We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen L. May and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karen, what do you attribute your success to?
Success certainly did not happen overnight for me, and I can’t attribute it all to myself. A lot of people helped me get to where I am today, starting with my parents. Even though I did not want to go to college, they told me I could do anything.
It was my mom, who convinced me to go in to my first cold call. While living in Houston, Texas at age 21, I called her from my car, crying because I was so scared of going in. She convinced me, and I made the sale! It was my softball coach, who held my foot down in the batter’s box while I batted balls into the outfield. It was many good bosses and many not so good bosses through the years. They taught me the ability to adapt and adopt change, as new opportunities are vital! If you are fearless, you’ll be able to make decisions and overcome all obstacles: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
I have always focused on the people and the team behind me. Trying to build the best team possible is key to any event or business. I could never have done this by myself. Any company can get people, but great companies need people who can lead with intention and make things happen — and keep learning and sharing to support others.
There are many small business owners in Scottsdale. The entrepreneurs I have met here are welcoming, wanting to engage and help one another out. We are always interacting, working on ways to encourage and support one another and connect each other to other people who can help. We love seeing others live out their dreams!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a native of Arizona who as a kid discovered an enthusiastic interest for live events. My first love is my rescue dogs, then any blank slate I can make into an extraordinary corporate event. I am a 35-year business development and corporate event strategist whose diverse background provides expertise in all facets of events, planning, and logistics. My capabilities have delivered successful events to the largest and most prestigious organizations in the world, including Dell, GE, Exxon, JP Morgan Chase, Liberty Mutual, YPO, NFL, MLB, Accenture, NIKE, and four Super Bowls. My years of experience have taught me many skills ranging from design techniques to client relations. Most importantly, people matter. I believe personalized experiences matter, and I believe face to face is the only way for events.
My company, Scottsdale Private Event Venues, is a full-service unique event management, design & planning company with its own private venues based in Scottsdale, Arizona. We recognize that unforgettable events are about the experience, which is why we focus on non-traditional venues. We fulfill our clients’ visions by listening, really listening, to their goals, then helping them entwine together the right design and vendors to create an event that matches their visions.
When brands connect with consumers in an authentic way, it leaves a lasting impression. We create, design, produce, and manage events to provide an unforgettable experience from the entrance of the first guest to the exit of the last. My team is made up of forward-thinking leaders and people driven by a strong vision and business mission, who love what they do. We come from entertainment and production backgrounds where creative and technical expertise comes together in bringing events to life, whatever venue they take place in. We are motivated by our creativity and forte for originating out-of-the-box events; clients can anticipate an elevated level of assistance throughout the total planning process when working with us — and, we think, even find themselves enjoying the parts of the process that can often be stressful.
SPEV specializes in event conceptualization, storytelling strategy, content creative direction, design + décor, custom builds, interactive experiences, environmental design, construction creation, social activations, talent procurement, executive presentation support, strategic alliances, partnerships and scenic design.
As an event planner, the value of an outstanding client experience is my thing. I believe anything can be achieved through hard work and dedication. I also believe in always trusting your gut — it is the best guide and wisest advisor.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Scottsdale Arizona even when the summer sizzles, because it is a dry heat! Arizona is one of the only states in the nation that does not observe Daylight Savings Time. I like that the sun rises at 5 am in the summer and doesn’t set until after 8 pm. Arizona natives and recent transplants can agree that we have gorgeous, federally protected landscapes, climates for all kinds of activities, a diverse population, and ridiculously delicious regional foods. Fall, winter, and spring are fabulous, as the temperature is comfortable during the day and chilly at night. Arizona is full of amazing outdoor recreation, and because of that, you can have fun year-round. The culture scenes are great, and there is lots of space to explore. We Arizonans get to experience a jolt of joy when we drive over a bridge and see some honest-to-goodness H2O down below. Give us a warm day, a cold beverage, a lazy river, and an inflatable tube and we are good to go. Our sunsets are masterpieces of color and drama. Mother Nature uses every color available for our sunsets, and you can never take a bad picture. Hiking abounds with over 300 trails covering all climates — it is a hiker’s paradise. With wide-open spaces and arid weather, Scottsdale is a perfect area for those who love history, nature, and being outdoors. The city’s motto is “The West’s Most Western Town” and you will definitely see remnants of the old, wild west at every turn; from the cowboys in Old Town to the saloons and the annual month-long Parada del Sol Rodeo event. The city has a symphony, a ballet, Native American history and art museums, and lots of historic buildings. There is great shopping available, from malls to exclusive boutiques to outlet centers and antique stores. Luxury resorts are scattered all over town, so finding deluxe spa treatments is easy. Things you must see and do include the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Pinnacle Peak Summit Trail, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, Salt River Water Sports, Old Town Scottsdale, The MIM, Cosanti, The Flashlight Tour at DBG and Dive in Movies at The Fairmont!
Scottsdale has over 800 fabulous restaurants and is a fast-expanding destination for its exceptional food. There are so many amazing places that have outdoor patios with ample seating. Try Dominick’s, Franco’s Italian, Barrio Queen, Blanco Taco’s, Culinary Dropout, Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, and the Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor, which has been going strong since 1958!
Alright, so let’s jump right in! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there a person, group, organization, book, etc. that you want to dedicate your shoutout to? Who else deserves a little credit and recognition in your story?
Many people influence me to do lots of things. They inspire me to try new things, bring me new insight, and pick me up when I am falling down. I succeed off the thought that there is always someone there that loves and encourages me. They say behind every successful person there is a core group of five people who inspire, support, and mentor them. Mine are:
- Debbie Wardrop (Debbie Wardrop LLC) – I have been fortunate to have very supportive people in my life, and Debbie has always been one of them. Having friends around you whom you look up to, and who are at the top of their careers, is a huge motivator. Debbie, at any phase of her career, from 5-star and 5-diamond resorts to the NFL, was always on top but always found the time for me.
- Glenn Schulke (Data Governance Systems Engineer, and also my husband) – Glenn’s complete support is a major factor that gives me the headspace I need to be all-in and do my thing. I can give 100% devotion to my businesses for enormous amounts of time every day because of the way he supports me. It is unquestionably crucial to have as much freedom to accomplish your vision as you can get.
- Ken Porter (President & CEO CSI, etc.) – Being an entrepreneur is like riding a rollercoaster. Some moments are fun and exciting, while others are scary. Even though you think you know what’s going to happen when you turn the corner, you really don’t. Ken has helped me support me through all the ups and downs.
- Jeff Quade (Executive Vice President, Exhibitions at GES) – The main thing I learned from Jeff is that you have to think outside the box. The best part about Jeff is that he is a straight shooter who just tells it how it is. He would not ask you to do anything he himself would not do, and if you aren’t positive and pushing forward as fast as you can, how can you expect your team members to do the same?
- Debbie May-Sortino (my sister) – A sister may be a relative, but Debbie is also a friend who always encouraged me. There is a special bond between sisters that only sisters understand. Gone but not forgotten!
So, to Debbie Wardrop, Glenn, Jeff, Ken, and Debbie May, thank you for supporting me and continually helping me accomplish both my business and personal goals. All these people are important, and they have all contributed to my journey in some way.
Other: https://www.pinterest.com/ScottsdalePrivateEventVenues/_created/ https://spevevents.com/blog/
Tiffany and Ryland Photography