Event planners can’t afford to fail.
There’s a lot of competition in this massive industry. Business-to-business events generated more than $1.07 trillion of direct spending in 2017 and attracted 1.5 billion participants globally.
It’s not like Ifebi lacked experience. A Howard University graduate, she’d owned an events production company and worked in the space for more than 12 years before she hit a wall. She’d planned concerts and galas.
Then she had an idea to recreate a modern-day Woodstock. It completely backfired, mainly due to the lack of event-tech tools needed to pull it off, she said.
“From that point, I consumed myself in event tech,” Ifebi told Festival Squad. She learned about new tools in event tech to prevent such failure, about the market and what does and doesn’t exist. “I vowed that if I wanted to continue as an event producer, I needed to create a tool to make this a lot easier.”
Vendorspace is here to revolutionize the way you book events and vendors by simplifying the search process using event tech. Ifebi created an interactive matchmaking platform connecting event professionals so you can plan or participate in any event, anywhere. The Vendorspace network eliminates barriers of long-distance relationships by creating a dedicated space for seizing event opportunities and resources near your location.
Since launching in April, the Atlanta-based company has expanded into other U.S. markets.
Ifebi has set her sights on taking her business global. She shared with Moguldom her challenges in bootstrapping, how she launched a tech business without a tech background and her thoughts on pitch contests after winning one.
What I love most about event tech is the power of innovation. There are so many tools being created to automate and simplify the traditional event planning process that’s changing the perception of this “stressful” industry. I love being a part of this new wave that’s redefining how people do events.Ify Ifebi, founder of vendorspace. From Women In Event Tech
Moguldom: Why did you start Vendorspace?
Ify Ifebi: I started it because I needed it. I had been producing events for a little over 12 years. I used to host concerts, galas, conferences, mixers and I even managed artists before. I produced a lot of live performance shows. Vendorspace came about because I tried my hand at doing a festival and it failed. The biggest part of the failure was because of a lack of resources and access to the tools needed to pull it off. After that I told myself, I didn’t want to do another event until there was some type of tool and platform that could make it easier for event planners and vendors. We started down the path of creating Vendorspace. We just launched our platform live in April.
Moguldom: What were some of the challenges you faced since launching Vendorspace?
Ify Ifebi: There was a lot in terms of the obvious challenges most founders face, like not having access to capital. Bootstrapping the idea and getting it launched. I started Vendorspace when I moved down to Atlanta. There was the challenge of navigating this new city for me. I had to learn where we could fit in and how we could tap into the market here. Customer discovery was another challenge. The event space is so broad. Trying to figure out if and who would really want to use our product was a challenge. However, over time, of course, with different resources, programs, and support, we’ve been able to figure all that out. But those were our biggest challenges when we launched. Now, it’s building the marketplace database, of course. It’s still something that’s growing and expanding.
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Moguldom: You owned an event production company. Vendorspace is your second company. What are some of the lessons learned from your first company you’ve been able to apply towards Vendorspace?
Ify Ifebi: Bringing together processes and systems and understanding the importance of both in regard to building and scaling a company. Working with people and building teams was another thing. I had a lot of experience with that so this second time around, I was able to navigate through this space a little bit quicker. And, of course, being able to make clear and quick decisions. I think all the mistakes I’ve made before helped me in regard to navigating things like negotiating a deal.
Moguldom: In launching your second company, did you participate in any startup boot camps or accelerator programs?
Ify Ifebi: I’ve participated in a few accelerators. I did the Atlanta Tech Village’s It Takes a Village program. We did the JPMorgan Chase and Morehouse College Ascend 2020 program. We have also been a part of a few pitch competitions. We were kind of focused on those last year.
Moguldom: You won a pitch competition. Do you recommend other new tech startup founders participate in them?
Ify Ifebi: That’s a touchy subject. Honestly, I don’t think you should waste your time on some of them. I think it’s a lot more beneficial if you focus on just building your product and getting your customers. Ultimately, they’re going to be the ones to catapult you forward. I understand it’s a great opportunity to have a chance to win some money, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it. I felt like that’s what I learned last year. It takes a lot to get prepared for a pitch competition. You have to get your mind ready to devote a ton of hours to prepare for and go to these things. But they’re definitely helpful in helping you in learning more about your business and customers as well as get some idea on if the company has potential. I really think it depends on your stage in launching and how you want to fund your company. For us, we’re currently bootstrapping the company.
Moguldom: How does your platform differ from others in the event space?
Ify Ifebi: It is a marketplace. We work with event coordinators and vendors. When you sign up, you list your product, service, venue or your event. You’re able to browse through the list or you can search based on different filters like budget, availability, dates, and things of that nature. It’s a really curated search for event resources, suppliers, and opportunities. It is also a way to grow your business if you are a vendor. You can find leads and opportunities that are a fit for your company. You can also find the next speaker or sponsorship opportunity.
Moguldom: Are you focusing on the Atlanta area and do you have customers in other cities?
Ify Ifebi: We are focused on Atlanta right now, but we do have customers in different cities. We will be doing a series of launch parties before the end of the year in D.C., California, Texas and Chicago, so we’re sprinkled around the country, but our base is in Atlanta.
Moguldom: You have a team of five right now. What do you look for when building your team?
Ify Ifebi: Energy, I look for energy. That’s a large part of it. Working for a startup requires a little bit more than the average job. I also look for someone who is able to work with different types of people, but also experience and a hustle mentality.
Moguldom: What have been some of your notable wins since launching?
Ify Ifebi: Selling our first premium membership. Honestly, I would say that it is one thing to get someone to sign up for a basic package, but it’s another thing when someone sees the value that they want to pay for the premium level. It makes you happy.
Moguldom: Any advice for people who want to launch a tech company but do not have a tech background or experience in coding?
Ify Ifebi: Don’t let your lack of technical expertise stop you. If you have an idea, you can get it done. I was able to find the resources for it to come together. You can get connected to the community and find the right piece you need. You can manage the work. Definitely go forward with your idea and just find the tech resources to make it happen.
Moguldom: What do you think the next five years look like for Vendorspace?
Ify Ifebi: Growing and expanding into different cities. In five years, we are hoping we can be a global brand. The event space is universal. All we’re doing is bringing the resources together for these hyper-local communities to access them.
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