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A Matchmaker Made in Heaven: How Barbara Neu Helps Domain Investors Build Priceless Relationships

By Ron Jackson

The domain industry is one that exists almost exclusively online. Domain owners hold no physical inventory. When domain sales are made these intangible goods are moved from seller to buyer with the click of button. If you rely more on monetizing domain traffic no need to see anyone face to face there either - it only takes a couple of minutes to open an online account 

with a parking company. Likewise, domain developers, who build virtual structures on the web rather than brick and mortar buildings on dirt, can do that in complete solitude.

However, while technology has made all of that possible it hasn't changed a fundamental rule of business. People like to do business with people they know and trust and there is still no better way to build that kind of relationship than meeting people in person and connecting on a level that can't be duplicated online. That's why you will see the most successful people in this industry at a domain conference sooner or later. 

Though the domain business is based in the virtual world the most enduring business relationships and even some lifelong personal friendships have been forged the old fashioned way, face to face with a firm handshake. Many of our lives have been dramatically changed for the better thanks to those opportunities to meet each other face to face - opportunities that date back to the first major domain conference - T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2004 in Delray Beach, Florida

For the approximately 125 of us who were at that landmark event it was exciting, but also a little intimidating, meeting people you had only read about in person for the first time. At that conference (and all that have followed), there were people, especially newcomers, who initially stood back from the crowd - not quite sure how to break the ice and start making the kind of connections they wanted to make. Fortunately for all of us (when you consider how much some of those former newcomers have contributed to the industry) there was also a woman at that first show named Barbara Neu, who was a matchmaker made in heaven. Better yet, she is still working her magic today.

Above: Larry Fischer & Ari Goldberger (at right) chat with visitors to their SmartName booth at the 1st major domain conference - T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2004 in Delray Beach, Florida.


Below (L to R): Actor/author Ben Stein - T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s first Keynote Speaker in 2004, Barbara Neu and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu.

Barbara is married to noted domain attorney Howard Neu, who co-founded T.R.A.F.F.I.C. with the legendary Domain King Rick Schwartz. That led to her serving as the hostess who welcomed thousands of attendees to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. over the next ten years. Barbara not only welcomed them - at the show's social events if she saw anyone standing alone when would take someone over and introduce them to each other to make sure no one felt like an outsider on her watch. 

After T.R.A.F.F.I.C. concluded its decade-long run with Schwartz's retirement after the 2014 show at Miami Beach, Barbara, Howard and their son Ray Dillman Neu, formed a partnership to launch a new show, THE Domain Conference that launched last year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (where it will return September 10-14, 2016). While Barbara has moved up from hostess to Co-Founder, few know that she was a successful entrepreneur long before she met Howard over 25 years ago. In fact there is a LOT about Barbara you don't know - a situation we are about to rectify. After 12 years spent putting everyone else first, it's high time Barbara got the kind of recognition she has helped so many others  achieve. 

...The Journey Begins

Barbara's story starts in New Rochelle, New York where she was the first born child of Vito & Carmella Savanello. Barbara never had a chance to become familiar with her hometown though. "My parents went to Florida on vacation when I was two years old and fell in love with it," Barbara said. "So, they went back home to New York – sold everything they owned, packed up the car and made the journey back to Miami.  My parents were thrilled to start a new life in the Sunshine State. We spent many days at the beach and enjoying the wonderful weather and all the palm trees everywhere.  We went back to New York every summer for vacation but I was always happy to be living in Florida."

"When I was 4, my Mom became pregnant with my brother.  He was a 10-month baby and my poor Mom almost died in childbirth.  They promised me that if I was good they would let ME name my little brother.  He wasn’t really so little – he was actually 10 pounds and even though the Priest gave my Mom her last rights – she miraculously pulled through.  I named my brother Robert and he and I were always very close," Barbara said. 

