Liz Dimmitt: “You don’t do it alone and should invest in help”

You don’t do it alone and should invest in help. Hire help and talent, especially in areas where you lack expertise! Second, there are unconscious biases around women in leadership, which I encourage everyone to challenge. For example, if I asked you, did you see the pilot flying the plane? Did your mind assume it […]

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You don’t do it alone and should invest in help. Hire help and talent, especially in areas where you lack expertise!


Second, there are unconscious biases around women in leadership, which I encourage everyone to challenge. For example, if I asked you, did you see the pilot flying the plane? Did your mind assume it was a male pilot and not a woman? These small, subtle assumptions and biases affect the way you treat and see women in leadership.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liz Dimmitt. Liz is the CEO and a Co-founder of Fairgrounds St. Pete, an immersive art and technology experience in St. Pete, FL. At Fairgrounds, everyone is invited to explore an artist-made world based on original Florida stories. Fairgrounds’ goal is to become a cultural hub for an immersive art and creative technology, while also being an economic engine for artists and technologists. Additionally, Liz is a 4th generation car dealer. As Managing Partner of Dimmitt Chevrolet in Clearwater, FL, she oversees the dealership’s executive team and operations. Liz has leadership experience in immersive art, cultural strategy, and private equity. Liz is an active participant in NYC’s and Tampa Bay’s cultural communities and serves on the board of the Sarasota Museum of Art and the Foundation Board of Zoo Tampa.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. Growing up, I consistently had a side gig going from lemonade stands to a neighborhood newsletter to running my babysitting summer camp. My undergraduate degree is in Finance, and I started my career in that industry. I studied finance because I figured that it would be useful no matter what I ended up doing.

My first full-time job was working for a wealth management company where the favorite part of my job was analyzing our clients’ alternative assets, including art, specialty real estate, cars, various collectibles and wine. This experience ended up serving me well, but it wasn’t fulfilling. I knew I wanted to do something in the art world, but didn’t know where to start or much about the industry, so I enrolled at NYU and earned a M.A. in Visual Art Administration with a focus on the for-profit art market.

From there, I went to work for an art industry investment fund, eventually becoming their COO. We invested in art industry products and services. At the same time, I was curating art shows and had the opportunity to work with Gawker Media to create and run a corporate art program. At Gawker, I focused on mounting shows and creating what I would now call immersive projects, but at the time were just cool rooftop art installations and parties.

I made one diversion back into straight finance and spent a year at a quant hedge fund. This decision was based on money and is the last time I’ll ever base a decision on pay. I hated it, the company and people were nice, but I just wasn’t interested in work. I toyed with having my own gallery for a while but didn’t have any gallery experience, so I got a job as an assistant controller at a prominent art gallery. I bought Accounting for Dummies the night before I started. About a year into that job, I was promoted to Director and began overseeing three galleries, 2 in NY and 1 in Hong Kong. Through that experience, I learned that I didn’t want to have a gallery because I wanted the opportunity to work with many artists, not just a gallery’s roster, and to be able to explore outside-the-box projects.

While at the gallery, I was also simultaneously mounting mobile art truck rallies where artists created installations in the backs of box trucks. I love creating community and events where the art surrounds guests and is presented in usual ways. Thus, I invented the title Cultural Strategist and began working with companies and foundations to drive their overall business strategy with a cultural approach. I loved it and had the opportunity to work with fantastic clients on some exciting projects.

Then my brother died, and everything changed. After 17 years in NYC, I moved home to Florida to take on my brother’s job as the Managing Partner of our family’s Chevrolet dealership. While in Florida, I knew I wanted to also do something creative, so I looked around for a small warehouse to stage art projects. Some family friends showed me an enormous factory that was for sale, and we ended up partnering to redevelop it into The Factory St. Pete. At the same time, I decided to go all-in on my big dream and launch an immersive art experience. Two years later, Fairgrounds St. Pete, a 15,000 ft2 art and technology experience featuring artworks by 64+ artists, is here! We have incredible teams at both The Factory and Fairgrounds St. Pete, all of whom have hugely contributed to these endeavors. Come check us out!

