NXT: What does See Agency do?
See Agency has the exclusive representation of 31 elite speakers. We facilitate booking this talent for corporate events, sales events, corporate meetings, leadership training, and anything of the sort. So companies come directly to us to book speakers for their events, rather than approach a speaker bureau.
NXT: Who approaches you for these speaking engagements?
I can easily say we are approached from every level of the planning pyramid. From CEOs of companies to the assistant of the assistant of the assistant – we connect with all kinds of planners. From large speaking bureaus to production companies, we have worked with all of them.
NXT: When did you start, and what prompted you to become an entrepreneur?
I started See Agency in 2009, after 12 years of experience working in the talent-booking industry. It was a great idea and at the right time. It came to me a bit like a lightning bolt but I had the horsepower to run a business, and surrounded myself with the right people.
NXT: What gap are you filling in the industry?
The events industry is a multi billion-dollar industry, and there can be a lot of distrust. The pioneers of this industry have been around for a long time, such as the Washington Speakers Bureau where their roster will include White House politicians and world leaders.
Traditionally, meeting planners would have to approach these speaker bureaus to inquire about speaker recommendations, or ask to be connected to the agents representing certain speakers. As you can see, it can be quite a complicated process.
Where we come in is that bureaus and planners come directly to us, because we are the ‘gatekeepers’ to these great speakers!
NXT: How did you grow at the very beginning?
Working 12 years prior to starting my own business was very helpful, because I already had solid relationships. It was important for me to gain mentorship and network with more senior-level people so they could give me feedback on my idea. I had something different to offer, so they were willing to listen.
I used a lot of social media, mostly Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This was an easy way for me to get the word out, and it didn’t cost me money. I used MailChimp to produce free newsletters and distributed them across my social channels. I still use it today, because it has helped build that informal, conversational tone that See Agency is known for.
NXT: Where are you now, in 2017?
Our business continues to increase steadily each year, and a vital ingredient to securing events is our relationships with bureau friends and speakers. In 2017, we are looking at approximately $10 million in revenue, tripling our size since the 2015 Inc5000 revenue.
This growth rate has been driven by adding more speakers, compounded by an annual growth of ~10% in bookings for each speaker.
NXT: What makes you and your speakers stand out?
One thing we’re not afraid of is being ourselves and being human. I still use tools like MailChimp because it’s conversational and fun, and avoids corporate eyewash. We were the first ones to cut through the noise, bringing a more human element to this industry.
I would say our roster today is full of team players, who are all committed to the success of See Agency. This commitment has allowed both us and them to boom, and I’m confident there’s more ‘booming’ in our future.
NXT: Now that you’re an Inc5000 company, what’s next for See Agency?
We will continue to apply to be on the Inc5000 list, as this keeps us motivated and committed to the success of See Agency! Internally, because we grew so quickly, there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of infrastructure.
Things are crazy busy (the good kind of crazy), but I think it’s easy to forget that you need to keep your machine well oiled before gearing up.
Another thing that we’re working on is getting more celebrity-level speakers on our roster. It’s an exciting move and it will definitely propel our business in the right direction.
NXT: What’s it like working with celebrity-level speakers? Is it a different ball game?
Speakers are speakers. They are a bit like snowflakes in that they are each unique. Celebrity-level speakers simply come with their own set of expectations and challenges. It’s not a completely different ball game… it’s more like it requires a different way of playing the game.
NXT: What do you think is the next step for this industry?
We as an industry are moving towards collaborations between agencies. I think the fact that we’re reinventing the wheel on everything is a little nuts! Instead, we can go “faster, together” by doing things with other people. I want to be connected with other people, so that we can all trust one another. That’s the future of the industry!
NXT: For new business owners that are just starting out, what advice do you have for them?
Keep your branding very consistent. When I started out with zero capital, my company may have looked like a “big-boy” company from the outside, but it was the opposite on the inside. Whatever I did, I pushed it out professionally, and that’s what’s going to make you stick in clients’ minds. Also, keep in touch with everybody! Relationships go a long way.
A huge thanks to Christa Haberstock, the President and Founder of See Agency for her insights. Her incredible career achievements include being a professional speaker herself, an accomplished Recording Artist and Actor, an Improvisor and Actor that co-founded Heroine Addiction, Dallas’ premiere all-female improve comedy troupe. Girl Boss! http://seeagency.com/