If they don’t know her yet, Columbia women will soon fall in love with Jacqui Bomar, a trade show professional who’s bringing the Columbia Women’s Show to town in February. Upstate women already have found the Greenville version of the consumer show irresistible, turning out for the fourth consecutive year to experience celebrity appearances, fashion shows, cooking demonstrations and shopping in an exhibit hall displaying products from about 300 businesses.
Bomar, a successful entrepreneur who has bootstrapped her way to the top of her profession, knows the trade show production industry intimately. She got her start in the media industry, interning for TV, radio and public relations companies while still in college and then leading promotional events for convention centers in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Rhode Island. “They called me the grand opening queen,” Bomar says. “I worked with 70 arenas and convention centers in the U.S. and internationally, gaining knowledge about the facility side of the industry.”
Next she moved to Charlotte, where she produced 15 consumer shows per year for InterNet Services Corporation, a company whose founder, Dexter Yager, made millions through direct-selling giant Amway. The shows drew 10,000 to 40,000 people each and kept Bomar busy constantly traveling worldwide.
“During that time, I was once asked, ‘What are your hobbies?’, and I couldn’t name one,” Bomar says. “I stayed in beautiful hotels and was treated royally, but I had no one to share it with.” Her awakening to the toll a 24x7 work life has on a personal life caused Bomar to quit her job and jump on a plane to New Zealand. “I was going as far as possible and still be able to speak the language,” Bomar says of her six-week travels in New Zealand and Australia. “I bungee jumped like an 18-year-old. It was cathartic.”
After a little more traveling which included a medical mission trip to Peru, Bomar returned home to her mother, then living in Charleston running her restaurant, Doe’s Pita Plus. There, she had a chance to reconnect with family and friends and start her own consumer trade show production company, JBM & Associates, with herself and two interns handling all tasks. She quickly signed on the Charleston Post & Courier
as her first client, then added The Charleston Boat Show. Soon after, she launched the Savannah Boat & Outdoor Show and the St. Augustine Boat Show. Along the way, she married and moved herself and her company to Greenville with her husband.
Bomar added a lot to her life – both personally and professionally – in subsequent years. She hired employees for her boutique show production company, she gave birth to a son (who is now six years old), and she started new events, including the Upstate Women’s Show and the Spice of Life Food & Fitness Fest. Most recently, she signed on new client Greenville Chamber of Commerce to produce its annual business exposition.
She is busy now expanding her business to produce the Columbia Women’s Show, using her team of experienced employees, an arsenal of subcontractors, and a Midlands area focus group of female leaders. “Like gears, we all function together and understand how each other works,” says Bomar. The team began planning the Columbia show two years ago and has signed on presenting sponsor BI-LO, corporate sponsor Palmetto Health, and supporting sponsors Ferguson Corporation, HRC Medical Center, WIS-TV, and The State
newspaper. Bomar predicts about 6,000 attendees for the three days of the show.
“I take on calculated growth,” says Bomar, who plans to add the Charleston Women’s Show in 2013 to her expansion list. “We weathered three recent years of recession. We have been able to hang in where others haven’t because we only expand where we feel confident our resources can stretch.”
Bomar is known for incorporating a charitable component into her shows, enabling attendees to participate in giving back. The inaugural Columbia Women’s Show will present a contribution (and canned goods brought by attendees who want discounted show tickets) to the Harvest Hope Food Bank in Columbia. “I want to work with more non-profit charities in the Midlands, but I am still learning about the Columbia market,” says Bomar, who is open to receiving ideas about local charitable causes that need funding.
Bomar has some advice for women wanting to follow an entrepreneurial trail. “There will always be fear, but you just have to go with it. Live through the fear and stay determined. If you’re not happy with your current situation, change it. Try something else. You must take a risk to be an entrepreneur,” she says.
COLUMBIA WOMEN’S SHOW
February 10-12, 2012
Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center
$8 for adult day pass, special pricing for others
• Rosie Pope, star of Bravo TV’s “Pregnant in Heels”
Born in London and currently living in New York City, Pope is a fashion designer and entrepreneur who helps couples get ready for their baby’s arrivals through her MomPrep maternity concierge business. She also markets her Rosie Pope Maternity line of clothing and appears on Bravo TV’s “Pregnant in Heels” reality show. She will speak to Columbia show attendees on Saturday.
• Miss South Carolina, Bree Boyce
• Jenny from Southern Savers
• Patricia Moore-Pastides on a traditional Mediterranean diet
• Cookbook author and chef Nathalie Dupree
• Terry Haas, star of HGTV’s “Designed to Sell”
• Fashion shows
• Cooking demonstrations
• Musical performances
• Food and wine tasting
• Relaxation station