Tom Ingrassia Productions and Artist Management was founded in Holden, MA in September 2001.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Through Tom Ingrassia Productions, I offer motivational lecture and workshop programs—"Making A Difference Begins with YOU…So Live Into Your Dreams!"—which deals with how to achieve your dreams and goals; and the pop culture lecture programs, "Motown and the Civil Rights Movement," and "Girl Power: The Supremes as Cultural Icons." Ingrassia Artist Management represents a roster of 15 eclectic performers, including classical and jazz musicians, and cabaret performers.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Previously, I had spent 25 years working in higher education administration. I left a position as assistant dean at a university business school to start my businesses.
How did you come up with your business idea?
When I was 11 years old, I fell in love with show business—and I KNEW that's what I wanted to do. Only thing is, I was told I didn't have any talent. So I put that dream on a shelf in the back of the closet for many years. I mean, "normal" people don't leave a "normal" life for show business, do they? However, in 1972, while I was in college, I met and interviewed Mary Wilson, of The Supremes, for an article I was writing. She became my mentor—and in 2001, she invited me to work with her and to manage a business with her. That was all the encouragement I needed! From there, I started working with other performers. And then, my former colleagues in higher education encouraged me to get on the lecture circuit to tell others how to make their dreams come true. And I have never looked back!
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …?Would you suggest others do the same?
I have a top notch accountant & financial planner, who has been invaluable for financial and tax advice. I also have a great webmaster (North Forty Road) to take care of my websites. And I am currently working with a business communication specialist to help me sharpen and focus my message.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, yes—I run my businesses from a home office in tiny Holden, MA (a suburb of Worcester). I LOVE the flexibility of working from home—although it does require motivation and focus. There is always the pull of working out in the garden, etc.! But, I find that I work MUCH harder for myself than I ever did for anyone else. I also get to travel a lot—which is perfect for me—I am convinced that I was a gypsy in a previous life!
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
I would say that the bulk of my business comes through referral sources and social networking. I do advertise in professional journals, and I do have a heavy focus on public relations and promotion. But, most of the gigs I book for my artists—and the lecture programs I book for myself—come about through social networks and personal referrals. I belong to Business network International (BNI)—which is a great source of business for me!
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I went into this with my eyes wide open. I know the risks. I know full well that this could all disappear in an instant. But, I didn't want to look back in 20 years and say, "what if?" It has been hard work. There were financial sacrifices in the beginning. But the rewards have made every minute of it an adventure! I have been given a gift—not everyone is able to truly say, "I am living my dream life," and for that I am truly grateful. So, how has it been different? It has been MUCH more rewarding—and I have been MUCH more successful—than I ever imagined! I spent much of my life feeling that I was no one special, and that I didn't have anything much to offer. Today, however, I realize that sometimes even the most ordinary people can do extraordinary things—that is the core message of my motivational programs. If I have an impact on even one person's life, than I have changed the world.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
If this is truly your passion, GO FOR IT!! Living life successfully requires great risk and courage. You have to be willing to seize opportunities as they are presented to you—even if they don't seem perfect at the time. If you believe in yourself and your own self-worth, you WILL achieve your dreams!
That is an inspirational story! Thank you for sharing it with us, Tom.