I recall my uncle one time telling me as we were sitting in a boat fishing, “Son, sometimes you just have to call them as you see them.” I honestly don’t recall what we were talking about and frankly, at the time, I don’t recall connecting with the true meaning of his words. But today they ring true… Sometimes you just have to call them as you see them.
Let me be clear to those who read… as an Ethics speaker and Fraud Prevention Expert, I often hear of circumstances – perhaps questionable in nature – and, from time to time, find it helpful to research further. Rarely do I find that I have personal experience with the firm or organization. In the case of Willow Mist and Brenda Keefer – unfortunately I do and it appears that I’m not the only one.
On November 6, 2008, I received an email from Brenda Keefer – apparent owner and operator of Willow Mist Professional Services welcoming me to her fold. Her initial pitch was that she (through her firm) offered speakers (Motivational speakers, etc.) direct marketing services thereby helping those she represents increase their bookings. For those services, speakers (such as myself) or perhaps (in retrospect) I should label myself as a “sucker” – would pay her a nominal fee up front and she would take us on as clients representing that she had limited clients (unlike traditional speakers bureaus).
Now, as a good ole boy from the South, recognizing that she was just over the NC border in Tennessee, I thought “surely she was straight up” and frankly, I thought to myself, “if I am scammed the amount won’t break me.”
Well…I WAS SCAMMED!
After the payment was received by Brenda Keefer – NOTHING HAPPENED. I mean I got no calls, no indication that I was being marketed, NOTHING. I followed up with several emails but (as one might expect) NO RESPONSE. In fact, I called and finally got Brenda on the phone. She seemed confused about who I was and our relationship (I guess that’s obvious as we had no relationship other than her taking my money). When confronted about my payment she said she’d have to look into it, at which time I provided her information about my canceled check.
LET’S BE CLEAR
I am not writing this because of my experience. To me that would be unfair and perhaps bring my ethics into question. Rather, let’s look at the facts and then perhaps the light of truth will shine brightly on Willow Mist and Brenda Keefer.
For those who follow my blog you certainly know that I have a sordid past. For those that don’t here it is in a simple clear format:
- In the mid ’80’s I was a CPA who (being really dumb) effected a Ponzi scheme
- In 1990 that fraud or scam that I created came crashing down and I lost everything
- In 1991 I made restitution to those I defrauded (not that that makes right my wrong – it does not)
- In 1995 I was sentenced to Federal Prison and on October 2, 1995 I took 23 steps in to Federal Prison
- Upon release I started life over and in 2006 was a Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing for a public company
- Today I am the Chief Operating Officer for a private national company and a professional public speaker sharing insight into ethical behavior and fraud prevention.
I feel that sharing my past helps those who read know who I am and where I am coming from. That said, when I talked with Brenda Keefer with Willow Mist I found out that she and I have something in common. We are both CONVICTED FELONS (nothing by the way that I’m proud of – but our past is our past).
When I shared my background with Brenda she was willing then to share her’s with me. According to her, I was an example of how someone with a “sorted past” can make different choices and turn their lives around. Frankly, I did agree. I think from that conversation I found a level of trust that now, in retrospect, was unfounded.
Some people learn nothing from past experiences and it would seem, in this case, that Brenda may be challenged with dealing with ghosts from the past in her present day dealings in business. And, that give all folks, who may have made bad past choices – a bad name.
BEYOND JUST ME…
But, as I said, this isn’t about me. Several weeks ago in the email blast – SpeakerNetNews I spotted something submitted from another speaker – asking about Brenda Keefer and Willow Mist Professional Services. Since it had been almost two year, frankly I had put Brenda and Willow Mist out of my mind. But the question jogged my memory and brought me back to my experience with Willow Mist. I emailed and asked what the issue(s) were and was told that it related to payments not paid from Willow Mist to speakers and payments to Willow Mist for services not delivered. More importantly, I was told that the response from the inquiry regarding Brenda Keefer and Willow Mist was somewhat overwhelming.
SO HERE’S THE QUESTION:
Is the operation of Willow Mist Professional Services with Brenda Keefer at the helm a SCAM? Is it that Brenda is INCAPABLE of providing what she promises? Have lessons from past unethical and illegal actions been learned or is this nothing more than a repeat of past prior performances?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I do know is this – if one takes money from another and promises to perform services and then fails to perform – even in the face of repeated questions and requests for performance – there is a good chance that doing business with such a firm is not only UNWISE, but from outward appearances it would appear that UNETHICAL ACTIONS or a SCAM is being perpetrated.
As a final note, it appears that Brenda Keefer worked for ISN Works doing essentially the same service for them before setting up here own business in the same town. From what I understand, she is not connected with ISN Works and perhaps her departure uncovered similar actions (unethical) that has left ISN Works with a mess to clean up.
P.S. Here’s a link that just adds fuel to the fire. http://burnedbyisn.blogspot.com/2009/07/this-time-its-brenda-keefer-and-willow.html