"We grew up in an amazing neighborhood where we played outside all the time.  We even drank water from a hose! For as far back as I can remember Sunday was family day. Being Italian that meant that the entire day was based around food.  The entire menu would start with antipasto, garlic bread, salad, pasta of course, meatballs, sausage, and many desserts.  Our home was always open to family, neighbors, or whoever may be in town visiting from New York."

Barbara with younger brother Robert 
and their "best friend"

Barbara's High School Prom Night

"I loved school and always wanted to be a school teacher," Barbara recalled. "For some reason that never happened, but I did love the idea of all the Holidays off and especially Summer! I was a cheerleader during my Jr. High School and High School years.  I enjoyed the connection with the other girls on the squad and loved being a part of all the sports and activities that went along with being on the team.  Whenever there was a home game we would have a Pep Rally and I always enjoyed getting my classmates to join in and cheer our team on, preparing them for the big game. I really think that that excitement and positive energy of being a cheerleader helped influence my life. Trying my best to make everyone happy and join in the FUN with a big smile on my face and always being positive." 

Barbara moved on to college in Miami but had a hard time deciding what kind of degree to pursue. "I went from teaching to interior design, to psychology," she said. "While I was in College, I worked at a local Winn Dixie grocery store and the Store Manager, Mr. Tom Chess was a huge influence on my life. He was the BEST boss - everyone respected him and he would jump right in and help no matter what the task was.  It was a very busy grocery store with many employees.  He showed me that you really have to love what you chose as a profession."

Riding in Style

Chess's influence on Barbara led to her first serious avocation. "Mr. Chess was an old car enthusiast and drove a Corvette Stingray and had many other classic cars.  He would enter them in car shows and invite everyone to attend.  I then became a car buff myself.  I ended up buying a '57 T-Bird (the one with the port holes on the side in American Graffiti) and it was a blast owning that car.  It was all original, which meant no air conditioning - and remember that I lived in Miami! I didn’t care though. It got so much attention -  people would stop me on the road and have conversations with me about the good old days.  When it was time to take the hard top off it actually took two people. You had to lift it off carefully and place it somewhere and then worry that it would get damaged in some way."

Above & Below: Barbara Neu's prized 1957 Thunderbird.

"I also bought a 1929 Model A Ford.  My Dad loved it because that was the first car he owned.  Tom Chess taught me so much, and influenced me on how to treat everyone with respect no matter what their position was and be willing to help out anyone in any situation.  He made each day enjoyable even though we all worked so hard. "

Above: Barbara's 1929 Model A Ford - the Carvel sign on the door 
was there for a reason as you will see shortly. 

Below: Barbara also owned 3 different Corvettes. Her favorite 
was this special 25th Anniversary Pace Car edition.

Ray Replaces "Rims" in Barbara's Heart

Barbara and 10-month-old son Ray on his 1st Halloween

While she had an obsession with cars, Barbara was about to experience love on a much deeper level. "The highlight of my life was finally getting pregnant after trying for years and years, and then -  after having to be on complete bed rest for the last month – experiencing the miracle of  birth – when my son Ray arrived on December 6, 1985.  It was the best Christmas and & New Year's of my life.  He was such a perfect baby and never caused me a day’s worry and grew up to be a “humble giant” as his college basketball coach called him."

Barbara said she was the happiest woman on earth but, unfortunately, that euphoria was dampened by an unexpected shock. "I was so surprised one day when my husband announced he wanted a divorce and moved out that night when Ray was only 4 months old.  I remember that night like it was yesterday.  Thank God for the help of my Parents who stepped right up and helped me raise Ray.

He actually had three parents in his younger years until we met Howard.  Going through a divorce was very difficult and I was the first of my friends and acquaintances for it to happen to. As a single Mom I went to many divorce classes and learned how to deal with the heartbreak.  It gave me the strength and knowledge to help and guide so many other women whose situation would be the same.  Till this day – 30 years later – I am still able to open my heart and give whatever advice I can after living through a divorce with a small child and all the challenges that come with it," Barbara said.

