Today profile another Indy tech startup – Snappening.com. Set to launch in the spring, Snappening.com will provide an comprehensive tool for for planning your own events. What strikes me about Snappening in the profile below is how Crystal, Snappening.com’s founder and president, went to great lengths to research the site’s target market – something I think a lot of entreprenurs omit during the startup phase. After you read the profile, make sure you sign up on Snappening.com – which also registers you for a chance to win a free iPad! (details of our very own iPad giveaway will be announced soon).
Tell us about your startup…your words…whatever you want to say.
Snappening.com is about creating conversations and community surrounding the event experience. We do that via a comprehensive website that is capable of starting the process for anyone who is planning an event – be that a birthday party, corporate meeting, wedding function or non-profit gala. We designed the site with consumers in mind, so that it not only helped people with the process of planning, but also focused on helping planners and venues meet more consumers who were expressed interested in their services and facilities along the way. Through extensive market research, we isolated the set of experiences that mattered most to our users – easy functionality, comprehensive listings, easy comparison tools, quick methods to contact providers and dedicated research materials to help provide advice for a variety of event types. Snappening will house theses tools for quick, efficient and cost-effective event planning. Perfect events can now be a reality for anyone at anytime.
How did you come up with concept for your business, and how/when did the business model for that concept become clear?
Planning events and parties has become as straightforward to me as whipping up chocolate chip cookie batter is to Martha Stewart. I have always enjoyed organizing and hosting events – whether it was for work or for my family and friends. So it is easy to see that the concept for Snappening came out of my own work in and around event planning.
A few years ago a dear friend of mine was in the process of planning her wedding reception, and I offered her my help. I was able to navigate this process with a little effort, but that was mainly because I knew what I was doing and was familiar with the venues here in Indianapolis. I soon realized how daunting a task this could be for someone who wasn’t familiar with the industry or the local venues.
I spent some time researching venues online as my friend would have, and I soon realized that finding a comprehensive list of venues in Indianapolis was like searching for Bigfoot. Not to mention that surveying the venues and collecting proposals would take a newbie more hours (if not days) than the average time-pressed individual has to spend. I knew there had to be a better, faster and easier way for people (and venues) to connect the dots. (Not to mention the fact that professional planners were perhaps being left out of the equation altogether when their services could be an asset to some consumers who are either unfamiliar with or unsure about whether or not a planner may be right for them.)
And that’s how I came up with the idea for Snappening, a site that takes the burden off our shoulders so we can focus on what’s most important – making lasting memories with friends, family, colleagues and partners.
My business model became clear to me after my first round of research. I was left with a handful of options, none of which appeared to be designed with consumers and their needs in mind. That bugged me. It didn’t make sense that while the consumer was the one deciding on where to spend their money, it wasn’t easy for them to make this decision and navigate the 1,000+ choices this city has to offer.
Before we set out to build the site, we conducted a series of targeted focus groups and observational studies to ensure we did in fact understand what a wide variety of users wanted. We think we’ve accomplished that.
I enlisted a series of experts along the way to ensure we had a strong team who could focus on the most important elements of any good business. With the support of Beltrame Leffler Advertising for visuals, creative and advertising direction, Dittoe PR for all forms of media outreach, Cirrus ABS for technical design, functionality and SEO planning and Milestone Advisors for financial and strategic direction, I successfully identified the best ways to turn this business idea into a reality that will succeed, have a return on investment and provide an invaluable service for our community.
What made you first believe that starting a business is right for you (i.e. as opposed to working for someone else)?
Starting your own business can be a very intimidating idea, but ultimately, I have always realized my desire to be my own boss. I consider myself to be a self-starter and I have never walked away from a challenge.
Throughout my entire life I have approached everything with an entrepreneurial spirit. Whether I was working for an employer or spearheading a committee, I have always looked for ways to carve out my specific role and prove myself to be a valuable asset to my team.
