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“I would like to start a movement to help women keep their businesses while they are battling cancer” With Karen Patmas

“A movement that I would feel strongly about is a program for supporting other business women with breast cancer. Statistically, survival…


“A movement that I would feel strongly about is a program for supporting other business women with breast cancer. Statistically, survival rates for breast cancer are good when it is detected early. I don’t think people realize how devastating it is to a woman though. There are a lot of breast cancer charities but where is the support for women who own a business? So a woman who get breast cancer is going to go through treatment or surgery or both and then lose the business that she worked so hard at to build? There should be programs to help women keep their business while they are battling cancer. They survive, but then lose what they have worked so hard to build up. I was lucky and able to continue my business while I was healing. This was not easy but it was important to me. I was able to do a lot and there is so much that can be down remotely as an agent. Lots of email, and setting up conference calls and working with my directors and producers to work on package movie deals. Not that in-person networking is not important, but in this day and age and LA traffic — people are in different areas and conference calls are much easier on a person’s day compared to hours in traffic. However, it made me think about all the businesswomen out there that have had or have a cancer diagnosis. Some are not as fortunate as to have the ability to work remotely. Why should they lose their business? They battle something that only other cancer survivors can understand, and come out of it with losing something that they built. As a women, it is significant in this day and age to own your own business and drive it to the top. Which is my plan for my agency. I don’t consider my agency boutique. The word boutique sounds soft to me. So yes I keep my roster to a size that is manageable and give personalized attention but I am a full service agency and growing I like the terms “elite and powerful”, which is where I plan to be. The power is in the core values and teams I develop from within. The power comes from “lifting others up”.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Patmas, owner of National Talent LA. Karen is a former model, actress and Masters Degree trained, trauma specialized clinical behavioral health therapist who founded National Talent LA)

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

What brought me to this career path is my life is destiny. I believe that if you follow your heart and passion, you will end up were you are meant to be and want to be. I started out as a model and actress as a teenager. I am a very driven intense person always striving for that next level. I firmly believe you never stop growing and learning and there is always another level to get to no matter who you are. Education is vital and I attained my Masters degree, then my clinical license and training as a trauma specialized behavioral health therapist.

I have always had a passion for art and the entertainment industry. I wanted to continue helping people but was ready for another challenge in my life. I enjoy leading, guiding and always wanted to own my own business. It made perfect sense to own a talent agency. I can combine my skills of being able to work with anyone with the positive encouragement style of a “build each other up” philosophy. Having over fifteen years in the field of clinical behavioral health as a diagnostician and therapist has helped immensely in owning a talent agency.

The event that was pivotal in choosing to start my agency was a tragedy that shows how short life can be. When I got that shocking call my son had died in a car crash, it was the most devastating thing imaginable. Time stopped at that moment in a way that is hard to describe. He had been working lots of hours and fell asleep at the wheel and died instantly in the crash. I had just established an LLC the previous day. I was on my way to the bank to start my business account when my 22 year old son called me very choked up. He is always an even tempered kid who approached everything with a calm demeanor. He was working in the same company as his brother and got the initial call. That moment started the complete shock and disbelief that my son could actually be ripped from our lives in seconds. The month or two afterward is a blur. The family clung together in mutual support. Parents that have lost children, understand the raw emotions and pain that happens at that time. People say time heals, it actually does not in this case — this is not a broken bone. You learn to live with the pain. I learned to honor the amazing young man my son was. I love hearing the stories from his friends. He brought life to every situation. At a young age, he learned the priority of time. He valued time with family and friends above everything else. He was an extremely hard worker. If he did not have something, he just worked harder to achieved what he wanted. He always looked toward the positive and did not focus on the negative.