Barbara Begins a New Life as an Entrepreneur

Realizing that family was the most important thing to her, Barbara then decided to go into business with the people she trusted the most - her mom, dad and brother. "We looked at so many options and ended up buying a Carvel Ice Cream Store," Barbara said. "We started with one and ended up owning three through the years – Miami, North Miami and Sunny Isles Beach.  Being in a business that brought pleasure to people was amazing.  Everyone who came in the door cheerful and left happy!"

"While it was a family business we also had lots of employees with three stores to run.  We made our own ice cream at Carvel – people don’t realize that it is the freshest ice cream you can buy.  We even made all the hard ice cream flavors.  I was chosen by the company to be on the Board of Governors and met Tom Carvel, the founder of the company,  when they flew me to the main headquarters in Yonkers, New York.  I was the youngest owner in the chain of over 700 stores.  It kept me busy, helping to run three stores and traveling back and forth to Yonkers."

"The best part of being a Board of Governor was I was able to represent other store owners and give my opinion on what products were going to be advertised on television and even help decide how they would be made. I was so excited to be chosen to make an Ice Cream Cake for Pope John Paul 11 while he was here in Florida having dinner with Archbishop Edward McCarthy who was a good customer of ours.  The cake even made it on the front page of the Miami Herald."

How Barbara Met Howard

"One of our stores was a free standing building in North Miami and it was the busiest Carvel in Florida. It had two large ice cream cones up on the corner of the roof.  I had to appear at the City Council to fight for our tall landmark ice cream cones. At that time, Howard Neu was the Mayor, but we only knew each other in passing, and there were four other Council Members. I went before the Council and begged them not to make me take down our ice cream cones – you could see them for miles. They all voted in my favor so I WON and the Carvel Corporation was thrilled!"

"The next Saturday morning in walks Howard to purchase an ice cream cone.  He put down a $20 bill on the counter (which would have taken all my change first thing in the morning) so I told him the cone was on me, and he said, “then dinner is on ME”.  I had gone through a horrible divorce and didn’t really date much.  I spent all my time working, being with family, and raising Ray. But we ended up going out a few weeks after that and saw each other constantly after that first date," Barbara said.

Above: One of the three Florida Carvel stores that Barbara's family partnered to run.

Below: Barbara Neu with company Founder Tom Carvel.

Photo from a Miami Herald story about Barbara 
making an ice cream cake for Pope John Paul 11.

Howard and Barbara Neu on their Wedding Day 
with son (and future business partner) Ray.

"Fast forward two years with lots of ups and downs of dating with a small child.  Howard was great with Ray and he had two grown daughters of his own, Carol and Wendy, from a previous marriage.  Howard said that Ray, who was five years old when we got married, was a bonus and he had always wanted a son. Ray’s biological Father had moved away right after our divorce."

The marriage to Howard wasn't the only big change in Barbara's life. "My family eventually started selling the Carvel Stores as it was hard to keep up the 7 days a week grind and we were open 12 hours a day," Barbara said. "After we sold the last store, my parents retired, my brother became a Commercial Pilot and I was hired by Anne Klein Watches as a Merchandiser and traveled every day to different malls."

"My stores included Burdines, Macys, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Dillards and Neiman Marcus.  It was a great job on the road and handling 12 malls.  My favorite part about my job was the greeting I would get from the staff at every store from the sales help to the Store Manager. I also made my own schedule which meant I could be room Mom at Ray’s school and as he got older never miss any of his basketball games."

"I eventually took over  

supervising the entire state of Florida and had merchandisers from each city report to me.  I was able to travel through Florida overseeing their work and even had Howard & Ray come along sometimes as we could make our own hours. I traveled to New York several times where the headquarters for Anne Klein was located.  They would teach us about the new watch lines and how they wanted them merchandised and then I would return back to Florida and meet up with each merchandiser in their territory to train them.  I enjoyed the travel, and got to learn so much about the different areas of Florida," Barbara recalled.

