Motivational Speakers Beware! Willow Mist, Brenda Keefer, International Speakers Network and the great speaker Scam

I guess there are times when, in the writing of a blog, you hit a nerve.  Yesterday, after much research, I wrote a blog about Willow Mist Professional Services in TN and Brenda Keefer – the company’s owner (at least that’s what I’ve been told).  The response has been overwhelming.  It seems that Miss Brenda has been active and the reports from speakers internationally has been – well – let’s put it this way…there’s screaming and gnashing of teeth over how Motivational Speakers have been scammed.

The article yesterday is here.

Sometimes our past and our experience create the path for a future that is outstanding.  As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, I am keenly aware of the choices we make and the consequences that follow.  In the case of Brenda Keefer and Willow Mist Professional Services – there are far too many speakers who are now coming out of the woodwork stating that they, too, have been scammed to ignore the problem.

Every choice has a consequence.  Based on what I see and hear from my experience and the experience of others, it would be worth investigating thoroughly whether the services offered by Brenda Keefer and Willow Mist are valuable or just a way to scam unsuspecting folks out of money.

BEYOND WILLOW MIST -

The brush stroke of fraud and deception seems to be pervasive in Sevierville, TN.  Not only is Willow Mist Professional Services located there, but another “speakers bureau” or “speaker services” company is there too.  Their name:  Internation Speakers Network or ISN Works – a division of The Innovators Group, Inc.

I received an unsolicited email from them with a CALL FOR SPEAKERS.  I was about to trash it or mark it as spam when it caught my eye that they were located in Sevierville, TN.  I thought it strange that two companies that “market” speakers would be located in that small town.  My first thought was that it was Willow Mist or Brenda Keefer repackaged.  However, after calling ISNWorks and talking to their representative, I found that they were quick to point out that they once were the employer of Brenda Keefer, but that she had been let go for “unethical business practices”.  Soon after the Brenda Keefer discussion the conversation returned to what they could offer me as a speaker.

Now…as I wrote the blog about Willow Mist and Brenda, I find that ISN doesn’t have the best reputation either.  Below is a link to the Complaints Board and comments related to ISN:

http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/international-speakers-network-c207754.html

The starting comments states:

The International Speakers Network convinces you they can help speakers market their speaking services, and charges a lot of money to develop mailings, sell sheets, and other marketing materials. But they don’t actually perform any of the marketing services speakers pay them for. yes, they will print materials, but they take a lot of money to distribute those materials which are never distributed. They have several names like ISN, Book a Speaker. net, Innovators Group and others. Learn more about them at http://burnedbyisn.blogspot.com/ You’ll see that they have a horrible track record with the Better Business Bureau, too.

While not all of the comments related to ISN were bad – there were certainly enough there to cause one to wonder what’s in the water there in Sevierville that causes two firms, both doing the same thing, to have such poor reputations.  Buyer beware.

If you have had an experience with Willow Mist and/or Brenda Keefer or ISN Works – how about doing us a favor and submitting a comment.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.

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12 Responses to Motivational Speakers Beware! Willow Mist, Brenda Keefer, International Speakers Network and the great speaker Scam

  1. I’ve had bad experiences with both of these firms, and written extensively about them on LinkedIn. For details, call me toll-free at 800-247-9145.

  2. Dr. Don Deems says:

    I, too, fell into the trap of Brenda Keefer. I have since contacted PayPal and my credit card company to intervene and receive a credit. I made numerous phone calls and emails, none of which were returned. She is a scam artist, and she is quite good at it. Stay away from her and the folks at ISN. ISN did produce a book for me, but it was lengthy and they were extremely difficult and ugly to deal with. I wish there had been a way for me to know what I was getting into!

  3. dwight bain says:

    Chuck and others, I too fell for a ‘sounds too good to be true’ offer for a Willow Mist marketing program to create poscards and other direct mail outreach for motivational speaking… and it was a scam.

    No work, only the removal of $$$ from my account to Willow Mist… I didn’t do my research with a very clever salesperson named Brenda and now have received a $200 lesson that I needed… if it sounds too good to be true… it is.

    Wishing I had read your research first, and hoping that others will choose to not be so gullible in trusting a stranger from Tennessee. (Near where I was born which was part of the scam).

  4. kayaks says:

    kayaks…

    Motivational Speakers Beware! Willow Mist, Brenda Keefer, International Speakers Network and the great speaker Scam « Motivational Speaker – Chuck Gallagher Business Ethics and Choices Expert…

  5. gold plated banana plugs…

    Motivational Speakers Beware! Willow Mist, Brenda Keefer, International Speakers Network and the great speaker Scam « Motivational Speaker – Chuck Gallagher Business Ethics and Choices Expert…

  6. Jules says:

    Thanks guys, you all just saved me a lot of money.

    Julia
    Vancouver

  7. Brenda used to work for ISN and Insight Publishing. She was at the bottom of problems here. It has taken years to recover from the damage she has caused the company . . . and we’re still not out of the woods.