This is where my agency comes in. It was a combination of realizing that life is short and we only live once, so why not go for everything to the fullest? It is also a way to honor who my son was and the exemplary life he led. I think sometimes people do not go for their fullest potential out of fear. For me, I had already faced the most devastating fear a person could face — the death of your own child. After this I had less fear about anything I did. Not that I didn’t pursue things with vigor before, but it’s a different strength that is intense and powerful after I lost my son. I had less tolerance for people that were “fake” and not compassionate. At that point there was no hesitation to establishing a SAG AFTRA franchised talent agency, one that holds very strongly to signing and dealing with people that are “build each other up people.” I started to get so much feedback that people have been searching for such an agency and how refreshing my philosophy is. The agency just started to grow and I began to get referrals from other likeminded people wanting that same positive environment. It has now developed into amazing teams of people with incredibly exciting projects coming up. This is exactly what I had in mind. I have actors, actresses, writers, directors, and producers and they are my agency. I appreciate each and every one of them and we work on developing projects with a team approach. It’s interesting how when I explain this to people to see the look on their face when I describe what my agency is all about.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

The most interesting stories are the stories of the talent in my agency. The people that have signed with my agency have the most interesting heartfelt stories to tell. Each person has a story about their passion in the industry and many have a heartfelt story of their drive and mountains they had to cross to get to the dreams and goals they have of being in the industry. The interesting story are the stories of each one of my actors, writers, director and producers on my roster. They have heart and drive and I have no doubt will continue to grow to their fullest potential.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake was taking on running my own event. Even though typically I a very scheduled planner type person, I had maybe misjudged the time needed to go to Costco on a Saturday morning in LA traffic. I had the idea that I want to have periodic agency gatherings for team building, networking, appreciating my talent, and red carpet press interviews for exposure for the talent. However, being a new agency and not have done such events before thought myself and a good friend (who is my sub agent) would just put it together with no problem. We proceeded to go to Coscto in the Marina Del Rey area on a Saturday — big mistake! It was a zoo! As we packed the groceries in the car, I was starting to realize that it will be a challenge to pick up a writer signed with the agency and make it to the event on time. I have to thank Theodore Beaulieu for being such a good sport. We all had a very good rolling laugh at what a crazy picture that was as we drove to the venue location. Theo who is 6’ 1” was literally packed in the back seat with all the Costco party supplies for the event.

What I learned from that event to accept I am not the best at judging spatial capacity and packing people and trays of food into tight spaces and to rent a bigger vehicle next time.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes my agency stand out from the rest is the core values I base it on which are: Ethics, Integrity, Transparency, Service and Transformation. Besides the core values, I have been firm at selectively signing talent, directors, writers, and producers. I only sign people that get along with others and match the philosophy of “we rise by lifting others”. I have developed a strong team of people who all work well together and help left each other up.

Seeing this in action has been amazing. I decided to have an agency red carpet press networking event with all the people on my roster and other people in the industry invited to come meet each other in support and collaboration. It was beautiful to see all the synergy going on. I heard repeatedly how people just loved the idea and were so impressed not to see any catty, competitive drama. Instead, just a roster full of people that have a good heart, drive and passion for their careers. I love to introduce people to one another and put high functioning “power teams” together. There is much more strength in an entire team compared to one individual.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Find your balance. Everyone works at a different intensity level. Know yourself and what your needs are to manage your own stress level and relaxation. Everyone is different and each person has to find out what that is for themselves. For me personally, I am very driven with work and know that I need to take breaks to relax. I can easily work 24/7 and know that I need to just stop and take a break to enjoy some time with friends, go for a massage or a work out. It is also important to be passionate about what you do. I enjoy what I do which makes it pleasurable to be working all the time. One more thing I need to add is that, surrounding yourself with likeminded positive people is a must. This is why I have created a roster of people that I enjoy to be around and work with.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Yes, there are actually many people I want to thank. First of all my previous agents, Anne Mitchel with MAM and Morgan Graham with Graham Agency. Both these to wonderful women leaders of owning their own business are very positive role models for me. They both have such a strong work ethic and are excellent role models for running an agency.

I also want to thank Annie Dorman. Annie is a breath of fresh air that glows with life energy. She has been my cheerleader with positive talks and cute emjoi’s that she text to brighten my day. Annie is a shining role mode of encouragement.

I also need to thank my entire family and close friends. I have been blessed with positive supportive friends. One friend I need to say a big thank you is my best friends for over 20 years, Lori Sweet. Lori has been there through the ups and down of life. Through the laughter and the tears, she was always there for me. We each have a daughter that happen to be a similar age and they are best friends. Through the college years and on, and was the one that was at my door in a split second when my son died. Now she is a sub agent for my agency, National Talent LA.