Barbara's Domain Industry Career Begins

In 1999, Howard made the connection that would eventually land both he and Barbara in the domain business. "Howard met Rick Schwartz on a cruise and became his attorney," Barbara said. "A few years later they started thinking about putting on a domain conference and they decided to call it T.R.A.F.F.I.C.  None of us had ever been in the conference business. They asked me to work at the Registration Desk and I immediately loved it!"

"It was wonderful greeting and meeting everyone in the domain world that attended.  My job was to give them their badge, event program, and welcome bag.  I tried my best to make sure everyone would feel at home and comfortable and help them with whatever they needed.  No one really knew anyone at that time."

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founders Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu 
at their 1st show in Delray Beach, Florida - October 2004

"That first show in 2004 featured the actor and financier Ben Stein as a Keynote Speaker," Barbara continued. "Howard and I picked him up at the airport and brought him to the Delray Beach Marriott Hotel.  It was quite interesting meeting him and hearing his stories.  He was terrific greeting everyone as we arrived at the hotel."    

"There were so many terrific shows through the years and so many great Keynote Speakers. Rick and Howard were very busy putting on three shows a year from the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Marriott Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the Marriott Santa Clara in California, the Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida, the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the Grand Floridian in Orlando and many more.  Steve Forbes (of Forbes Magazine fame, as well as former U.S. Presidential candidate), was one of my favorite speakers.  We had a reserved seat for him at the Head Table and he looked over at Diana Jackson & I and saw an empty seat at our table and said,  “Gentlemen,  I want to sit over there!”  Diana and I had a delightful evening chatting with him."

(Left to right): Barbara Neu, Keynote Speaker Steve Forbes and 
Diana Jackson at the 2007 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East conference in Hollywood, Florida

"Another one of my favorite speakers was Barbara Corcoran (a star of ABC-TV's Shark Tank) who spoke at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York in Brooklyn.  She was an incredible businesswoman and knew how to work the room," Barbara said.

"In 2014, Rick decided he wanted to retire so the last show was at the famous Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami's South Beach.  It was over Halloween Weekend so it was really special when everyone showed up in so many amazing costumes.  Rick came up with giving prizes for the best costume and everyone really out did themselves.  Ron & Diana Jackson (photo below) won 1st place for their costumes that Diana hand made.  She actually had lights in her wings, and when they went in the packed lobby after the Masquerade Ball, people were stopping them to get their photographs taken with them.  

It was the last T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Show and it was really special. Michael and Judi Berkens came as Cruella Deville and her Puppy - they were priceless, not to mention that they even had  Romeo and Juliet (their adorable Yorkies) with them. "

(Left to right): Judi & Michael Berkens with .CLUB CMO Jeff Sass at a Halloween Costume Ball that was part of the final T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference - a 10th Anniversary show in Miami Beach (Oct. 31, 2014).

"Through all of those years my job remained working the registration desk and taking pictures.  I have taken tens of thousands of photographs of so many attendees, exhibitors, and speakers  through the years.  It was a fabulous 10 years and so many conferences. The best part was all the friends and business associates we met all because of that first conference and their idea to bring everyone together," Barbara said.    

Birth of THE Domain Conference

Barbara and Howard thought long and hard about what they wanted to do now that T.R.A.F.F.I.C. had ended its remarkable decade. A big part of the decision to go forward with their own new show - THE Domain Conference - was the role their son could play in it. "Ray had just graduated from high school when T.R.A.F.F.I.C. started in 2004," Barbara noted. "He was 18 years old and enjoyed attending every single show. Ten years later, he was a big reason that we decided to pick up the mantle and go forward. People started reaching out to us asking whether or not we were going to continue. We all thought about it, and thought about it, and decided to do it."

Howard, Barbara and Ray Neu at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel in Fort Lauderdale 
before they their debut edition of THE Domain Conference began there in September 2015. 

