Bianca Thrasher-Starobin, President and CEO of 23 Consulting, is a consultant and lobbyist with experience in financial markets, investment management, electoral and legislative political activities, relationship management, and business turnarounds.
Her Background Includes:
- Member, Georgia Professional Lobbyists Association
- Former Virginia Beach’s Junior Miss
- BA in Political Science, with a minor in German, from Spelman College
- Formerly held Series 6,7,31 and 66 securities licenses
- Forbes Women Forum Member, a global forum dedicated to connecting women leaders around the world committed to advancing and supporting women’s leadership
- Member of National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council. NSBA is the nation’s oldest small business advocacy group working to promote the interests of small businesses to policymakers in Washington, D.C.
- Member of Southern Economic Development Council, a professional economic development organization spanning the American South
- Consultant and operations manager for an Atlanta business with stagnated revenues. In this role, she instituted goal-setting and measurement practices, managed inventory, recruited new hires, made and executed personnel decisions, implemented a business operating system (Retail Data Systems) and created initiatives to reach a new client demographic. As a result, their business revenues increased by 40% within 5 months
- Chief of Staff for a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. She nurtured bi-partisan relationships and acted as the primary relationship manager between the legislator and constituents. Led an outreach effort to increase the legislator’s visibility among residents, small businesses and local leader within the district
- Registered Investment Advisor at Morgan Stanley. One of only two women on a team of 40 and not only secured new clients but also managed multi-million dollar personal and corporate accounts. These accounts included German corporate 401Ks, professional athletes, Usher’s New Look (an Atlanta-based nonprofit), Jane Fonda’s
- Georgia Campaign for Awareness and Pregnancy Prevention (GCAPP), and Atlanta –area law firms and medical offices. She also performed targeted hedging, financial modeling, financial analysis, and risk tolerance assessment to advise high net worth and corporate clients on best option investment strategies
- Financial Advisor with New York Life Insurance, where she identified prospective and current clients requiring investment guidance and recommended investment solutions
- Financial Marketing Representative with John Hancock Insurance
- Member of the Small Business Advisory Committee of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce
- Advisory Board of Directors for Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Project
- Former member of the Board of Directors of the United Nation’s Atlanta Association Chapter, Georgia Family Court Reform and of the Atlanta Urban League of Young Professionals
- Selected to participate in the Georgia Women in Numbers List Leadership Academy
- Served as Emory University’s Global Health & Humanitarian Summit Financial Chair
- Community leader and advocate, supporting women and children. Volunteered with the YWCA Cobb County Temporary Protective Order Office, protecting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and represented child victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect as a Fulton County Court Appointed Special Advocate.
- Member of RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) Speakers Bureau
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business, and this is going to be a good one. Today, we have with us Bianca Thrasher-Starobin with 23 Consulting. Welcome, Bianca.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:00:30] Thank you so much for having me, Lee. I’m so excited to be here with you.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:35] Well, before we get too far into things, tell us about 23 Consulting. Tell us about that firm, who you serve, and what are you up to.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:00:43] Absolutely. So, 23 Consulting, we are a full service lobbying and business strategy business development and government relations firm. And we specialize in business turnarounds and relationship management. We’re also focused on environmental sustainability. And we are based out of Atlanta. We’ve operated throughout the southeastern region of the United States. But we’ve also got some international relations going on, in Monaco, we’ve done some work in Italy, and then also in France. And I speak German, so we’re looking forward to doing some fun stuff in Germany.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:22] So, how’d you get into this line of work? Is this how your career has always gone?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:01:27] Oh, my goodness. Wow. I think that’s a great question. So, I was a pol sci major, winner winner chicken dinner. And I actually started interning at the Capitol before interning was a thing and people knew about it. That was right around when I was 19. I’m 41 years old now. And I think when you’re that young and kind of being thrown into that environment, which is an amazingly exciting environment with many different avenues, you’re either going to run terrified screaming away from it or you’re going to become really strong and amazing and learn to navigate that territory. So, first I ran and then I came back.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:02:10] But politics has always been amazing and fascinating to me. When I interned, I interned for a lobbyist. And so, I always kept those relationships and went into finance in Morgan Stanley, did some traveling and some partying and all of that good stuff. And then, lo and behold, came back to be chief of staff for a legislator. And so, as you continue to nurture those relationships, that’s what those environments are all about. Then, people slowly start to come to you for business advice and different opportunities. And then, finally, you work up the nerve to realize that you could actually make money doing these things. And one thing leads to another and then we have a 23 Consulting lobbying and business development firm.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:52] Now, for those who maybe they watch TV and they think they know what a lobbyist is, but why don’t you explain to folks what a lobbyist is and does in kind of more practical terms rather than these romanticized ways that, maybe, the media portrays it?