Most of all I am thankful to my son. My son actually deserves the credit of why I am doing what I am. He is not here to thank in person but I will always be thankful to him and who he was on a daily basis. It’s my drive and my grounding. My drive because life is short and my grounding because you should appreciate every moment because it could be gone in a split second.

My son could brighten up any room he walked into simply by his full of life spirit. He loved to live and always said what he like most about himself was his “sunny disposition”. He did everything to the fullest and genuinely — loving others, forgiving others, helping others and living life to the fullest. He taught all around him love, laughter, compassion, living life to the fullest and not worrying about yesterday, but just living today and onward. Those characteristics are the grounding for me and my agency. This is how the core values were formed. Ethics, Integrity, Transparency, Service, and Transformation.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As my success builds, I am bringing goodness to the world by connecting good hearted people to one another so that they can then thrive at their passions and dreams. I enjoy putting people together on various projects from within the agency and seeing that connections and synergy that happen between my actors, actresses, directors, writers, and producers. When this synergy happens it’s a catapult to more goodness in the world. Another example is a writer that I have signed. We have had many discussion of some ideas for to help the homeless different than what current public policy. I am very much an analytical type person and like to look into the details of situations and people. We had a discussion that created a great idea that we hope to produce some day.


Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have many favorite life quotes because I truly believe in positive affirmations. There is a lot of power in our thoughts which can strongly influence a positive and negative feeling about our day. We are the only ones in control of our thinking whether the glass half empty or glass half full. One of my favorite quotes is “We Rise by Lifting Others”. From being a therapist for over fifteen years, I am convinced that people who tear each other down are just reacting to their own insecurities and low self-esteem. When people start to build each other up it is out of compassion, heart and truly secure strong people that understand the importance of building a team to help create an environment in which you can thrive.

Another important quote is from Walt Whitman/ “Keep Your face toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.” I can speak to this strongly in my personal life. From the life crushing event of having to see your 24 year old laying in a coffin after a car crash, having just started his life with his wife and baby to being diagnosed with cancer seven months later. Initially this was not public, but the pride of my agency are the core values and transparency. I feel this will encourage and help many women with this diagnosis.

I want to stand up against the stigma of business and industry women not being able to speak about their breast cancer diagnosis for fear of people seeing them as weak or replacing them. In other words, I had started a new agency and the word “cancer” has negative tone in the business world. People asked me how I kept going after my son died, and I never understood that being a question. You have no choice but to keep going and its truly just one foot in front of the other each day. I am the type of person that when I get knocked down, I get up ten times stronger. That’s probably why I love full contact kickboxing — I am a fighter in life. The emotions from my son’s death were still very raw when I got my cancer diagnosis and it was a blow like being hit by a ton of bricks. As anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer knows, it happens so fast. You are in for a biopsy, testing, surgery and procedures and dealing with the shock of your diagnosis. For me, I kept my business going strong through this time. I was not going to let the diagnosis take away from the dream I was building and my passion of owning an agency. I was emailing the night of my first major surgery. The good news is that mine was not genetic and I am at low risk of recurrence. I learned a lot from going through it though. I did not have to do radiation and chemotherapy, nor would I have chosen to do it after deeply researching it. Being in the medical field for so many years, there is a thing called kickback that’s illegal — which is if doctors make money off the medications they give patients. I found out that chemotherapy is the one medication that doctors make money off of and I feel that should be illegal and it’s biased. All cancers are different and there are different levels of medication so I am speaking specifically to the chemo that is used for

breast cancer and that it is used when it is not needed and makes people sicker and can even cause death. This needs to be exposed more — the truth about chemo and breast cancer.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

In answering five things I wish someone told me before I started is actually a tough question because of the way I think. I feel everything we do and experience in life reflects who we are and why we are here. If someone told us something we had to learn through trial and error, our life might have taken a different path. I am the type of person who jumps in with no hesitation if I feel strongly about something and I learn quickly. If I don’t know something, I do not hesitate because it’s easy — I will just learn it! Most of these will be what I learned are not so devastating not to have known except one of the SAG rules.