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

Meeting my partner, Mikhail Mansion, has been the most exciting and idea-expanding experience thus far. Mikhail is a creative technologist, and his tech skills-set is transformative, allowing us to amplify our combined art ideas.

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?

Our Communications Director, Olivia Mansion, and I spent an hour walking a potential partner through a detailed and much labored-over presentation deck introducing Fairgrounds St. Pete and our incredible art and tech inventions in our 15,000 ft2 space. We got to the end, and the only feedback from the CEO we were presented to was that his wife did calligraphy. We concluded that our pitch needed work!

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 about that?

There isn’t just one. My family, husband, NYC friends, FL friends, Dimmitt Chevy team and the Fairgrounds St. Pete partners and team are all brilliant and make it possible for us to dream big, while also getting the details done.

I need to give a particular shout-out to my husband, Piers Davies, who is always willing to explore and experience cultural projects and destinations with me, no matter how inconveniently they are located. Piers also patiently spends many hours helping me fine-tune ideas and often edits my emails and speeches. Just this weekend, he spent 2 days helping me install a shell mosaic in Fairgrounds St. Pete’s Mermaid Dressing Room installation.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

This is a great question, and there isn’t a straightforward answer. First, there are negative, outdated stereotypes and language around women in leadership: bossy, emotional, shrill, aggressive, demanding, etc.

Second, there are unconscious biases around women in leadership, which I encourage everyone to challenge. For example, if I asked you, did you see the pilot flying the plane? Did your mind assume it was a male pilot and not a woman? These small, subtle assumptions and biases affect the way you treat and see women in leadership.

Lastly, women are less likely to apply for jobs they don’t think they’re qualified for, and this trend applies to starting companies. For example, some women think they need to be technologists to start a tech company. I’ve just launched a tech company, and I’m not a software engineer! Knowing that I can stick with my strengths and hire for weaknesses is something I encourage all women to do.

There is no simple answer to this complex question. Still, as a society, I think we can all play a role in encouraging the women around us to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

It’s a societal, parental and educational shift. From a young age, all children should be equally encouraged to seek leadership positions and pursue lofty goals. We need to speak to, inspire, educate and engage girls and women of all ages with the intention of giving them the confidence to become leaders and entrepreneurs. Also, boys and men need to be educated to expect and facilitate female success.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Because you can make your dreams come true and build and shape the environment in which you want to work.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

That you have to know everything, can do it alone, and success will come fast. The truth is that we’re all faking it ’til we make it, you need help at every step and everything takes longer than you think.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

To be a founder, you have to be comfortable taking calculated risks and facing the possibility of failure. It took me years to build the confidence to go big, raise real money, and take on the risks of public failure and disappointing inventors, partners, and colleagues.

Regular jobs are safe and defined, which is a comfortable place to be. I understand their appeal.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. It’s all about people: no matter what business you’re in, you’re in the people business: No matter what you are doing you have to have a great team and an engaged audience to sell to.

2. Asking good questions is more important than having all the answers: I drive by a church everyday that has a sign reading “the person who knows it all has a lot to learn”. This statement is so true. It’s not about knowing it all or having all the answers, what’s important is questioning norms, processes and asking lots of good questions.

3. Have boundaries and learn to say no. I work out in the morning with a trainer and he has me practice saying “I’m sorry, but I’m already committed” each session because I have a tendency to overcommit myself. I’m having to learn to choose quality over quantity.

4. Give yourself time because everything takes longer than you think and remember Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We built and launched Fairgrounds St. Pete, an immersive art experience dependent on in-person attendance, during the pandemic. We had to have faith and be patient over the last year!

5. You don’t do it alone and should invest in help. Hire help and talent, especially in areas where you lack expertise!

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Yes, Fairgrounds St. Pete invests in our local creative community by sharing profits from ticket sales with participating artists and creating a platform to promote artists, creative technologists and community organizations. We also provide educational opportunities to help creatives learn new skills and entrepreneurship.

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

Avoid “pie thinking,” which means I wish we could train the world to not think of success, prosperity, equality, power, love, etc. as one pie where if you get a bigger piece, mine gets smaller. We can bake more pies; the pies are limitless, and everyone is deserving of a big slice.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

@michelleobama! I love her wisdom, strength and grace.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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