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:03:10] I would love to. So, when people ask me what I do, I keep it in layman’s terms because it is what it is, I go get stuff. So, I come by with a little bit of commonsense with relationships. Because you don’t just get to walk into the Capitol or into a political environment and say, “Yes. I’m going to be a lobbyist today.” It’s all about people getting to know who you are. And for myself, like, I am bipartisan. You got to work across both lines and not necessarily alienate yourself. I guess you see things turn, especially in Georgia today. And so, myself, personally, I vote based on the individual. I am not one party line. And that’s what a lobbyist does.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:03:56] Like, let’s say you’re a company, hypothetically. Often times, myself, on Uber, so when I’m explaining that to the Uber driver, I say, “Let’s say you are CEO of Uber. While you’re busy doing CEO stuff all day, you’ve got your business development, you’ve got to deal with your staffing stuff. You are the executive. You’ve got a lot going on. And so, it’s a great thing to be able to have someone who has eyes on the legislative components that might affect your business. And so, rather than trying to keep up with all of that stuff on your own, you hire someone to be able to do that for you.” Like, for example, what we saw going on in California with regard to whether or not they’re going to be employees or if they’re going to be classified as independent contractors.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:04:44] So, a lobbyist has not only familiarity with the folks that are going to be making those rules or going against those rules, but also they understand how things work behind the scenes. And so, they are able to report to things that are going on and basically have a better, more stronger impact than CEO person that’s just going to go and make some random phone call, but doesn’t necessarily know how things are moving behind the scenes. So, that is what a lobbyist does. They go and they get stuff. They protect the interests of their clients and they raise awareness for potential opportunities to raise revenue because, businesses, they do exist in order to raise revenue.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:30] Now, from a business standpoint, most businesses I would imagine from a numerical standpoint in sheer numbers, most people don’t engage a lobbyist, but they might benefit from some of the lobbyist’s work based on some of the associations maybe they’re part of. How would a business know they are the right type of business or right kind of business that would benefit from somebody having a lobbyist background?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:05:56] You know, I say any business who would benefit from having – I mean, yeah, there are fees associated with it. Like you mentioned before, there are associations, but any business, any industry, would benefit from knowing how legislation is going to impact their business down the road or to be able to identify market trends. And so, joining associations is one way to navigate that territory. I apologize, some call is just coming in. But then, also, just going and having a conversation with a lobbyist. And you can Google them. I mean, myself, I’m 678-640-6819, you can give me a call on my cell phone. I work all hours of the day.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:06:43] But, also, just like when I was in finance and I was at Morgan Stanley, which is more of a boutique firm where they’re mainly focusing on high net worth, I always liked having the opportunity to be able to reach out to folks that might not necessarily have had those assets in other ways. So, for me, it’s a blessing to be able to open doors wherever I can and have conversations. Like, even if someone might not necessarily be able to financially obtain a lobbyist, just to be able to have some kind of awareness and have a conversation with them, that’s always going to be beneficial, especially a person like myself because I’m just going to give it to you straight.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:26] Now, in terms of your own consulting firm, I would imagine, because lobbying, I would imagine, touches every aspect of every business, whether they realize it or not. Your clients could come from anywhere. That being a lobbyist, you can help lots of different folks across a lot of different industries. But it sounds like you’ve kind of focused some of your energy in environmental sustainability. How did that come about?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:07:52] That is correct. Well, it’s always important for us to give back. I don’t mean to be cliche, but to whom much is given, much is expected. And anyone that has a platform to be able to make a change, I mean, that comes with the territories and obligation. And so, I am actually part of a Forbes women’s group and I became a partner.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:08:17] I started working with a woman out of Monaco because she was very passionate about yachting and raising awareness to how plastic was impacting the ocean. And so, even though in this particular scenario, it was not a tax deductible opportunity for my business, I just love the passion that she had in raising awareness in Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands. And she actually got funding from the Prince Albert Foundation. And just being able to support that cause to make the world a better place. And so, I became passionate with that. I got to know her a little bit more and just even more about environmental sustainability, dating back to when I was in Earth Club in the eighth grade, like, making the world a better place for everyone and the generations behind us is just important to me and my small part.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:09:08] And so, that’s how I got involved in environmental sustainability. And there are so many components to that, not just raising awareness with regard to passion for the ocean and making a cleaner environment. But then, also just in the energy efficiency. All of these things are so connected because just energy efficiency, I mean, the vehicles and then being able to monitor how we’re impacting the earth with what we’re doing to it. That’s all one component. It’s one thing that’s all connected and that’s how I got involved with that.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:09:46] Also, one of my clients is a lighting company out of South Carolina, and they always had a vision for me to become a distributor for them, even though I was lobbying for them and I was doing business throughout the Southeast for them and representing them. And so, lo and behold, I became an LED lighting distributor.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:06] So, how does that impact your day? You’re calling on companies to put LED lighting in their businesses?