In 2014, everything was going well for Julie Novack. She had spent her career at digital marketing agencies, at times with $50M budgets and in charge of 250 people. It was a fulfilling career that most would dream of. Except Julie’s dream was the idea that she couldn’t stop talking about for years – a content-rich marketplace that inspires people planning events and connects them with the leading event companies across the country and the world — all in one place. That idea was PartySlate, which now has raised over $15M and has over 15,000 users.
Tune in to hear Julie’s inspiring story.
Julie Novack: I will admit I cried in the car a few times. Like, you know, it is. Very painful. When it’s your baby that you’re working so hard on you feel like you’ve got good progress, you have things, and then you get no, no, no, no.
Dana Kadwell: Welcome to Hustle and Gather, a podcast about inspiring the everyday entrepreneur to take the leap. I’m Dana
Courtney Hopper: and I’m Courtney.
Dana: And we are two sisters who have started multiple businesses together. And yes, it is as messy as you think. Because we know that starting a business, isn’t easy.
Courtney: I mean, we’ve done it four times. And on this show, we talk about the ups and downs of the hustle and the reward at the end of the journey.
Dana: And we love helping small businesses succeed, whether that is through our venue consulting, speaking, or team training, we love to motivate others to take that big leap.
Courtney: You could just use our misadventures to normalize the crazy that is being an entrepreneur, because every entrepreneur makes mistakes,
Dana: but we like to call those unsuccessful attempts around here.
Courtney: But we know us just part of the process, and today we’re learning from Julie Novak. Julie is the CEO and co-founder of Party Slate; a photo rich website where leading event professionals share their work and build their brand. With over 20 years of digital marketing experience with some of the biggest brands in the world, Julie is excited to bring her expertise to the events industry.
Since its founding in 2015, over 15,000 of the country’s top event professionals and venues have uploaded over 1 million event photos to their beautiful profile pages. She’s absolutely incredible, and we are excited to have her. Julie, welcome to Hustle and Gather.
Julie: Thank you so much. I’m so honored to be invited to chat with the sisters.
Courtney: I know, but feel like we’ve done so much chatting already. Like, I feel like I know you very well. So
where is this conversation gonna go?
Julie: I don’t know. I’m excited to see where it goes and I like that there’s no prep questions or anything. So it’s just like, Fire away.
Dana: Yes, well, we would love to hear a little bit about your background and just kind of your story, how you got started.
Julie: Sure. So I really fell into the digital space, believe it or not, I worked at a bank. I thought I was gonna be this big investment banker where those like cute suits and do deals and go out to lunch and, you know, all those kind of things. And this little thing called America Online and came around and, this ages me a little bit, but, the first time I saw the internet, it was actually in the form of America Online.
It struck me, like, I, I can’t even explain it. I’m like, oh my gosh, this, I really did change my career. It struck me that this is gonna change the way people communicate, how business is done. You know, of course I could never have envisioned how the internet would take over the world. But, I started the banks internet group, with two other young people that believed people would do online banking and all these other things, did that for a couple years and then, was recruited by my digital agency and went to a digital agency called agency.com, which was one of the original, big digital agencies, in the country.
I did all different types of jobs, project management, user experience, and moved into sales. Eventually over 10 years, ended up running the North American group, and was recruited by Razor Fish, did a couple of, six years there. And throughout this entire time though, I always loved events. The power of event for recruiting great people during these hyper growth modes, fundraising, anything you can imagine just connecting people.
And I being this early adopter of digital, I was always disappointed. What was online? I saw kind of mass market wedding websites. I saw some kind of like newspaper like BizBash kind of, again, I love BizBash, more news and, and, and inspiration for corporate, but it wasn’t until I redesigned my kitchen
you might ask why is that relevant?, I used a website called Houzz, H O U Z Z. And that’s what really clicked everything together. I’ve been thinking and thinking about what I could do to make this easier for party hosts, people like myself, not the event professional side at the time. And when I saw Houzz this really beautiful content community, these gorgeous profile pages, I was looking for a landscape or I was looking for all these things.
That’s why I’m like, I need this for the events that I’m planning. So over a course of two or three years, I started talking to event professionals, people that plan my wedding, my corporate planners, and also party hosts like myself and put together a business plan for Party Slate. So I actually had the URL for party slate for about five years before I started the company.
So I was really, really thinking about it. And I dreamt out loud for many, many years., meaning I’m doing this, I’m doing this, especially when I have a cocktail. I know we’re talking about our favorite cocktail. I have a margarita and I’m like, I’m starting this company and you’re gonna work with me on it.
You know, I probably hired a thousand people over cocktails and I believe dreaming out loud is really important because people will hold you accountable. Like Julie, you’re so passionate about this idea, you’ve got to do it. Finally. My husband, after three or four years of talking about it said, you gotta go do this, you gotta go do this.
Courtney: he was tired of all the cocktails.
Dana: Stop talking about it.
