Bennie King came up with an idea that youd think someone would have thought of sooner. His VenueCenter is an online platform that makes booking and planning an event nearly seamless. The platform allows customers to filter venues by location, ambience, capacity, food offerings, surrounding amenities, among other things. VenueCenter was an idea that was brewing while King worked for a pharmaceutical company for seven years. Even then he was doing event planning and promotion on the side. He launched VenueCenter in April of 2015.
King tells TNJ.com how he got the business off the ground.
TNJ.com: How did you come up with the idea for VenueCenter?
Bennie King: When my wife and I were planning our own wedding, we found that searching for the ideal venue was cumbersome and did not offer enough information. We knew we wanted a destination wedding, and were open to any location as long as it had a beach. After countless hours (and days) of searching, we discovered that there was no platform available that would allow you to conveniently view and compare all of your options while also showing each venues amenities. Thats when VenueCenter was born.
VenueCenters goal is to provide a free, one-stop online resource for customers to find their perfect venue quickly and conveniently, so they can focus on creating lasting memories.
TNJ.com: How does it work?
BK: VenueCenter is an online tool dedicated to helping people find their ideal venue for any event. Using our site you can search and compare different venues using our 35-plus unique filters. If someone is looking for a moderately-priced indoor venue in Houston with a city view, that can accommodate 150 guests and has a full bar and onsite catering that can accommodate a halal diet, they can perform that search in less than a minute. RFPs (quote requests) can also be submitted with a touch on a button through the site which takes the hassle out of contacting individual venues. In addition, the site shows multiple pictures and virtual tours of venues .
TNJ.com: How did you fund the startup?
BK: VenueCenter has been 100% self-funded up to this point. However, we are looking to raise a seed round of funding in the near future for our expansion efforts.
TNJ.com: What were some startup challenges?
BK: Running a startup requires you to be a jack of all trades, and the leadership team at VenueCenter wears numerous hats at all times. Our team of four has to be experts in many areas: event planning, accounting, marketing, human resources and social media to name a few.
TNJ.com: What has been the biggest business lesson?
BK: The biggest lesson that Ive learned is that you have to hold people accountable and there is no such thing as a friendship in business. In the pre-launch days of VenueCenter, I relied too heavily on personal relationships, and whether or not I had a good vibe with a person. This led to numerous deadlines coming and going without getting deliverables. Those lessons taught me that the best way to conduct business is to have deadlines with incentives to deliver early and/or penalties for missing deliverables.
TNJ.com: I understand that prior to launching VenueCenter, you worked for a pharmaceutical company for seven years. What made you leave that industry?
BK: I have a degree in Biology, so it was a natural progression for me to work in a science related field after I graduated college. While in college, I got involved with event planning for my fraternity, so when the opportunity presented itself, I went for it. I have always been an entrepreneur at heart.
TNJ.com: What do you like the most about being an entrepreneur?
BK: The corporate world is great for most people and it offers stability at times, but more times than not you are building something for someone else who benefits from your work more than you do. I like the fact that I have the opportunity to build something for me and my family.
TNJ.com: Long term goals?
BK: In the tech industry, if you are not evolving and getting better, you are falling behind. I want to continue to meet our customers needs by making VenueCenter the best it can be, while also expanding nationally and internationally.