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:10:14] Yeah. So, I’m in a very unique situation because I’m with many businesses, it’s relationships, especially in the south. I mean, who do you know and do they know that they can trust you? Are you going to do what you say you’re going to do? Are they going to take a chance on somebody they don’t know? And so, fortunately for me, I was already representing this lighting company and getting business and raising awareness to what they were doing as their lobbyist. And so, when I became a distributor, well, I already had those different contacts that I’d already been reaching out to. Plus, I’m in government relations. And so, I kind of had – I don’t want to say access, but it is access to some of the different cities and some of the economic development folks and just elected officials in general.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:10:59] So, it’s kind of being able to let them know, “Hey, look. This is also something that I am doing.” And it’s not really a jack of all trades and master of none and that it’s all connected. And I’m still learning a little bit. I’m learning more and more about LED lighting every day. And engineering society, I’ve joined one of those and how all of these things work together. But I think it’s a pro. It’s a plus. I’m not just an LED lighting person or just have a background in LED lighting. I also have a relationship with private corporations. I have those relationships as well as with elected officials to be able to let them know what I’m doing. And them to know that if Bianca is going to do it, she’s going to put forth a thousand percent. So, I’m not going to not deliver.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:45] Right. It sounds like everything kind of organically leads to everything else.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:11:50] For sure.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:51] So, what is, like, your day? What’s a day in the life of Bianca look like?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:11:57] Oh, my God. Lee, I will be honest with you. I don’t know any other way. I have not been to sleep. I actually came into my office right around 8:00-ish yesterday. And it just kind of depends because, like, we’re not dealing with the session, so I’m not at the Capitol now so I’m not doing that. But I’ve got my LED lighting and just kind of like building that business. And then, also, just as a lobbyist and business development, I’ve got my clients. And so, I’m still making sure that I’m watching out for their interests and helping them out with their business development, and dealing with transportation and lighting and then security.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:12:41] And so, I keep my calendar. I have actually been up all night. I’m dealing with the marketing. And I’m on different time zones. I’m dealing in Monaco. I’ve got some stuff going on in California. Just kind of making sure that I’m able to keep all of my meetings and prioritizing what needs to be done first. But it’s a labor of love and I will probably be done right around 6:00-ish. And I will head to the spa and the sauna. I’ll get a quick nap. And then, I’ll probably head back into work to get stuff done. It’s just a grind season.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:21] And then, the work that you’re doing, is it kind of thinking, reading, talking? Are you kind of reaching out to strangers and getting to know them? What’s the activities that you’re doing?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:13:35] Well, actually, I’m dealing with the marketing of the environmental sustainability component. And I’ve also done some pitches to some of the cities. And so, I’m kind of following up with them and making sure that if they have any questions that I’m able to answer those questions. With the transportation company, we are looking into rolling out helping to assist in the vaccinations before we did the COVID testing. And so, now, we’re kind of transitioning as the market has changed. And so, we’re looking to partner with the larger insurance companies. We’ve worked with them in the past, the one in particular. And so, I’m really staying on top of all of that. In addition to that, with business development, one of my clients has retained me to start a school for them. And this is the transportation client, a truck driver training school.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:14:25] So, after this call, I will be jumping on that to kind keep them posted and let them know how things are going, so that they can focus on making sure they get their PPP fund. And that they are at ease in knowing that I’m doing my part to continue their revenue stream and for what they’ve retained me for. I’ll also talk to a few other lobbyists about what’s going on with our politics here in Georgia.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:51] Yeah. Especially today is an exciting day for that. Now, for you, personally, you’re doing so many things for so many different folks. The deliverable or the ROI that you’re delivering is business, though. That’s the bottom line at the end of the day, right? This is something that is a business driving firm that you’re helping companies make more money and have bigger impact.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:15:16] For sure. Absolutely. You said it best.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:24] Now, for you, not only are you doing this kind of work, you’re also a member of the Greater Women’s Business Council. Can you talk about why it was important for your firm to be part of that organization?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:15:35] Absolutely. Actually, I love the organization. I think it’s important for me, just as a woman, I am really big. I’ve operated in male dominated environments professionally throughout my career. And so, I know the different areas where perhaps they might be overlooked or perhaps they have to step up to the plate and learn to have their own voice and not minimize who they are. And so, I’ve actually applied to be Audit Committee, so I’m looking forward to hearing back. I did hear from them, but I should be hearing they’re going to be route me to wherever it is that they feel like I am best suited to offer my assistance or bring any value. And, also, I’ve been accepted into their Thrive Program, which is helping small businesses to grow and to think about navigating environments like this and how to continue to sustain themselves and to thrive within these environments.