is turns 10

Happy 10 Years to Us!

A message from Keith Harwood on 10 years growing Inspire Speakers

Well that went by fast… Tuesday, 1 July 2014, I sat in my apartment – no website, no contacts, no clients, no database and no team. I had a phone and a laptop with an email address.

Starting Inspire Speakers had given me the best job in the world – recommending speakers and storytellers for Australia’s conferences and events, but the world’s best job had no salary!

The Early Days

The start is always the hardest isn’t it. It’s like that metaphor of getting an airplane off the ground – so much energy is required just to even start moving. It was hard to connect with people and get in front of clients. With no money in the bank to advertise or market – the only options were cold calling and networking and I hated cold calling.

My first booking was with Lego Australia for their annual conference – a referral from a good friend (thank you, Gerry Phelan). Our first speaker was Peter Baines – still one of the best out there. In those first few months I was introduced to a brand-new speaker, Samantha Gash who spoke at a Surf Club in Sydney to about 25 people, Sam now speaks all over the world!

One thing I invested in early on was a business coach; a legend by the name of Matt Malouf. It’s funny to think back about how raw I would have seemed to Matt. Matt and I had a call every week for 30 minutes and an in person catch up twice a year. Matt taught me how to focus my time; what to measure; how to hire, train and develop a team; manage my energy and how to market. He would push me to a point where it felt slightly outside my comfort zone. But most importantly, he believed in me, always listened and I appreciated him being there any time day or night.

Building Momentum

After a couple of years, I started to connect with clients and work on some great events. Momentum Media became a great client and allowed me to work closely with them on their awards nights and conferences – which I really appreciated. At this stage, I had now paid back the money I had borrowed from some friends and family and began feeling like I could do this – I even opened an office in Surry Hills, Sydney.

It’s funny, once I started feeling confident about the business for the first time that this could work, something came along and tested that. I’d become friendly with another Speakers agency in Melbourne and we decided to merge and become partners. Within 6 months the partnership had ended – but I had learnt a hell of a lot. It was a tough experience, but over the next 12 months we doubled in size and brought on our first team member. We were working with some great clients, speakers and growing fast. I was excited.


Fast forward to 10 March, 2020.. all of our bookings were cancelled. One by one we got a call or an email from a client with the sentence ‘’due to COVID, we unfortunately…’’, it was a scary time. I left the office, went home and drank wine. However, it was our reaction that I was most proud of.

Within 5 weeks we partnered with AV1 and produced the industry’s first virtual event. Held in AV1’s studio in Waterloo on 1 May, we shared 4 awesome speakers including Craig Foster, Julie Masters and Aaron Williams – and hosted by the legend that is, Shelly Horton. We had over 500 people tune in! So successful, we decided to do another one 6 weeks later – this time with only international speakers. The venue was the amazing Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney – the MC was Mr Andrew Klein – and the speakers included Urzila Carlson dialing in from New Zealand and Barbara Corcoran live from New York.

Two significant things happened during this challenging time. Firstly, our partnership with AV1 – they were and continue to be simply magnificent to work with. Secondly, my girlfriend Ashley (now wife and mother of our 2 beautiful boys) decided to join the business full time. From here on out, it was the two of us building Inspire!

Where we are Today

To say Ash has made an impact on the business is an understatement. Ash is super intelligent and obsessed with execution – so the right things got done. She also never held back in voicing her concern when she felt we could do better. Running a business with your partner certainly has it’s challenges, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

As a result, we grew and grew. Now we have an awesome team – industry legends Lisa Stone and Sharm Nahna are the best to work with – as is our new marketing guru Lindsey Potts.

We work with Australia’s leading conferences, events and household brands. And have formed some genuine friendships with our clients along the way. The speakers we represent are world class and make an impact on people’s lives – in particular, our good friend, Dom Price, who has donated over $500,000 from speaking engagements in the last couple of years.

So 10 years.. I feel grateful to do something every day that I absolutely love. It’s been tough, stressful, demanding and often non-stop – but it’s also been a dream come true.


THANK YOU to all our incredible clients and friends who have allowed us to help and support them over the years. We wouldn’t be here without you!

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