Julie: I, I couldn’t believe he said that, cuz he’s more conservative, he’s more, a little bit less, you know, risk taking than me. Literally the next week I quit my job just to, to start Party Slate. So that was seven years ago, raised a million dollars of friends and family money, hired my longtime colleague, John Harrow to be my co-founder after about nine months, took a lot, took a while to recruit him away from them.
We both had great high paying jobs to be honest. As you guys know as entrepreneurs, it takes a lot to put yourself out there and you’re gonna do this and all the things. So, that’s when we started the company together. And so our vision for Party Slate, was really to be a place where people could go to get inspired and to really, find the best local event professionals to bring their vision to life.
And, and that’s really what we’ve, what we’ve built. And then on a professional side, Digital marketing is hard. I mean, I did this for 20 years working with fortune 500 companies that had full-time dedicated teams to digital marketing. Here, you have these small businesses and you’re like, oh my God, I have social media, my website, I have email marketing.
I have all these different things I need to do. Google analytics, how do I do this all? And so I try to pack as much knowledge into the Party Slate profile and to or digital education that we provide to really help people become better digital marketers in this industry. Not just our industry, it’s small businesses. It’s just very, very hard to keep up.
Dana: Yeah, totally agree. I think that’s the things that like we love about, about the industry in general is that it’s so rich of entrepreneurs and
small business owners, and it’s like, that’s like where like your heart is. It’s like, you’ve kind of hit the Mecca when you get into the industry.
So it is, it’s hard to me. Like we’re the same way, like we definitely love educating in our industry, but we love educating outside of the industry, but such a huge amount of entrepreneurs and small businesses is within the hospitality realm.
Courtney: So you are big in these digital agencies. Obviously you have a great job that is fulfilling you such so much that you’re thinking about doing this platform because it’s gonna help you do your job better. Right? Like that was kind of your thought was like, hey, if I had this to plan the parties that I’m planning, it would be that much better.
Julie: I was so amazed that I, you know, I was, when we were looking for these venues for the holiday party, for these corporate events, I was amazed that at the time there were some Yelp like listings, but you couldn’t really experience the venue on these listing sites or even the wedding websites, like The Knot and Wedding, where there were early adopters of the web.
And yet when I looked at Houzz and I looked at these profiles of the interior designers of landscapers, it was really a full portfolio. It was almost like I was looking at their portfolio and understanding, oh, this is what it would be like to work with them. So I didn’t have the time to go visit 10 venues, you know?
Wanted to narrow it, not to one, but narrow it to three or, or four. And so I wanted to provide this Houzz like rich profile page that got me enough information of, you know, what are the different room configurations? What are the different settings? What do real events look like here? Let’s say I’m doing a fundraiser, I’m doing a wedding, I’m doing a bat mitzvah.
I’m doing, you know, a birthday party. What did those look like? And could I picture myself there? And I, if I had enough information with testimonials, everything I needed, then I could go do a visit versus, you know, kind of like the hit or miss old days, like I used to do. Yeah.
Courtney: So you talked about it, talked about it, talked about it. And I feel like this kind of fits with one of my favorite quotes. One of my favorite quotes is you or regret the things you don’t do more than the things that you do. So sometimes you just get this idea in your head, and this is how the venue was for me.
It was like, I can’t not do it. Like I have to try it and if I fail, I fail, but I know that I like went down trying, like I have to unturn this stone or answer this question. And it kind of sounds like similar for you where you’re like, I gotta answer this question.
Julie: I was obsessed with it. I had like 57 versions of a PowerPoint deck. I designed it myself. I’m not like a Canva, you know, or a Photoshop person, even though I was a digital agency person, I was general management sales. I wasn’t designing, you know, hand designing websites. So I literally kind of like skeleton together a design in PowerPoint.
And I designed the website and that’s what I pitched when I went out and talked to investors and it looked, you know, decent for being designed in PowerPoint. I mean, you guys know it’s not a design tool and I was obsessing about it. And I kept thinking about that, what if someone else does, you know, in my mind, my idea, how will I feel, if after three or four years, and again, it was that extra push by my husband that was like, I have no excuses anymore. I, I have to do it.
Courtney: So did you have any investors at that point or was it like, all right, I’m going out cold. I started stopped my job. Or did you have people who were interested?
Julie: I had people that were interested, but I really went to my personal network, people that knew I had run a 50 million P and L you know, at a digital agency, I’d run a team of 250 people. I had all this digital experience. And so I think people were investing in me, but of course they liked the idea. But you never know if an idea is gonna make it.
So in the early days, it’s really about the founding team that people are investing in. Do they believe in you? Do you have the hustle, the grit? No matter how many times you get knocked down and I got knocked down many times, will you get back up again? And I think that’s what you really look for. Cuz if you’re looking for someone like, well, I want to get an exit in three years and this is how much money I wanna make.
They’re just not gonna make it that when a founder says to me like, oh, this seems like a really hot area. My goal is to build something and sell it. I would run the other direction. That’s not, you know, you should plan on, especially in technology, like this is something you want to do. You enjoy the journey.
