Barbara Karasek, CEO / Co-Owner
Barbara, who with her husband Tony acquired Paradise from founder Cedar Hames in early 2018, brings an accomplished career history to her new role as CEO. She has more than 20 years of experience leading marketing for B2B and B2C, sports and entertainment, licensing, e-commerce and retail. Barbara excels at brand strategy, consumer insights, content development and distribution. A Tampa native who grew up Barbara Emener, she cut her teeth in advertising and public relations at the Earl Palmer Browne office in St. Petersburg; while there, she interned under the leadership of Cedar Hames. Since then, she has held senior-level positions with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the PGA TOUR, NASCAR, and the United States Olympic Committee. Barbara has a BA in Sociology from Furman University, where she earned a four-year volleyball scholarship and was named team captain. She also holds an MA in Mass Communications from University of South Florida, which honored her in 2008 with an Outstanding Alumnus award, and is a graduate of the Strategic Marketing Management course at Harvard Business School.
Tony Karasek, President / Co-Owner
As Paradise’s new President, Tony brings 18 years of business development experience to the agency and its growing client roster. Working with more than 1,500 companies, Tony has won numerous awards and contests throughout his sales career, but nothing has been more gratifying to him than finding solutions that help his customers achieve their objectives. His success is a direct result of constantly exceeding client expectations and supporting them with results-driven customer service.
A native of Davenport Iowa, Tony was a standout high school basketball prospect at 6-foot-10. Recruited by all of the Top 20 college programs in America, he began what would be an injury-riddled career at Wake Forest University and Florida State University. After college, Tony was a first round draft pick by the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association and the Tampa Bay Stars of the United States Basketball League. Over seven years, he played for the New Haven Skyhawks, Jersey Shore Bucks, Charleston Gunners, Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets, Columbus Horizon and Fort Wayne Fury. He also competed in five NBA training camps (Pistons, Knicks, Heat, Warriors, Bucks), and traveled the world playing on professional teams in France, Greece, Israel, Asia, England, and the Dominic Republic.
After retiring from basketball, he immediately applied his love of teamwork and competition to his sales career, where his strategic thinking, motivation and positive personality took center court. Tony now has the opportunity to bring his business and sports experience to help Paradise and their clients reach new levels of success.
Cedar Hames, Founder
One of the foremost marketing minds in Florida, Cedar dedicated a large portion of his career to promoting, advocating and selling the Sunshine State. Under his leadership, Paradise became a destination-marketing powerhouse that has played a key role in spurring robust tourism growth in destinations throughout the state.
Cedar’s vision and flair for innovation were recognized on a grand scale when Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International named him one of the “Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in the Travel and Hospitality Industry Worldwide.”
Cedar founded Paradise in 2002 and grew it into an agency known for its integrity, creative brilliance and superb client service. In 2017, he hand-picked Barbara and Tony Karasek to take over the reigns at Paradise, leaving his agency — and his legacy — in good hands.
Tom Merrick, VP, Chief Creative Officer
Tom came to Paradise after 25 years at a well-respected 250-person, 8-office regional advertising agency, where he rose to the title of Senior Partner, Executive Creative Director. There, he helped creative effective, memorable campaigns for a wide range of consumer and B2B clients, including BlueCross BlueShield, FedEx, and Caesars Resorts. He is a strategically focused creative director who believes in the power of collaboration and inspiration — something clients appreciate in both the work and the working relationship.
Tom's Paradise: A very cold, very dry gin martini poolside. And a nice drive in my old BMW convertible through a canopy-covered road. (Not back-to-back, of course.)
Rudy Webb, VP, Account Services
Rudy leads a thorough and hard-working account team with the same calm demeanor he uses with clients. His career has covered virtually every facet of the advertising business — copywriting, media buying, creative direction and account management. As a result of his 9-year tenure with Paradise, he knows the agency and our clients through and through. Rudy has performed work for hotels, resorts, airports, museums and attractions from the Northeast U.S. to Florida to the Caribbean. He has BA in Communications from prestigious Albion College in Michigan.
Rudy's Paradise: A big crowd, game on the line, seconds to go …
Creating desire for a specific destination, attraction, or property isn't easy. Meet the talented people at Paradise who are experts at bringing people to paradise.
We're always on the lookout for talented people who can bring something new to our team and our clients.
If you're one of them, we'd love to hear from you!