June 16, 03

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Former educator organizes large corporate events

As a 25-year veteran of the education field, former Westport schools superintendent Judy Rovins understood the value of an organized presentation.

Today, she's taken that understanding into her Westport business, The Motivators — JK Rovins Associates L.L.C., a large event-planning business whose clients include NASA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Association Port of New York and New Jersey.

The retired educator, who also served at the educational helm for seven years in West Lafayette, Ind., did, however, have experience in organizing large events. For three years, while working in St. Louis, Rovins organized an area gathering of the San Francisco Bay Area Writing Project, working with more than a dozen area schools.

In 1990, shortly after retiring from the helm of the Westport school system, Rovins attended a conference in New Haven on government contracts and opportunities. But at the time, she had no plans to establish a consulting business.

"At the government conference, I asked several questions," Rovins said. "And at the break, someone from an office in New London came over to me and asked if I wanted to bid on a (conference) for the department of transportation."

She did, and ultimately won the bid for the conference at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. Her first conference job ultimately let to another.

Doing it better

"At the end of that conference, I had one new client (the Coast Guard) and a lead on another," Rovins said. The lead was for the NASA New England Business Outreach Center. Rovins hoped to be able to plan the organization's annual Technology and Business Conference, conducted each year in New England, New York or New Jersey.

The convention date arrived and Rovins attended to see what she thought she could do better.

"As a result of attending the annual NASA conference, I called the director and suggested some strategies, which I thought would improve the conference," Rovins said. "I did not get the job right away; it took me five more phone calls over the next year, but I have been working with them (since)."

Rovins also is a former chair of the Westport Chamber of Commerce. Her business skills in managing The Motivators have impressed the chamber's current president, Lois Schine.

"She created the business from the get-go," Schine said. "She's developed this business completely from scratch."

Bigger things

Rovins' also has been able to take her event-planning skills into the community as past president of the Westport Rotary Club. In March 1999, she teamed up with Bernice Korday, executive director of the local United Way, to plan the local Rotary's 75th anniversary event. Her work included fund raising and organizing the dinner attended by about 200 people.

Although Schine said Rovins did "very well" in planning the event, she added Rovins' work expanded far beyond the local spectrum. "She does bigger things than that, more global," Schine said.

In working with her clients, Rovins said, "Customer service and making it easy for them has to be the No. 1 priority.

"For example, at the 10th International Maritime Hall of Fame recognition dinner, the Journal of Commerce asked if they could create an eight-page insert recognizing the people being honored and a history of the event, which they did," Rovins said.

"But to make it easy for the persons who were being honored I (e-mailed) the resumes and had an editor review the material to fit the space we would need. I also e-mailed the photographs and helped with the layout of magazine edition. All that was done by computer."

Rovins said she typically works for three to six months with an organization planning a conference, which can include creating reports for the company and writing media releases. Members of the company's staff usually work alongside her, she said.

"I generate the audience for them," Rovins said. "The client gives me an overview of what is expected. People use part of their staff. This is how business evolves. I am able to use some of the staff to do research on databases to create needed information."

Rovins said she enjoys seeing individuals benefit from an informational conference she organized.

"It's exciting work," Rovins said. "And the people who speak on the (conference) program are stimulating, well-versed in their field and can make effective changes in the industry by what they say and the people they gather around them."

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