"We really enjoyed working together so why not just put on one show a year and keep it in Ft. Lauderdale where we live. The name T.R.A.F.F.I.C. was confusing to people so we decided to call it what it was – THE Domain Conference. The main thing we knew from all the comments we had been hearing was to keep it more affordable.  For me, my favorite part about the Conference business is that we can do it as a family. Howard is a lawyer and never brought his work home with him. It is great to be able to work together and enjoy the planning of it."

"Ray is a huge part of the Conference, and always has been.  He worked with the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Conferences that ran in Milan, Vancouver and Ireland and has made so many friends through the last 10 years and learned so much through all the experiences.  We have now even brought in my 88-year-old Mom who is a recent widow and she helps me at registration and enjoys every minute of it (by the way, she is even on Facebook!)," Barbara smiled.   

Barbara's Mom Millie cutting a rug with Eddie Sixto at the final T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference in 2014. When the Neu family launched THE Domain Conference last year Millie was back too, helping Barbara at the registration table.

"We worked very hard trying to find the perfect venue. Our mission was to find a hotel that was more affordable for everyone.  After weeks of site visits we found our perfect home – The Hyatt Pier 66 Hotel, in Ft. Lauderdale - located just 3 miles from the airport. The staff was eager for our business and quoted us a $109 room rate and there were no extra costs for resort fees or Internet. That sealed the deal for our venue."

View from the top of THE Domain Conference's venue in Fort Lauderdale, Florida - the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel.

"The next thing we did  for our 2015 debut was schedule a meeting with Colin Campbell and Jeff Sass from .CLUB. We spoke to them about being our Premier Sponsor and they agreed, especially because we would be in their own back yard with their offices in Ft. Lauderdale. It was terrific for them to bring a huge part of their staff to the show. The show ran for 5 days starting with two Cabana Networking days starting on Saturday & Sunday (as well as a special edition of DOMAINfest at THE Domain Conference staged by Jothan Frakes on Saturday).  .CLUB put up yard signs throughout the amazing property that has all kind of games around the pool area and we reserved the cabanas and a private pool just for our attendees. The busy conference schedule started with an Opening Night Cocktail Party located in the revolving Pier Top room followed by two full days of sessions, speakers, and awards.  We ended with a Farewell Breakfast on Wednesday morning and will follow the same format this year.  It is very full and hectic week but also goes by so fast!"

Barbara is especially excited about one new addition to their 2016 conference weekend. "Ray came up with an idea to have a STARTUP Saturday on the first day of our Cabana Networking (September 10, 2016).  He thought that there are so many people who want to start a business or want to take their existing business to a new level that we could help them by bringing in investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders to learn from. Morgan Linton from Fashion Metric and Brett Napoli from Ambition Insight will be the two main speakers at the one day event.  Ray has a line up of additional speakers that he is choosing to educate everyone who has a dream," Barbara added.

Howard & Barbara Neu at a business function in the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center where they promoted the upcoming 2016 edition of THE Domain Conference and their first Startup Saturday event that will be held September 10, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel in Fort Lauderdale.

"Our goal for our 2016 conference, Sept 10th-14th, is to be all about our attendees becoming more successful, networking, and just having a great time at the Hyatt Pier 66. The hotel was smart enough last year to keep the lobby bar open way past their closing hours because of all the attendees staying up all hours spending time together! We always have newbies attending our show and it is so rewarding when they are leaving the Farewell Breakfast and thank us for opening their minds to so many new ideas," Barbara said. 

(L to R) Howard, Barbara and Ray Neu at the Farewell Breakfast that concluded the 
debut edition of THE Domain Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (September 30, 2015).

While Barbara loves helping stage THE Domain Conference she admits to one downside. "When the Conference is over I usually lose my voice," she laughed. "It happens every year.  It takes me a week or so to recover and go through all my photos that I have taken. It puts a big smile on my face as I see everyone together trying to build their business and educate each other on their personal experiences.  It is a great bunch of people and we have made some lifelong friends because of it. Life is good when you are happy with your job – and if you love what you do, you don’t really work a day in your life,' Barbara declared.

