show. Home shows. Women’s shows. Business shows. For more than a decade, their trade secrets were found on the expo floor of UVU. But in 2013, it was time to trade spaces. “The traditional trade show was starting to feel a little tired,” Roxanne says. “We were ready for a change, and we started to brainstorm ways we could refresh the format.” Enter Pinterest. “I’m very manly, so I’m not going to flat out say that using Pinterest as our inspiration was my idea,” Kendall says. But man, oh, man was it a good one. Pinners Conference is a modern-day trade show where people connect with vendors, influencers and educators. Now hosted in six states — Utah, Texas, Minnesota, California, Georgia and Arizona — women travel from all over the country to learn, connect and create. Kendall and Roxanne sat down with BusinessQ to chat their creation — and why they’re pin it to win it.
The beauty is that Pinterest never gets old. There are new trends every year, and endless ideas from endless resources. Every Pinners conference is a new experience, which means the business will have longevity and staying power.
We did everything wrong at our first show in 2013. It’s that age-old adage of you don’t know what you don’t know. Our ticketing system was off, and the balance of class attendees and shoppers was all wrong. The exhibitor floor was dead when everyone was in the classes — which didn’t make the vendors too happy. We spent so much time and resources putting that first show together, but we didn’t make any money. Well, maybe $6,000.
So we learned. And we adjusted. Nearly everyone who attended that first conference loved the experience, so we knew we had something special on our hands. Yes, we had setbacks. But sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
“That was not the goal when we started, but it has become the unexpected gift.” — Roxanne Bennett, founder of Pinners Conference in Spanish Fork
Now we are in six states. People travel from all over the country to attend, and our VIP nights sell out the instant tickets go on sale. There are some attendees who even come to every show. We have groupies!
The versatility of each city is such a fun challenge. Every conference takes on the life of its city, so nothing is boring or stale. We could do this forever and never get tired of it. We’ll just keep adding city after city.
We’ve done sales in Utah for years. We’ve built those relationships and invested that time. So it was daunting to open cities where we didn’t know a soul. But every time we’ve opened up a new location, the response has been overwhelming. That’s how strong this brand has become.
We actually had a complaint at our last show in Utah. Someone was complaining that the exhibitor floor was too busy and there were too many people in the aisles. Literally the best complaint I’ve ever heard.
Kendall and Roxanne Bennett have worked together for nearly their whole marriage. Before they did events full time, they were the advertising arm of Bennett Communications (parent company to BusinessQ and Utah Valley Magazine). “Kendall and I work so well together. We have different roles, and we don’t step on each other’s toes,” Roxanne says. “We debate, but we don’t ever disagree. Except when Kendall’s wrong.”
Growing this fast is absolute insanity, but it’s exhilarating. We thought about franchising, but we knew the brand needed to stay clean and authentic. So we just keep hiring our friends because we trust them.
Utah will always be our place. These are our people. And the Utah consumer makes us better. We’ve got savvy customers here — people not fooled by gimmicky trends. Plus, there are more influencers here than anywhere else. Utah truly helps us elevate our game.
We’ve heard so many stories from women about how Pinners changed their life. They were inspired to become better and to accomplish things they’ve never thought possible.
Education for women is so important. So many women feel trapped. They don’t feel like they have the power to do anything. But then they come to our show and see the success someone else has achieved, and they feel inspired to take control of their lives. They start to believe in themselves. That was not a goal when we first set out to do Pinners, but it has become the unexpected gift of the whole experience.
I can’t imagine being anything other than an entrepreneur. It’s not easy, and you have to be willing to adjust. You may even need to steer your ship in a completely different direction. But always move fearlessly forward. Don’t be scared — even when it looks like your ship has a gaping hole in the side. If your gut tells you the opportunity is right, patch it up and keep on sailing.