Women of Substance: Karie Z. Bennett
Karie Z. Bennett
CEO and Founder
Atelier Salonspa and Atelier Studio
San Jose, California
Licensed: In 1981, after attending Ponce Beauty College.
Affiliations: NCA PBA, Aveda Lifeline Lifestyle Salon Group
When Karie Bennett cut her bangs on her third birthday, her family didn’t know she was taking the first step on her career path. And when the young stylist took her first styling job at Command Performance, she hadn’t yet envisioned that she’d own two (soon three) salons, capture the 2011 NAHA Salon Master of Business Award and follow another path by enrolling in the Writer’s Group at Stanford University and becoming a magazine and newspaper writer. “It all seemed to unfold depending on the choices I made,” she says. “I wasn’t afraid to take a risk or make a mistake.”
Along the way, who was your mentor?
“The better question is, ‘Who wasn’t my mentor?’ I asked everyone I could for help and advice. My success is a sum of all that support and of my constant state of curiosity.”
How has being a woman made your career path harder or easier?
“I’m not sure being a woman has been any kind of asset or liability, but as a petite woman, I think I’ve had to work harder to make an impact. I think my lack of business education was a bigger barrier—I had to seek out more information on my own.”
What would you consider your biggest professional break?
“Being chosen by the Aveda Corporation to open the Bay Area’s flagship Aveda lifestyle salon put Atelier in a whole new category. It gave us the exposure and motivation to grow at a much faster rate, and gave me my own opportunity to grow as a business owner and as a business woman.”
What the best business advice anyone ever gave you?
“Leading is not the same thing as managing. Get out of your own way. Share the experience and trust people to help you.”
What business achievement are you most proud of?
“I’m proud of our Atelier Protégé Program, which has given many artists a solid foundation. I’ve been so fortunate to have received some amazing industry awards, which are great validations, but I use them more as a compass that as a badge.”
What’s the best business book you’ve ever read? “I rarely get a chance to sit and read, but the last book I finished was Delivering Happiness, by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. I loved reading his journey through all of the jobs he had. It inspired me to write down all the jobs I’ve had since age 12. What a long list!”
What do you hope to achieve in the next five years?
“I’d like to improve my work-life balance, write a book, develop great partnerships with my team, grow my company, and continue to be worthy of my place on this earth by making a difference in my world. I’m open to whatever the universe sends my way.”