Happiness Begins at Home (Unless You Happen to Be at Sea!)

As busy as she is with the conference Barbara make sure there is still time for what remains her top priority - her family. "Howard & I love to travel and our favorite trip is a cruise.  A cruise is a real vacation with no worries and we just finished a great one, sailing through the Panama Canal to celebrate our 25th Anniversary."

"We have taken many family cruises with my family and with my extended family.  Howard has two amazing Daughters, Carol, who lives in Colorado and Wendy and Son-In-Law Ira, who live right in our neighborhood. Plus, Four terrific Grandchildren:  Brandon and Brian who live just 5 minutes from us and Chad and Alexa who live in Colorado with their Mom.  We were at all three of their High School Graduations and the only one left now is Alexa who is 16."

"We are even friendly with Howard’s former wife Ellie and we celebrate many holidays together and have even taken vacations together as one big family. For anyone who hasn't been on a family cruise - try it! – I’m sure you won’t be 

Howard & Barbara Neu celebrating their 25th Wedding Anniversary this summer during a Panama Canal cruise. This shot was taken on one of their shore excursions.

disappointed and there is nothing like making new memories.  That’s what life is all about." 

Photo from Barbara's Family Cruise with mother Millie seated in the center.

Barbara said, "My Dad passed away so we do our best to keep my Mom very busy and a huge part of our lives. It is tough on her when you lose your Soul Mate of 67 years. We enjoy going through old photographs and watching videos of Holidays and Vacations.  It is wonderful that we are able to live so many memories through photos."

 Barbara Neu and her Mom & Dad, Millie and Vito,
are at the center of this photo from Christmas 2010.

My brother and his wife, Mary live in Ft. Pierce and we see them as much as we can.  He has a daughter Nikki who has 2 adorable boys, Cody and Ben; and their “Momo” Carol. I try very hard to be available to anyone of them whenever they need me, and of course I always have my camera with me to capture the moment!," Barbara smiled.

Barbara also makes time to help out in her community. "I like to volunteer and try to when I can.  A good friend of mine, Susan Gross, is very involved with The Harvest Drive, a non-profit organization that provides food and assists families through the Broward County Schools.  People donate all kinds of items through the year and she stores it all in her huge garage.  In November her team of worker bees take over a school cafeteria for several days to offer the goods to less fortunate families in the community.  It is wonderful watching their faces as we allow them to go through the cafeteria and pick and choose whatever clothing, shoes, toys, books, appliances, bedding, and even holiday decorations that their family would like.  After the event they pass on any remaining items to other local charities," Barbara said.

Barbara and fellow volunteers celebrate another year of helping 
Broward County families through The Harvest Drive.

Barbara also reserves time to spend with a special circle of friends. "I play a dice game called Bunko. There are 12 women from our neighborhood that host a dinner and game in their home once a year.  I have been playing for 21 years with pretty much the same 12 women!  We even have a sub list in case one of the ladies can’t make it one month – and the subs look forward to being asked to join us.  We have all been through so much together sharing our family stories.  It is a great opportunity to meet with neighbors and be there to share all the happy times and also support each other during the sad times."

The Bunko squad - still going strong after 21 years!

In closing Barbara added, " I would just like to take this opportunity to Thank EVERYONE who has come to any one of our Conferences  and has been a part of our family. There has been so many shows through the years and I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time away from their jobs and  families to attend.   I can’t imagine how many people I have registered since it all began in 2004!" Barbara smiled.

Barbara Neu at the Registration Desk for the 2010 T.R.A.F.F.I.C 
South Beach conference at the Loews Hotel on Miami Beach.

Whatever the number is you can bet Barbara did everything possible to send each of her guests home with a new circle of industry friends - a quality that has left hundreds of people indebted to the matchmaker made in heaven. 


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