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Karen Hoffman Expresses Thanks For Industry Experience

Is there life after barter for barter addicts? Karen S. Hoffman, a former Executive Director for IRTA,  says yes, although it surprised her! This self confessed barter addict was in the barter industry from 1981 to 2001.

She was employed by a Barter Systems International franchise, then worked for Richard & Bruce Harris at National Commercial Exchange before starting her own exchange, Trade Resource International, in 1987. She became part of ITEX in 1992, and was their St. Louis manager from 1995 to 1999 after selling the office back to ITEX.

After 20 years of passionately living in the barter world, she has reinvented herself by focusing on being a dream champion to entrepreneurs. �That was what I loved about barter,� said Hoffman. �It was helping business owners leverage their products and services so they could build both the company and the personal life they wanted.�

Now Hoffman has been dubbed �The IDEA Coach� and consults with companies on leveraging their passions to expand, with a special focus on positiveness and the activation of ideas. �The Gallup Organization rocked my business opinions with their books, First Break All the Rules and Now Discover Your Strengths, so I extensively use material like theirs as well as work by psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman on positivity.� 

Besides coaching, she has a partnership that created an online business called City of Experts at http://www.cityofexperts.com to help make business connections for experts who want to speak, coach, facilitate or consult. City of Experts is moving into two other markets beyond St. Louis, and plans on covering at least 18 markets by 2009.

�Making business connections is another passion,� confessed Hoffman, �and I learned that being a connector is a great service to offer.� She noted that Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point helped her see that not everyone is a connector, and that it could be helpful to the business community.

She is also the small business blogger for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the daily metro area newspaper.

Hoffman shared that not only was her time with IRTA very valuable in her life experiences, but it created another area where she has been able to have an impact...the world of non-profits. 

"Before my time with IRTA, I had never been interested in non-profits as I thought that non-profits meant not-profitable,� Hoffman laughed.  �However after my tenure at IRTA, I saw that by focusing we had increased membership by 40%, increased convention attendance by 28%, and increased cash sponsorships by 580%. Being in a position of having excess of money at the end of a year, taught me that running a non-profit could be profitable. 

�So, when a friend wanted help in starting a professional women's organization in our community, I volunteered to help and immediately started recruiting cash sponsorships from banks and others in our city. We created a low membership fee, but because of sponsorships we have made money every year. By its second year we could afford a full time executive director, which was not me!�

For the organization�s first year anniversary with over 200 in attendance, Hoffman brought in Catherine Ryan-Hyde, author of Pay It Forward that was adapted into a movie. Hoffman also helped pull 4,800 6th graders to an arena to hear Ryan-Hyde speak on how they could change the world by �Paying it Forward.� Each year Hoffman helps work on the anniversary speaker and, typically, they are authors of books.

The group, ESPW-Encouraging Supporting Promoting Women, has had over 600 women join, and after adding more markets it plans to go national. Hoffman was recognized in December 2005 as one of the �50 over Fifty� community shapers, primarily for her work as co-founder of ESPW, http://www.espw.org. She also volunteers and consults with other non-profits.

Hoffman concluded by saying �Without that time I spent at IRTA, I know I would not have been able to help create ESPW as this profitable and fast growing organization, or have the impact I have had in helping other non-profits. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I am truly thankful for that time as IRTA's Executive Director.