By Joseph T. O’Connor ExploreBigSky.com Editor
SAN FRANCISCO – When Yellowstone Club ski ambassador and extreme skiing pioneer Scot Schmidt came up with the idea for Go with a Pro, he didn’t expect it to morph into a help center for tweeting, or for pregnant mothers seeking advice.
But over a fundraising dinner at a New York City gala in 2006, he met Ian Shea, and Schmidt’s idea to match professional athletes with their fans began to change.
“I was impressed with Ian,” said Schmidt, who at the time was looking for financial backing for Go with a Pro. “He was young and ambitious and really excited about the concept.”
Backed now by Schmidt as a consultant, Shea’s been the composer behind Maestro Market for three years, conducting an orchestra of experts or maestros, from all walks of life. More than 1,200 such experts now work through Maestro Market, teaching people about nearly everything.
The San Francisco-based company provides opportunity to both those looking for advice, and those looking to give it. Visiting the website opens a virtual classroom door. You can talk to 16 experts in the “Finance” section, about wealth management or writing business plans, or how to survive a divorce financially.
There are 34 “Parenting” experts, supplying knowledge about breastfeeding, “cooking stuff your kid eats,” and helping your child through a sleeping transition.
The experts set their own prices, ranging from free to negotiable to $2,500.
“Maestro Market holds the money in escrow until services are rendered,” Shea said. “Once that’s complete, we pay maestros 80 percent and we take 20.”
Shea talks like an auctioneer – fast, with indistinguishable sentence breaks. And he’s a businessman. He earned finance and entrepreneurship MBAs at Columbia University and the University of California – Berkeley, respectfully. But he recently wanted to learn about different social media outlets, so he took a lesson from Becky Robinson through his own enterprise.
“I am a tech CEO, and I didn’t know the first thing about Twitter,” said Shea, who paid Robinson as a maestro so he could test his product. “I wanted to know how to use it effectively and to do it in a way that would make me feel comfortable.”
Robinson, a writer and professional blogger from Toledo, Ohio, is an author’s source for a social media consultant. She’s written books about expanding one’s online presence and “31 Days of Twitter Tips,” and is the CEO of Weaving Influence, her company that’s focused on connecting authors to online audiences.
A friend invited her to be a maestro, and so far it’s worked out.
“It allows me to help people and do what I like to do,” Robinson said. “When I got off the phone with Ian I thought, “I get paid to do this?”
The two talked for about an hour. They shared a screen and did some hands-on tweeting before the master tweeter showed Shea how to use third party applications such as Hootsuite and Seesmic.
She then showed him the proper way to apply hashtags to tweets, something Shea didn’t ask for directly, but needed to learn.
“You have to listen to what people are talking about to help,” Robinson said. “People often don’t know what they don’t know.”
Shea admits people can learn through their own research, but it’s no match for his company. He now feels he has a grasp on tweeting and all things Twitter. And it only cost him $80.
Maestro Market had an official public launch in December, and is showing signs of success, Shea says.
“We’ve achieved a tremendous amount over the last two years. We’re finding traction in the media and are building our brand.”
Shea points to two reasons for the success of his company. “People value interaction with [those] of notoriety, and the [web] access is impactful,” he said. “There was just no mechanism to make that happen.”
Scot Schmidt, who now works with Shea as a consultant and ambassador or “evangelist” for Maestro Market, thinks the company’s CEO has mastered something of his own.
“Ian doesn’t have any real competition,” Schmidt said. “There’s a lot of people out there who want to offer services and lots who want services but don’t know how to find them. I think there’s a need for [Maestro]. It’s ahead of the curve.”
Want to write your family’s theme song? Or learn to cook a fancy French meal? Or maybe your social media skills are subpar. There is an expert on Maestro Market to help you master nearly any skill you can think of, and many you can’t.
For more information, visit maestromarket.com.