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:16:32] And then, also, just my opportunity to be able to be on this call with you and to be on the radio that has come through that organization. So, I think that they do a tremendous job. And I mean, later on today, I’m working on the pitch, the Coca-Cola 2021 pitch. I think it’s a 90 second pitch and the winner gets the $5,000. So, GWBC is absolutely amazing and they are really on it. They actually introduced us to companies and it’s on us to be able to follow up with them and see what opportunities are available. And they do their part. I have absolutely no complaints. And I’m honored and thankful to be a part of that organization.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:20] Well, we appreciate you being part of it as well. And the group is only as good as its members. And when the members have the attitude that you do, being proactive and want to make things happen, they’re the ones who get the most out of it.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:17:36] For sure. Absolutely. I mean, too much is given, much is expected. And I think, honestly, we are so blessed to be citizens in this country. I’m half immigrant, my mom is from Trinidad. And when my grandmother came here, she didn’t have anything and she brought her kids over one by one. And this is a great country. And if you’re willing to work hard and to continue on and not give up and to dream as big as you can, there’s nothing you can’t do.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:06] Amen to that. Now, for you and your organization, what is kind of the pain that a potential client is having where 23 Consulting is the solution?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:18:23] You know, I think a lot of business owners, just in general with CEOs, they get bogged down in the CEO aspect or just the C Suite executives. They’ve got to deal with their staff. They’ve got to deal with growing their business. And to be able to, like, even have a concept and then bring that to 23 Consulting and have that be the talent and the common sense to be able to push forward and say, “You know what? We can do this. You let me handle this, I’ve got this under control.” Or for them to say, “Look, this is my interest politically and this is where we would like to be aligned. This is what I would like to be made aware of.” And to be able to go out there and meet these elected officials and have conversations with them, get to know them personally, get their cell phone numbers, and build relationships that way. So that they can grow their revenue down the road and have these legislators keep them in mind, you know, when they’re going to be impacted is where 23 shines.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:25] And then, can you share a success story? Maybe don’t name names, but where you work with a client that maybe was skeptical, maybe was new to working with a lobbyist or a firm that has lobbying as part of their deliverable, and you made an impact in their organization.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:19:42] Oh, sure. Yeah. What comes to mind, again, is the transportation company. Like, they had this idea that maybe when all of these things were shutting down, the motorcoach industry in particular, because that’s their revenue stream. They’re out there, they’re bussing people. They’ve got the military contract. They’re dealing with the public schools. They’re dealing with the private schools. They’re dealing with the tours. When everything froze up, they were in a situation like, “What can we do?” And so, for them to say, “Hey, look. We’ve got this idea, Bianca. What do you think about this?” The idea was, we can disseminate our 60 transportation vehicles all across the State of Georgia or as far as is necessary all throughout the Southeast, because we have that experience to be able to help and to kind of move this along with regard to offering our assistance business-wise and then also just in solving the problem. And for me to take that on and just grace of God, humble beginnings, and say, “Okay. Yes. I think this is a great idea.”
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:20:43] And to start calling up these elected officials and say, “Look, this is what my client is interested in doing, how can we move this?” And then, calling up the doctors and calling up the nurses. And then, eventually, lo and behold, we’re working with an insurance company. They’re sponsoring my client. My client is getting revenue there. We’re working with the medical professionals. We are disseminating these vehicles across cities in getting this COVID testing done. And my client is able to maintain some degree of revenue in the environment as opposed to just having those vehicles sitting out there. That one really means a lot to me, I think, because we heard so many no’s. And it wasn’t even personally. Like, you know, even with the elected officials, nobody had been through this before so it’s like they didn’t necessarily know what to do. Everybody was doing the best they could.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:21:36] But to be able to just carry on and finally find that person, that first person who says, “Yes. I will help. We can do this.” And to just kind of, like, navigate it from there and watch it grow. And then, get media attention, actually, we got nationwide, we got statewide. And I’m really proud of them and I’m thankful that they trusted me.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:57] And then, that’s an example where not only is it impacting that individual organization, it’s also impacting the communities that they serve as well. This is, you know, kind of win, win, win all the way around.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:22:09] That’s what it’s all about in lobbying and everywhere in business. When everybody wins, like, that’s a good thing. If anybody is feeling slighted, there are going to be some hiccups. Absolutely, you hit the nail on the head.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:23] Well, if somebody wanted to learn more about what you’re up to and wants to connect with you or somebody on your team, what’s the website?
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:22:31] Absolutely. The website is the number 23consultingllc.com. Also, my cell phone, I’m 678-640-6819. And then, for lighting and to learn more about what we’re doing in the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island and with the plastics and lighting, energy efficiency, would be 23ledlighting.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:57] Well, Bianca, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Bianca Thrasher-Starobin: [00:23:03] Thank you, Lee. I really appreciate having the opportunity to chat with you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you’re doing to give us some shine and recognition.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:11] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
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