“Get people talking. People have a lot of interesting things to share. You might discover an unexpected connection.” — Kelsey Recht, CEO, VenueBook
Ever try to book an event and end up calling around to dozens of places, trying to get someone on the phone to check dates of availability, budget, menu, capacity, etc.? It can be extremely time-consuming and often fruitless. Well, Kelsey Recht, founder & CEO of VenueBook, has a simple solution: create an online platform that enables corporate event planners — or regular people — just looking for a party space to search all of those things and more in one place.
When we saw Recht pitch her idea at a NY Tech Meetup Women’s Demo Night a few months ago, we knew she’d be a rising star in both the technology and hospitality worlds. While VenueBook just launched in New York City, the company plans to roll out its platform to other markets around the country over the next year. We interviewed the founder of what she calls “an OpenTable-like platform for finding and booking event spaces” about launching a brand, standing out in your career and creating buzz.
Why is it so important these days to stand out in the workplace?
The harsh reality right now is that the economy is not strong. Jobs are hard to come by. If you have one, you need to do your best to excel and make a name for yourself.
What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?
Do your homework on reporters and what they cover first. Half of the battle is knowing the right person and what angle to take with them.
What are your top networking tips?
Get people talking. People have a lot of interesting things to share. You might discover an unexpected connection.
What’s your advice for developing a relationship with someone you don’t know?
Always assume the other person is very busy. I ensure I am accommodating to his or her schedule. For example, if I request a meeting with someone, I always meet them somewhere that is convenient for them.
How important is it to break through the clutter when you’re trying to stand out—and what’s the best way to do so?
It is cheap to start a web business these days. To stand out in the crowd, do something radically different. For example, Apple didn’t design a better flip phone. They designed something radically different than anything available in the marketplace. Our product is very different than our competitors.
Do you use social media and the Web to market yourself or further your career? If so, how?
Yes. We use social media to promote the VenueBook brand across many platforms. Events are visual, so people especially love Pinterest.
What’s your best tip for how to get what you want at work?
You need to understand the inherent motivations of the people around you. A recent study released showed that employees rate jobs based on more qualitative than quantitative, financial measures. For example, a start-up often cannot pay the same market rate. However, you can motivate people with different qualitative perks.
Lots of recent (and not so recent graduates) continue to struggle to find a job. What is the one piece of advice that you wish you knew when you were graduating?
Be proactive. If someone does not follow up with me, I automatically eliminate them as a candidate for a job at VenueBook. I firmly believe luck is what you make it. Some people seem “luckier” than the rest of us. However, I think luck comes from putting yourself in the right place to get lucky over and over again.
What is the guiding principle or mission for your business or how you engage in the workplace?
My mission in our office is not to be paralyzed waiting for perfection. Just get things done and then iterate. My motto is, “Don’t tell me who caused the problem. Tell me how to fix it.” This is my motto because I do not want my team to be afraid of trying new things out of fear that it will not work.
How did VenueBook get from idea to reality and what prompted you to launch a business?
I was planning lots of events on top of a full-time job. When I was at business school, I knew I either wanted to work for a start-up, start my own company or become a VC. I researched the VenueBook idea while at school and never looked back. I never went to a recruiting event while in business school. I knew that was not the role for me.
What’s your “elevator pitch” for VenueBook and how did you come up with it?
VenueBook is an OpenTable-like platform for finding and booking event spaces. I came up with it by comparing ourselves to other companies available on the market today.
What’s the hardest thing about getting attention for a new brand, particularly without dedicated PR support?
The first PR hit is always the hardest one to get, but after that it cascades. It is similar to running a business. The first customer is always the hardest.
What’s your advice for helping your brand stand out against the competition?
Build a beautiful, useful product and talk to your customers often about how your product can make their lives easier. If no one wants your product, you do not have a business.
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