1. The first thing I wish someone told me is that you sacrifice everything when you decide to become a SAG AFTRA agency. You no longer can be talent — which is fine with me because I want to lead other talent to success. I love that! But what was hard was that you can’t own other businesses as an owner of a SAG AFTRA agency. I had started a magazine called Bellevie (“Beautiful Life”) in honor of my son. It was a dedication to him and his beautiful life, and there was a combination of telling the beautiful life stories from the people in the entertainment industry, them telling their stories, not someone else. This was to be an encouragement and to get exposure for people in the industry in a positive way. I had also written and developed a section called the ”Feather” section which was for any parent who has lost their child and wanted to share their story of their child’s life. It made it to three digital issues and then then right when I was about to be awarded my SAG franchise, I was told that owning my magazine was conflict of interest and I had to give it up to get the SAG AFTRA franchise awarded. I can honestly say it was like losing my son all over again because it was a way of keeping the stories about him and helping others alive. My hope is that I find someone I trust fully to take it over and keep it in the same meaning that it was founded in.

2. The second thing I wish someone told me before I started was be very careful of contracts and the importance of attorneys in a SAG AFTRA agency. I can say as a long time therapist that did thousands of assessments that I had a very toxic person that had worked with me for a short period of the beginning of my agency that as I learned what she was doing behind my back. I had to have my attorney help deal with the matter of her impropriety. Solid contracts and strong attorneys are vital. I stand strong and will be very straight forward that I will not put up with any drama or toxic behavior in my agency. I talk all the time about my “lift each other up” philosophy but I will balance being an extremely strong, confident person that will also protect my agency and the people in it. I won’t keep someone on board for even a second that is toxic. Many years of being a therapist teaches you it’s not just compassion, it is having boundaries and understanding that other people need to be held accountable and responsible for their behavior.

3. The third thing I wish someone told me in the beginning is how hard it is too find a good literary agent. As I have grown and adding to the agency due to the growth, I have need to add a literary agent. As I started to advertise and look and get a lot of not so qualified responses. If I knew now how long it was going to take, I would have started looking at the beginning for a good literary agent knowing I would need to add a literary agent a few months after I started because my agency growth in business is off the charts.

4. LA traffic and not being able to set as many meetings as typical. I tend to fill my day with back to back meetings to get the get maximum done. However in LA when having

to drive to various locations for meetings, the traffic limits you. I still try to get a ton done in the day and learning not to overbook my schedule.

5. Good meeting places that actually have parking.


You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement that I would feel strongly about is a program for supporting other business women with breast cancer. Statistically, survival rates for breast cancer are good when it is detected early. I don’t think people realize how devastating it is to a woman though. There are a lot of breast cancer charities but where is the support for women who own a business? So a woman who get breast cancer is going to go through treatment or surgery or both and then lose the business that she worked so hard at to build? There should be programs to help women keep their business while they are battling cancer. They survive, but then lose what they have worked so hard to build up.


I was lucky and able to continue my business while I was healing. This was not easy but it was important to me. I was able to do a lot and there is so much that can be down remotely as an agent. Lots of email, and setting up conference calls and working with my directors and producers to work on package movie deals. Not that in-person networking is not important, but in this day and age and LA traffic — people are in different areas and conference calls are much easier on a person’s day compared to hours in traffic. However, it made me think about all the businesswomen out there that have had or have a cancer diagnosis. Some are not as fortunate as to have the ability to work remotely. Why should they lose their business? They battle something that only other cancer survivors can understand, and come out of it with losing something that they built. As a women, it is significant in this day and age to own your own business and drive it to the top. Which is my plan for my agency. I don’t consider my agency boutique. The word boutique sounds soft to me. So yes I keep my roster to a size that is manageable and give personalized attention but I am a full service agency and growing I like the terms “elite and powerful”, which is where I plan to be. The power is in the core values and teams I develop from within. The power comes from “lifting others up”.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Website: NationalTalentLA.com

Instagram: @NationalTalentLA

Instagram: @KarenAPat

Twitter: @karen01pat

Twitter: @_NationalTalent

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Originally published at medium.com

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