I have always wanted to do something that would be of value to a large number of people. And I thoroughly enjoy making things easier for people. I’m keen on unraveling a problem and getting down to the root of the issues at hand. What do we need to solve? Who’s involved? What’s crucial? How do we fit in? How do we add value?
Additionally, I have always been interested in the social connections we make with others, and events. I think it’s been in my blood since about age eight when I set about organizing my own “surprise” birthday party. (The only people who were surprised were my parents!)
What challenges have you encountered?
In the beginning, you sometimes find yourself trying to do it all. I promptly learned that this mentality can burn an entrepreneur out very quickly and turn something you love deeply into something you find overwhelming.
I avoided this path by making investments in engaging professionals in a variety of disciplines very early on in our process, long before we were talking about brining a service to market. By surrounding myself with very smart, strategic and resourceful people, I have added to the overall strength of the business. I note these partners on my website and continue to promote the value they have added to Snappening.com. This has turned out to be a very wise investment that I would recommend to any entrepreneur starting their own business. You can produce far better results more rapidly with the collective brain trust of your team.
What sacrifices have you made to start you business?
Like most entrepreneurs, starting your business means carving out hours of your life that were once consumed by other things and dedicating them to your new-found endeavor. Finding a balance between work and other parts of your life (love, friends, family, etc.) is a difficult task – one that I work diligently to maintain and stabilize. I am fortunate that my internal meter for knowing “when to walk away” for the night is strong and steadfast. I use this often and it serves me well.
I’d be remiss without noting that in addition to building a business that helps the community, it is equally important to me that I follow a community leadership philosophy based on volunteer work and financial contributions. While Snappening.com consumes much of my attention, I continue to find time to participate in outside organizations that are important to our community and serve the foundation on which it is built.
In your opinion, what makes Indiana a great place to start your business?
Indiana is a wonderful state, full of interesting people and strong demographics. As a marketer, Indianapolis serves the purpose of “concept” testing very well and is ideal for an endeavor such as launching your own online business.
More specifically, the city of Indianapolis, has provided a great opportunity for profitability and growth for Snappening.com for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being its pending spotlight associated with the 2012 Super Bowl. While investment has slowed or stopped elsewhere in the country, the Indianapolis region continues to flourish to meet the demands of its industries. The ten-county region surrounding Indianapolis is literally “raising the game” with its high-profile event preparations.
The most noteworthy of these preparations being the multi-billion dollar investments in new event facilities such as the Indiana Convention Center’s expansion (moving Indy from the 32nd to 16th largest meeting facility option in the nation) and the construction of the new JW Marriott. Indianapolis has nowhere to go but up in our nation’s meeting and event industry profile, and we certainly want to be part of a collective effort to make this process the best it can be.
Being a Hoosier native myself, I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather start that right here at home.
If you could give an entrepreneur looking to start a business one piece of advice…what would it be?
Take your brilliant idea and outline it on paper. This sounds like a simple task, but don’t underestimate its power. You will be amazed at how your idea will transform itself into a real possibility.
After you have jotted down your outline, dig into the details. See if you can answer the hard questions about market force, pricing, competition, sourcing, etc. These answers will turn this possibility into a reality.
The next step is to do your homework. Don’t assume that what you believe to be true always is. Ask around, survey the competition and get additional input from a trusted circle of advisors.
Push yourself. Force yourself to think about what you need to do in order to go from where you are today to where you want the business to take you. Can you make the leap in your mind? If so, keep plugging along. Use each week to become a little more serious about making it a reality.
The last (and best) bit of advice is to always believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will either.
Stat Sheet: Snappening.com
- Website: www.snappening.com
- The People: Crystal Grave, Founder, President & CEO
- When was the business founded: 2009, with official launch date scheduled for March 2011
- Facebook Fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Snappening/135048113208614
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/snappening
- Business Description in 140 Characters or less: Snappening allows users to research and contact venues and event planners simultaneously in one search – with a standardized interface to make comparison a breeze.