Speakers and Artists
Gwinnett Business Journal Article

February 2003
Stay-at-Home Mom
Turns Entrepreneur
A timely, funny or informative speaker can turn a conference or other group function into a memorable occasion rather than just another entry on the events calendar.
Finding the best speaker or someone with the right message for a particular audience, however, is sometimes easier said than done.
Lilburn resident Stacy Robinson found she had a knack for lining up that perfect guest.
The former commercial actress and model spent a "decade of volunteerism" organizing conferences, banquets and similar gatherings. She also spent time as a speaker focusing on organization and time management topics.
This stay-at-home mother recently decided she could make a living out of her house by sharing her talent for matching just the right speaker with a welcome audience.
Much of Robinson's frontline experience came from her years on the women's ministry leadership team at First Baptist Atlanta and as director of women's ministry at Peachtree Corners Baptist.
Robinson later became director of women's ministry for Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association, which includes about 100 Southern Baptist churches in Gwinnett. In this role, she assisted in organizing a conference with 4,000 attendees at the Gwinnett Civic Center.
In addition to her contacts within the speaking circuit, Robinson cultivated her gifts as a professional organizer. Prior to her homemaker years, she was a legal secretary in Atlanta and worked for a personnel agency supplying staff to law firms.
Nature of the business
Robinson took the office equipment she had at home, added a laptop to the mix, and started The Robinson Agency (TRA).
Robinson said she knew she wanted to start a business when her two children went to school, even before she knew exactly what her company would offer.
By last March, Robinson decided TRA would be her venture. She then spent a few months contacting speakers, establishing bookings and meeting with Web designers.
Robinson said she found many groups knew how to get the "latest bestsellers" to come to their events, often with much expense. But there was a need for local speakers.
"I knew for so many years that there was a need for this. I knew there was a need for the speaker to find the venue and the venue to find the speaker," Robinson said.
TRA represents 34 personalities. Robinson said she is holding to that number for now to give her clients the best possible service. The company represents men, women and couples with inspirational, motivational and faith-based programs for corporate and church functions.
The pool of available speakers includes Rob Eagar, author of "The Power of Passion: Applying the Love of Christ to Dating Relationships," and Christian singer/songwriter Anita Renfroe. TRA can provide talent for programs with multiple dates or a single session.
Robinson takes her fee from the booking costs, which varies depending on the speaker and event. She said other clients work for a fee left at the discretion of those putting on the event. Otherwise, costs could be as much as a few thousand dollars for a program.
Robinson said her company serves as the "ministry coordinator" for the speakers so they can focus on their work. She takes the burden away from her speakers like an "administrative assistant or coordinator," overseeing details down to making sure the proper sound and stage arrangements are in place.
"They don't want to appear too commercial. It's their ministry," Robinson said of her clients.
Since she formed her business, Robinson said she now has access to a different level of speakers, including those with bookings across the country.
Working from home
Robinson said she likes being able to take a break to help her two school-aged children with homework or bake cookies without being far away from her clients.
Since she already had some of the equipment she needed to conduct her business, Robinson said she has not had to spend too much money to get started.
"I pretty much had everything I needed," Robinson said.
Much of her work is done over the phone and through e-mails. She has added a second phone line and plans to have an "800" number available.
Part of her start-up cost was dedicated to her Web site, www.therobinsonagency.com. Online visitors can find biographic and scheduling information about TRA clients as well as booking information.
"This is my office - it's my storefront. This is what people see," Robinson said of her Web presence.
Otherwise, the laptop and cell phone keep Robinson in touch with her business contacts. She has a small portion of a larger family room sectioned off as an office, but most of her meetings take place outside the home.
If the work demand requires more of her home space, Robinson said she has that figured out.
"If I need to get a bigger home, I will," she said with a laugh.
At a time when many businesses are watching economic indicators with uncertainty, Robinson said seminars and conferences remain an important function for companies and churches.
Perhaps the difficult times are even playing to TRA's advantage. Robinson said there is a need for speakers that have an inspirational message - religious or otherwise - and ones that make people laugh.
"The requests for humorous speakers are more abundant than ever," Robinson said.
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