Lucille Ball has been quoted as saying, "If you want something done, ask a busy person. The more you do, the more you can do." For Samantha Smith, this rule has shaped her entire career. She became a Notary to pay for her daughter's college tuition. From there, she went on to found a support network for Notaries and started her own YouTube channel to answer questions and provide answers to Notaries who needed help.
In just six short years, Samantha Smith has become an important provider of education, support, and service in her home state of Georgia for her fellow commissioned Notaries. For her drive to help other Notaries and her innovative approach to education, the NNA is honored to name Samantha Smith as the 2022 Notary of the Year.
Supporting her family as a Notary
When Samantha launched her Notary career, she had already created an impressive list of other job accomplishments. She holds a master's degree in Public Administration, has 15 years of experience in education, and 10 years' experience in non-profit management. While her daughter was in high school, Samantha wanted to find a way to help her graduate college without debt. A conversation with a close friend helped her realize working as a Notary might be the perfect solution.
With her friend's encouragement, Samantha dove in without hesitation and embraced the hard work needed to launch her own Notary business.
Providing education and support for Georgia Notaries
Early in her journey, Samantha realized that education and information to help Georgia Notaries perform their duties wasn't easy for new Notaries to find. So she decided to take action herself. In 2020, with the help of her business partner Kandi Quillet Thomas, Samantha founded the Georgia Notary Network, a community for Notaries Public commissioned in the state of Georgia to connect, learn, and expand business opportunities. She also launched the ShelistenS LLC YouTube Channel, where she engages with, encourages, and educates her fellow Georgia Notaries about their duties. In less than two years, the YouTube channel has gained more than 1,100 subscribers. The goal of the channel is to create a safe place where Notaries can be brought together to share useful information about their work as peers, not competitors.
Listening as a key to better service
Samantha's business name and YouTube channel are based on the phrase, "She Listens." Listening to customers and Notaries to discover their needs is a key part of Samantha's business philosophy. Her personal motto is "We believe in service before the sale," and she believes the best way to be of service is to truly listen to those you serve.
Samantha Smith is a busy woman. In addition to ShelistenS Notary Specialists, she is the Dean of Adult Education at Ogeechee Technical College and a board member of the Bulloch County Commission on Human Services Family Connections. Every hat she wears, every role she steps into, reflects her spirit of service.
Encouraging others to be their best
"I've been really fortunate and blessed to have been brought up with the notion that all of my experiences, none of them have been for me. They are for other people. The good and the bad, whether it is the education or the opportunities that I've had, is really about who is going to benefit after this. I believe ultimately that's really what vision is."
In that vein, Samantha says it's important for each person starting out as a Notary to find and set their own goals, dictate their own path. She encourages other Notaries to find a network of local colleagues and connect with others on similar paths. Mutual support and understanding makes the path clear and the journey easier, she says.
"It is my desire . . . to represent Georgia in a very positive light, to represent this industry. And again, to just say thank you to those who have supported me along the way and who have encouraged me along the way. I really hope that I do everyone proud."
This year, the Georgia General Assembly got close to passing remote online notarization legislation. Next year the legislature will once again have an opportunity to pass this legislation and join Georgia with the 38 other states that have already passed similar laws, and they should take it. Online notarization uses modern technology to allow someone to get their documents notarized online. This service proved crucial during the pandemic, and now notaries in Georgia deserve continued access as the pandemic subsides. The legislature should begin work now to give Georgia notaries the permanent ability to perform online notarizations.
There are several benefits that online notarization affords notaries. With online notarization, notaries are supported by audio-video technology, proven fraud prevention tools to assist in identity verification and secure online document storage solutions that go beyond the abilities of paper. With online notarization, a notary can complete transactions in a setting in which they are comfortable and enables them to terminate a session if they become uncomfortable, including suspected fraud. Online notarization also offers greater efficiency and workflow improvements.
Across the country, gas prices are rising, traffic is nearing pre-pandemic levels, and in-person work has proven to be less efficient. Online notarization will give Georgia’s notaries an opportunity to expand our services to areas further than a reasonable driving distance - including throughout our state’s most rural communities - the flexibility to work hours that fit our schedules, and most importantly, the ability to serve more people safely and securely online.
Any resident with a smartphone or computer can use online notarization for their notarization needs. It allows greater access for people seeking notarial services with mobility or physical disabilities, the immunocompromised, and those who lack reliable access to transportation. These accessibility benefits will aid in our fight to close the digital divide here in Georgia.
Beyond accessibility, online notarizations offer greater opportunities to expand a notary’s business in industries such as real estate. Notaries and Georgia closing attorneys play a vital role in the homebuying process. When buying a home here in Georgia, closing attorneys are there for their clients to help them understand the important legal components of the documents they are signing. Georgia can pass legislation that still requires a closing attorney to be present during an online real estate closing, allowing closing attorneys to join the online session and participate just as they would in person.
From accessibility benefits, increased opportunities to expand our businesses, and added flexibility for both notaries and our customers, the legislature should act quickly to make online notarizations available to all Georgia notaries. As states throughout the country pass legislation giving their notaries this same ability, fellow notaries throughout Georgia and I urge our legislators to consider these benefits and pass legislation to permanently authorize online notarization next session.
The Georgia Notary Network, Inc.