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Meet The Disruptors: Jeffrey Zuckerman Of Main Street Events On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey Zuckerman, CEO of Main Street Events.

Jeffrey Zuckerman is the chief executive officer of Main Street Events, a leader in fashion industry and trade show events. Zuckerman leads a dynamic team of live events professionals, breaking the mold with innovative and personalized trade show experiences. In addition to his role with Main Street Events, Jeffrey serves as president of Leona Lee, a brand he founded with his wife, Maria.

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?

Our family-owned business was formed in the 1970s. I grew up working summers in our warehouses. Even as a kid, I loved the creative energy and relationships that drive the global fashion industry. I attended law school after college and became a licensed attorney. But I was drawn back to the business, especially after we launched our trade shows in 2012, and I have built an exciting career alongside my family. I am now chief executive officer of Main Street Events, and I co-own and manage a fashion brand, Leona Lee, with my wife, Maria.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Over the last several decades, and more acutely amid the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen tremendous consolidation across the fashion industry; especially, within our segment — trade industry events. These events are crucial to bring the best-known designers and fashion brands, as well as emerging artists, to the market. Along with this consolidation came cold, impersonalized events that we believed stifled the creativity and relationships that make fashion such a special industry. My dad, now our chief relationship officer, took a huge risk and decided to host his own fashion industry event. We built ILOE STUDIOS from the ground up, learning as we went, but always keeping relationships and personalized service at the forefront. Now, we are delivering an unrivaled experience that has put our events at the top of the “must-attend” list for all our clients.

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?

When I first came back to the business after law school, I found out the details that I had learned to master as a lawyer were just as important in the fashion events industry. I accidentally booked a business trip over the wrong dates, and didn’t realize it until everyone was already at the airport. We had to quickly re-book everyone and make it work. I never made that mistake again! But I was grateful to be working with family who took the entire situation in stride.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My parents have been the most amazing mentors. I witnessed all their challenges and success as business owners, and their ingenuity and work ethic is a huge source of inspiration for me. Their focus on relationships, above all else, has been critical to our success over the decades — and it’s a major reason why we are now considered disruptors in our industry.

There have also been many others in the business who have been great mentors to me. Scott Bernstein, one of our former business partners, taught me a lot about customer service, networking and management. One of the things that made him such a great mentor was his willingness to share both his knowledge and contacts with me. He would introduce me to potential client and collaborators, and help me navigate those relationships when I was just starting out. In his current role, he is able to provide us with business intelligence that has helped us maintain a strong connection to some of our legacy partners in the industry.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I like to think about disruption as innovation. In our case, we found that the current state of the fashion events industry was not conducive to our business or continued success. Others agreed with us, but no one was taking action. We knew we needed to be the ones to innovate in order to create a positive change. In that case, disruption has been positive for ourselves and for our industry overall. On the flip side, we have seen where innovation doesn’t hit the mark and results in more negative disruption. A lot of us in the fashion industry need to balance our interest in and reliance on technology, as one example, to ensure productive innovation. We can’t let technology completely overtake personal relationships, or we’ll be moving backward. Overall, our belief is that disruptors should seek to create positive change — to grow and meet the needs of an evolving society and industry rather than creating change merely for the sake of change. That only produces a chaotic neutral where we really need positive momentum and progress.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I was in a production of “Bye Bye Birdie” when I was younger and this line always stuck with me: You have to be sincere.

You have to care about the business, industry, products and, most importantly, people. To build and maintain trust, your care for these aspects of innovation needs to be sincere. Building your “trust account” is how you can effectuate a positive change.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We’re evaluating a lot of different ideas. Our inaugural ILOE STUDIOS — Las Vegas event was a huge hit, and we can’t wait to return to The Strip again this fall. We are also focused on rebuilding our flagship Midwest show after COVID-19. And then there’s direct-to-consumer events, which could come in the near future. We’d love to bring our personalized event experience to help consumers connect more intimately with the retailers and brands they love.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I recently read “About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior” by Colonel David H. Hackworth. In writing about his incredible career as a soldier and leader, he discussed the military’s “zero-defect policy,” and how becoming a leader within the military required soldiers to appear as though they never failed. He disagreed with this idea because such a policy discouraged strategic risk-taking and creativity. His ideas reminded me that it’s important to surround yourself with thinkers: colleagues who don’t rely on the “safe” solution, are willing to challenge convention, and sometimes fail, in the pursuit of success and progress.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Stephen R. Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” has so many great life lesson quotes. One is, “We see the world not as it is but as we are.” We all view the world through our own, unique lens and cognitive biases. In business, it is important to surround yourself with individuals who bring these different perspectives and ideas to the table. Otherwise, you can end up stuck in a rut. Our business is multi-generational, and that is a major differentiator for us in terms of creativity and success. Our brand is strong because our culture and business is based on diverse thinking, understanding and creative problem solving.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. :-)

Personal relationships are a cornerstone of our business. Especially after the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, we want to help more people create meaningful connections with each other and the things they love. If we could start a movement in business, it would be a return to personal relationships and service.

How can our readers follow you online?

We welcome you to connect with us on LinkedIn at

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



In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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