When folks hire Mark Black, they are hiring a talented speaker who entertains and empowers the audience while helping them to overcome their own obstacles and realize their full potential.
(article continues below)
Mark competes in a competitive market, the market for professional speakers. We wanted to hear his story about how he started his speaking career and what he's learned along the way.
Tell me about your business, Mark. What are you doing exactly?
I'm an Inspirational Speaker, Author and Life-Coach. I spend most of my time delivering keynote presentations to corporations, schools and at conferences across North America.
Where is your business located?
I am based in Moncton, NB Canada.
When did you start the business?
The business started in 2004 after a few years of speaking informally and for free.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Before starting a speaking business, I was training to become a teacher. I then became seriously ill and had to stop my education. I underwent a life-saving Heart &Double-Lung transplant in 2002 and have been speaking ever since.
This was my first real business. I went in knowing VERY LITTLE about business and am still learning every day. I hope people reading this will realize from my story that you CAN learn as you go. Just be prepared to make LOTS OF MISTAKES!
Where did you get the startup money?
There really wasn't any need for start-up money in this business. I needed a few hundred dollars to get a website and some business cards, but that was about it. I pulled it from my savings.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
My main competitors are the thousands of other speakers out there who also give great presentations.
I compete by differentiation. I offer something most others can't; a dramatic life-experience to back up the motivational lessons I share. This gives me credibility that others have to work harder to get. I've learned in my business, like in others, that credibility with customers should be your #1 Priority.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I expected that I could "hang out a shingle" and people would come to me. I didn't anticipate that a large percentage of the time I spend in my speaking business isn't speaking or writing, it's promoting, advertising and marketing.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I hadn't spent so much money on flyers, pamphlets and business cards before I had any clients.
What I should have been doing was doing free speeches and otherwise taking advantage of free opportunities to speak and promote my business.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Speaking for free in places where I have an audience full of people who may one day hire me. Exposure to your target market it key!!! If you can get while providing value and/or demonstrating what you offer, all the better.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Speak a lot. Speak for free. Work on your material and on getting any free exposure you can! It's a great business, but it's a tough and competitive one. Be on top of your game all the time. You never know when that big breakthrough will come!
That's great advice for anybody who wants to make a living by giving speeches, and what a great way to help people too. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business.