    It is truly regrettable that we have had to carry the burden of a bad apple in the bunch when the rest of us have worked hard to make what is offered here of value to our clients.

  8. Jonah says:

    Brenda is still at it…she did absolutely nothing she promised to do. She then tried to charge my credit card $250 a month without my permission. My credit card company was able to credit my account.

  9. Amber - Nevada says:

    I received the following email from Brenda Keefer at Willow Mist Pro a few days ago. The email came a few days after I joined eSpeakers and WSA.

    I spent 45 minutes on the phone with her and was nano seconds away from paying for her services. She asked me to wire the funds because her shopping cart was down.

    No money lost, but I’m shocked and disturbed by this whole thing.

    “We are entering that time of year when many associations, corporations, direct sales groups, MLM’s, schools, franchises, meeting planners, etc. begin planning for 2012.

    This past year has shown a huge increase in bookings over the past three years for our firm. We are very excited about this trend and are looking for speakers, trainers, coaches and consultants who are looking for someone to market them in 2012.

    We have designed a new campaign that is a combination of emails, mailings and cold calls that is geared toward getting our speakers maximum bookings. One of the biggest obstacles speakers face is having the time or inclination to do their marketing. When you market yourself successfully, you are on the road too much to continue marketing for future events. That’s where we come in.

    Our program is very proactive. We are diligently working in the background to continue your marketing for new opportunities while you are out speaking. We handle the negotiations and the contracts so you can be free to travel and speak. Do you have back-of-the-room products to sale? We assist with that as well. We provide feedback from the meeting planners on your websites, your materials and your topics.

    We offer our new program in a 6 month or 12 month format. I would love an opportunity to learn more about what you do and discuss our services to see if they are a good fit for you. We are NOT a bureau. We are a hands-on booking agent that is actively seeking opportunities on YOUR behalf throughout your marketing program. We are looking for 4 people to fill vacant slots left in this program. If you would like information on participating, please call us at 865-465-7290 for more details. I look forward to speaking with you.

    Sincerely,

    Brenda Keefer
    Willow Mist Professional Services
    PO Box 1148
    Kodak, TN 37764
    http://www.willowmistpro.com
    (865) 465-7290″

  10. coachaustin says:

    Amber,
    Your experience sounds remarkably similar to mine…lovely introductory e-mail, nice phone conversation and a smoothly presented offer to put me into her top shelf speakers group for a mere $100. I assumed that she was offering a low fee for entry because of the upside of commissions once engagements were booked. Silly me. I’m generally pretty cautious and skeptical, but she did sound like she knew what she was doing, and she answered my initial questions to my satisfaction.

    After I paid her the money for inclusion in her roster of speakers, I hesitated to do anything further (such as monthly calling or post card campaigns) until I’d had a chance to see what of her initial promises she would keep. Good decision on my part that served to limit my losses. She did absolutely nothing for me. Moreover, she did not take or return my phone calls, and she didn’t respond to e-mails. Once or twice I got a list of speaking opportunities (which I now suspect she just pulled off of some Internet site) that she wanted me to evaluate my fit for.

    Nothing ever came of my involvement with her, and because it’s been bugging me for quite some time I decided to do a bit more research. What an explosion of bad press I found! I just hope her scam will be brought down and that she will face consequences for her fraudulent behavior.

  11. Roy Jones says:

    On Feb 28, 2011, I submitted a signed contract to ISN Works/Innovators Group, in Sevierville, TN to be included in the anthology book, Leadership: Helping Others To Succeed. Shortly thereafter I paid the required funds and we began the process of collaboration.

    I was asked for my manuscript several times. Each time I supplied it I got an email later saying I had not submitted it. Then each time I provided them with another copy. Three times to Jeanne Baach and twice to Chris Ott, via email.

    After several email contacts with Insight Publishing, as of Jul 22 2013, I have no books!

    The various people I have spoken with or emailed about this project include Jamie Boyle, Chris Ott, Tracy Dalton, Alicia Bailey, Dona Merritt, and Jeanne Baach. The most recent email I sent was 10 weeks ago to Jeanne who said she would forward my request to Chris Ott. As of this moment, nothing ever came from Chris.

    I spoke with David Wright, the CEO, (He accidentally picked up the phone and took my call) in early October 2013. I told him my issues, he told me he would fact check my concerns with Jeanne Baach and call me back when she returned from NY. I have since called his office 5 times and was shunted to voice mail each time… NEVER a call back from him or anyone else.

    In checking on Amazon I find that the earliest publication date of the book is Dec 14, 2011,Which was before I ever signed a contract. It was again published on Apr 16, 2012, again on May 23, 2012, along with two other versions that show only 2011 as the publication date. It appears that since they printed the books BEFORE I signed a contract and sent money, that they NEVER intended to publish the books that should have included my chapter. From My vantage point this was an attempt to take money under false pretenses. They have effectively stolen $1144 from us.

    The page counts inside of the paperback versions listed on Amazon vary from 228 to 232, to 250.

    My funds have been tied up for two years and nine months and I still have nothing to sell.

    Speakers BEWARE!

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