Just Getting Started
By Jennifer Moulaison | Photo by Manny Espinoza
In a small town about an hour outside of St. Louis, Missouri, one of Carmel’s premier real estate moguls got her start. There, in a uniquely industrious community, Kim DiBenedetto and her twin sister were raised to believe that success had to be earned. The Midwestern transplant’s success story depicts tenacity that cultivated a rewarding career.
Growing up, DiBenedetto was active and drawn to roller-skating. Her first job was as a floor guard at a local roller rink. Her hobby-turned-passion wasn’t easily acquired, however. “My grandparents were a big influence, and everything had to be created from something,” says DiBenedetto. “When my sister and I decided we wanted roller skates, my grandmother made us have a garage sale in order to buy them,” she recalls. In college, DiBenedetto pursued her bachelor’s degree in business administration and international business through an evening program while working full-time, managing a small retail shop called Graphic Traffic. Eventually, DiBenedetto was offered the opportunity to head out west, managing the retailer’s new location in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Though it meant putting her degree on hold, she felt she could learn more about international business in a location rich in tourism and leapt at the opportunity. “It was such a warm embrace and felt so familiar,” says DiBenedetto of making the move. “It’s such a worldrenowned destination, yet Carmel is a lot like my hometown in that it’s a very close-knit community and cultivates a small-town feel.”
Eventually, DiBenedetto completed her bachelor’s degree at Monterey Peninsula College by way of three semesters of Japanese. “It turned out to be an invaluable skill, as I was able to speak with customers and bridge that communication gap,” says DiBenedetto. “I don’t use it much these days, but I’ve retained enough to be dangerous in a sushi restaurant,” she jokes. When she went to work for Augustina’s, another retailer in Carmel by-the-Sea, DiBenedetto met the man who is now her husband through a mutual friend. They now have a 29-year-old daughter. After marrying, DiBenedetto continued pursuing her career. “I always knew I was going to be successful, I just didn’t know where exactly I’d find that success,” she says. “Since Carmel has somewhat limited industry, real estate made the most sense to me.”
While the idea came easily, the work itself took some time to balance out. “I quickly discovered this wasn’t something one could do part-time, and I had to commit myself and learn to weather the ebbs and flows,” she says. Today, DiBenedetto is a force to be reckoned with in Carmel’s real estate scene. She also notes the interesting aspect of coopetition with other agents. “We all compete but we all have to work together. You have to support each other and cultivate great relationships.”
DiBenedetto serves on the Women’s Council of Realtors and the Board of Directors for the California Association of Realtors, and is Federal Political Coordinator for the National Associations for Realtors. This year she’s chairing the Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee, whose primary mission is to influence state and local political issues on behalf the California Association of Realtors. “It’s an honor to chair a committee for the state like this,” she says. “It affords me knowledge of the industry but also helps develop relationships with people both local and statewide.”
Keeping ties to her hometown, DiBenedetto remains close to her family and makes time to visit her sister, an associate circuit judge for her local county, and two nieces. “Looking back, it was such a long way from home, and I still can’t believe I made the leap. I’m still grateful every day I ended up here,” she says. As for the future, DiBenedetto hopes to remain active in her community and considers herself a Carmel resident for life, stating, “I’m just getting started!”