A Chilliwack woman and her business partner are doing their part to get more women into the field of personal security for people in the entertainment industry.
At the beginning of the New Year, co-founders Debbie Walker of Chilliwack and Susan Lyster of Los Angeles (formerly from Maple Ridge) launched Soteria Protection Agency.
“Our goal is to promote and improve the presence of women in the security field which, up until now, has been predominantly male. With the entertainment industry’s focus on bringing more women into other male dominated positions, we feel that vendors to this industry like security, should be following suit,” Walker said.
It’s taken two years for the women to get their L.A.-based business to where it is today. Over the past six months, they’ve hired more than 10 security agents who have been recruited for their experience as veterans or police (currently employed or retired), the majority with their licence to carry a concealed weapon.
“In doing that we still want equality. We want diversity.”
Even though their focus is to attract women as guards, they do hire both women and men.
They are now looking for clientele.
“We really want to attract clients that are the #MeToo, #TimesUp movement… who feel strongly that women have a position in every place in society.”
There is a “groundswell” of people in the entertainment industry who want female security, Walker added.
Soteria offers personal security – also known as “executive protection” – for people in the entertainment industry including actors, producers and directors.
But these security guards don’t look like your typical person in uniform. In fact, their “uniform” can be anything from casual dress to red-carpet attire to sweats.
An agent might take on the role of the client’s date at a private party, or they might be their tennis partner. They might travel with them as a “friend” dressed in casual clothing at the airport, or they might be their personal driver.
“You have to dress for the occasion. It’s very personal,” Walker said. “That’s why it’s really critical that not only do the skillsets match up but the personalities match up, too.
“One of the issues we continue to hear is that for female clients visiting a restaurant, attending work, or at an event, the security is left behind when visiting the washrooms or other locations where men cannot enter. With female agents this issue is resolved.”
The name “Soteria” comes from the Greek goddess of safety and salvation, deliverance, and preservation from harm, so the name was adopted with little thought for anything else, Walker said.
Although it’s an L.A.-based business, Soteria does have ties to Chilliwack because of Walker and the fact the office is based here in her home.
Normally she’d be in L.A. to launch a business like this, but because of COVID-19 she’s able to “keep my roots” in Chilliwack, she said.
“And I want to continue to do that because Chilliwack is growing, it’s turning into a fabulous community.”
Eventually she wants to have a physical office space in Chilliwack and would like to hire people locally.
“It’s an ability to get other people working for the company, even though it’s up here and based in L.A.”
Although most of the people who would use a service like Soteria already have some form of personal protection like security cameras in and around their home, and even wearing a mask due to the pandemic which helps hide their identity, personal security is still necessary.
“They’re still needing to have somebody’s who’s very innocuous, looks like they fit in and has their ears perked and ready to jump at the moment,” Walker said. “Everyone needs executive protection if you’re in the entertainment industry.”
The Soteria Protection Agency team includes Fraser Valley co-founders Debbie Walker and Susan Lyster, operations director Timothy Williams and operations officer Jon Conroy.
Walker is a veteran of opening and operating successful niche businesses for the entertainment industry; Lyster is an award-winning marketer; Williams is a marine veteran with years of security management under his belt; and Conroy is a seasoned veteran, executive protection agent and lead.
For more, go to soteriaprotectionagency.com.