Robin Billings didn’t plan on a career in radio.
Now, “Rockin’ Robin” is the co-owner of the AM/FM station KWRT 1370 AM and 93.1 Jack FM, and co-host of the KWRT morning show. The Missouri Women’s Business Center will present her with the “Women Who Own It” award for Cooper County at a ceremony Oct. 24 at Cooper’s Ridge in Boonville. The center presents the award to a woman in each of eight counties in central Missouri who owns at least 50 percent of her own business, has goals to grow her business and is active in the community she serves.
Billings was selling ads for the Boonville Daily News when she met her future husband, business partner and co-host Matt Billings. Even when she took a job selling ads at KWRT, she didn’t expect to be one of the voices the people of Boonville heard from their radio sets every morning.
Sharon Korte, who was doing weather on the air, went on vacation, and Billings was tabbed to fill in. Billings remembers how nervous she was her first time on the air. She got over her nerves, and eventually ended up co-hosting the morning show with Matt after they married, she said.
They bought the station from Matt’s parents around the recession. Everyone was struggling, and advertising went down. KWRT made it through with a mix of tried-and-true staples like broadcasting high school sports, and some new ideas, she said. They also got an FM transmitter and a Facebook page.
“I think we did a real good job with younger people that way,” Billings said. “We put a lot of stuff on Facebook, which brought them to KWRT, and then they’ll turn the dial.”
They also bought KWJK, which broadcasts Jack FM in the Boonville and Columbia areas. The station plays a wide mix of songs like an iPod on shuffle, and is pretty much self-sufficient. KWRT is their pride and joy, and it’s where they commit to delivering real-time local events, she said. National news is everywhere, and people are inundated with it all the time. They come to KWRT to hear what’s going on in Boonville, she said.
“It’s the most important thing we do,” she said. “And we’re the only place they can get it at that moment, because we can broadcast it as it’s happening.”
It’s especially true during bad weather, she said. During the winter and tornado season, they’re sure to be tracking whatever weather event is going on and looking at how it’s going to affect Boonville.
“I think it makes people feel safe, she said.
The local focus also means KWRT can connect people in the community. Wednesday morning, a regular listener called in to the show, asking for help to find two twin-sized beds for two boys who needed them. Billings instantly got a message from someone who knew who could get them beds.
“I love that,” she said. “All that happened right there on the radio that we were able to help those boys. Just like that, it just, bam, it happened.”
Billings said she was shocked when she heard she was nominated for the award from the Missouri Women’s Business Center. There are many women in the area who she feels do more than she does, and she doesn’t really see KWRT as work, she said.
“The radio business is just so much fun, and we have the opportunity to help a lot of people,” she said. “You feel like you’re really doing something.”