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Stay-at-home mom's profitable ticketing brokerage
Georgia native Amy Stephens is turning the region's passion for football into a profitable ticketing brokerage with her own business called Amy's Tickets. But she did not start out her business with football in mind.
"My husband and I held tickets to "The Producers" on Broadway just before 9/11," Stephens recently told TicketNews. "We ended up deciding not to go to the show and we sold our two tickets on eBay for a profit of $400. Obviously, that was exciting!"
The idea of having her own ticketing business ended up fitting her family's changing needs. "My husband and I had always planned for me to stay at home when we had kids. I was teaching sixth grade at the time and planned to tutor students to earn money. Five days after my daughter was born in August 2002, we took a gamble on Anaheim Angels 20 game packs with the option to buy the post-season. They went all the way to the World Series and Amy's Tickets was born, and I haven't looked back."
Operating from Stephens' home, the company has one other full-time and two part-time employees, all stay-at-home moms.
Being one of the few women in the secondary ticketing market has never stopped Stephens from realizing her dreams of success. She sees her status of the rare female as frequently working to her benefit: "I find that [being a woman] is an advantage in many ways when I'm doing big deals with the Masters and the Super Bowl. I think that a lot of times men do like to work with women because they think I'm going to tell it how it is, I won't be as slick."
Some decisions made early on in the company have helped to catapult Amy's Tickets to the multi-million dollar business it is today. Initially, Stephens protected her business in the best way she knew how; by putting every free dollar back into inventory. A specialization in college football, which is close to a religion in the South, resulted in significant profits.
In addition, a decision in 2007 to not diversify proved to be a lucrative move. "Rather than buying lots of inventory for lots of teams to diversify my risk," says Stephens, "we started buying a whole lot of inventory for teams and sports where the margins were highest. So, while some brokers might buy lots of season tickets to every SEC team, I was buying hundreds of season tickets to Mississippi State because the margins were so great."
In addition to collegiate football, Stephens lists tickets for a variety of other sports teams and events, including the Atlantas Braves, concerts from the likes of the Beach Boys and Alison Krauss, and numerous music festivals. Theater tickets are also for sale, with listings for Atlanta's Fabulous Fox Theatre as well as Broadway productions. Inventory stands between $400,000 and $600,000 at any given time, with close to $1 million in college football tickets at the start of each season.
Stephens' new hospitality program, Amy's VIP Events, is also starting to take off, with a primary focus on the Super Bowl and Augusta's Masters Tournament. To date, Stephens has sold hospitality packages to over 200 customers for this April 2012 Masters.
The broker prides herself on the level of integrity with which she operates. "When I buy Masters badges from people at an amount I agreed to weeks ago and the market has fallen 20 percent or more, people seem surprised that a broker would keep his/her word. This industry is often looked upon as shady, and I pride myself in making sure I am anything but that."
The recent faltering economy has affected Stephen's business like many others: "Margins have gone way down from 2006 and 2007, so I have to sell a lot more tickets to make the same amount." She currently views her business as wholesale, selling on Stubhub.com and to other brokers.
These financial obstacles have done nothing to block the success of Amy's Tickets, which has had $4.5 million in gross sales in each of the last two years. "I'm hopeful to do $5-$6 million this year," says Stephens, "as Masters sales went well early, as well as lots of concerts. I should finish the first quarter of 2012 with over $1.5 million in sales."