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Saideh Browne, 38
New York, New York
Business: Impact Speakers Bureau (impactspeakersbureau.org), inspirational lecturers network, launched March 2006
Investment: $200 for marketing materials
2009 earnings: $87,000
When her hotel sales manager position became too demanding, Saideh left her job. She broke the news to husband Charles and sons Daqaan, 20, and Myles, 16. Then, she says, "My survival instinct kicked in, and I started brainstorming ways to make money."
Launch time: Saideh was already known for her inspiring speeches to young people at her church and other congregations. She'd been doing it for free but started charging whatever hosts could afford. When one paid $1,000, Saideh saw opportunity. "I realized I could make it work financially," she says. She quickly checked out other speakers' Web sites to see fees, hot topics, and who was hiring. Noticing that people often got repeat business from annual university events, she targeted colleges and specialized in leadership and diversity, subjects close to her heart and in high demand. She networked at college fairs and followed up by e-mailing all contacts. "Doors opened," she says. She now coaches new speakers for $45 per hour and runs an agency that books others for a 20 percent commission.
Payoffs: When the economy soured, Saideh started selling her motivational books. She connects with new people on Facebook every day and lets them know she's looking for engagements. She also publicizes colleagues' events. "You'll find that when you help others, they'll want to help you too," she says. Saideh increased her income by $26,000 in 2009, and expects to earn $250,000 this year. Plus, she says, "Every day, I get to do what I love."