New Business

Boise ex-professor starts business as speaking coach

adutton@idahostatesman.comJune 4, 2013 

Nancy Buffington.JPG
  • Type of business: LLC

    Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and by appointment

    Phone: 871-7245


    Startup costs: $1,000 for publicity, technology and research

    Projected first-year revenue: $25,000

    Prices: About $100 per hour. I also work on retainer for $400 to $600 per month, depending on contract length. Workshop fees vary according to length and other factors.

    Discounts: I offer a 15 percent discount on all services for nonprofits and clients of the Idaho Women's Business Center.

    Special services include: A "mini-coaching day," which is offered by employers to help employees with public-speaking issues.

Nancy Buffington discovered a new passion after working as an English professor for more than 20 years.

Buffington's teaching career had taken her to the University of Arizona, Youngstown State University, the University of Delaware and Stanford University.

By 2010, her family was "suffering from an acute work-life imbalance," she says. But she'd lived in Boise as a teenager - Boise High class of 1986 - and fondly remembered the city of trees. When her husband landed "the perfect job" at Boise State University, where he now directs the writing center, "we jumped at the chance," she says.

She got a taste of her new career at Stanford, where the writing program required students to take a class that focused on public speaking.

"I found it so rewarding to help students get over sometimes crippling anxiety and learn to present themselves as confident professionals," she says. "I felt this made a bigger difference in their lives than anything else I could offer," so she arrived in Boise ready to switch careers.

Buffington opened Boise SpeakWell as a home-based business in 2011. She went full-time in January. The overhead was low - she has no employees - so she's already making a profit.

As far as she knows, she's the only woman in Boise who works exclusively as a public speaking coach.

Q: What exactly does your business do?

A: I offer coaching on a wide range of issues related to public speaking and communication. Common issues I address include anxiety, body language, messaging, speech writing and editing, and presenting effectively with PowerPoint. Most importantly, I help clients find ways to feel happy, authentic, focused and powerful when they communicate with others.

I work with individuals and groups, both face-to-face and over Skype and other remote devices. Individual clients work with me privately, at their own pace and convenience, on issues and presentations unique to them. I customize workshops and classes to the needs of each group, but all sessions are engaging and interactive. I also do speaking engagements.

Q: How did you accomplish this goal?

A: I taught English as an adjunct at Boise State for a couple of years as I learned business skills and developed my business on the side. Attending lots of networking events, presenting at conferences and expos, and getting training from the Idaho Women's Business Center helped me earn enough clients to quit teaching and begin coaching full-time.

Q: What challenges have you faced, and how have you met them?

A: I have a Ph.D., but I never took a single business class. I've had to learn about accounting and budgeting, sales and marketing. Getting over the psychological discomfort over "selling myself" has been as hard as learning the skills themselves, so it's been a combination of having stern talks with myself and seeking out local experts and mentors. I've come a long way. I now have a business plan, a revenue plan, an accountant and a Web designer.

Q: What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?

A: I'd like to keep growing steadily - helping more clients in a wider range of professions. I have a children's story about public speaking I hope to publish later this year, and I'm sure there's a book for adults in me too.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448

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