You’re thinking about it, not about the exit, but what value you can provide and what problems you’re solving. And if you’re kind of the best person in the world to solve that problem for whatever reason, those are the people you wanna invest in. Again, one day I hope to invest in female founders and, and, you know, help other people build businesses.
Cause I think it’s really important that we get more women empowered and, and, and, and starting businesses. And I’m, I’m really a big, I at least twice a week, mentor female tech founders that are starting businesses. So I I’m very passionate about it.
Dana: I love that. So tell us a little bit about cuz I mean, we’ve interviewed a couple of people that have started like techy companies, which is like totally out of my realm of understanding.
Right. Because it’s not just an idea, but there’s someone who act has to actually like build it, like developers and code. And so the staff, I imagine you have, has to be pretty large. And you mentioned that you had some investors, but what was that? I’m, I’m sure you did some kind of fundraising to get the it off the ground. So what was that like?
Julie: I raised a million dollars of friends and family money, but the last 200,000 in the round was an institutional investor called Hyde Park Venture Partners. I went to lunch, I got kind of mutual friend, you know, I said, hey, I’m just looking for advice. And, and he really Liked ideas, I’d stay in touch as you get further along.
And then, we had about $800,000 raised. So probably like nine investors putting in a hundred thousand again, I had friends and family, my father, my, you know, like my parents, different groups that believed in me. You know, I regrouped with him and I said, listen, I have $800,000 raised. I know I’m gonna close the round.
I wanted to just share our strategy. And he, and, and he’s like, yeah, let’s meet next week. And so he’s thought it was gonna be a phone call. I’m like, oh, I’m right outside your office. I’m right nearby. Let’s do it in person. And he’s like, okay, great. So I go in person, he pulls in his partner, we met for about an hour and I said, listen, I’m not really raising.
I, I know I’m gonna close it. I just wanted to get feedback. And then they called me five minutes later, they said they wanted to put the last 200,000 in the round. So I always tell people, take that in person meeting, even though Zoom is great., back then many people weren’t Zooming as much. This was, you know, seven years ago.
Go in person, show your passion, and I also feel like when you have that confidence, like, I know I’m gonna close the round, it’s almost like a little hard to get like, oh wow. They, they don’t actually even need me. You know, it it’s a little bit reverse psychology, kinda like dating a little bit. don’t be too interested, you know?
Dana: Right, right.
Courtney: So I’m sure, obviously those are like great success stories. I’m sure that you had lots of not successful pitches. Tell us about that.
Julie: Yeah. So I, my background in kind of enterprise sales at the digital agencies, so instead of selling, you know, a $5,000, $3,000 contract, like Party Slate’s on average, like two to $5,000 a year, you know, I was selling, you know, 15 million contracts and 10 million just state farm, and. 3m big, big corporate, companies.
And usually you got to rhythm that your win loss ratio was about 50/50. So if you were gonna work on a big enterprise pitch, you, you had to feel like you had a good chance and you were kind of that final round. With pitching to raise money and meeting with venture capitalist, what I learned very quickly is you have to be, have a very thick skin and deal with rejection
So I, I remember specifically, being in Silicon Valley, you know, down, near, you know, The, where Google’s headquartered, mountain view, all the area where all the big investors are, a lot of the big investors and like, starting to realize like, wow, if I pitch 30, I’m gonna get 29 no’s and one yes. And so that’s a big mind shift for someone cuz raising money is very similar to sales.
You have a pipeline, you’re gonna win some, you’re gonna lose some, you’re gonna have three, four rounds. And so what I realized is. You really have to pick yourself up. And sometimes I would like just get in my car and put on like good Britney Spears music, whatever I need to do to lift myself up to go to the next one after a lot of rejection.
I will admit I cried in the car a few times. Like, you know, it is. Very painful. When it’s your baby that you’re working so hard on you feel like you’ve got good progress, you have things, and then you get no, no, no, no. Some people would say like, I don’t know if I can get excited, excited about the events industry or I’ll go ask my wife if she likes it. I’m like, listen, buddy., this isn’t just weddings and it’s not just women, you know, in this industry, this is 170 billion or even larger us business, $800 billion global business. And I, of course I didn’t answer that way.
I think there was some, you know, the 95% of venture capitalists are men. We’re starting to see more women investors, which is great, but a lot of times you would have. You know, I’m not so excited about events. I’ve seen some wedding businesses fail, so I don’t invest in that. So really doing your research, finding the right venture capitalists that have marketplace experience, cuz Party Slate is connecting supply and demand.
You know, people, planning, parties, people like you that have the venues and are the planners. So those type people really understood marketplaces better. And then I just got better at. Brushing it off, like next one, keep going. So we’ve raised 15 million to date. So we’ve got, had a lot of success. And I’m going on the road soon to raise our series B round, which is gonna be a significant round in the next six months.
Dana: Do you feel like you struggled a lot because you were female, like not you personally, but like if 95% of them were male, like did you kind of feel like you were in a male dominated world that you had to get over and for them to take you seriously?
Julie: Yeah. I mean, I think I, I’m a, I have a very strong personality and I can go one for one with even the. Alpha male, you know, venture capitalist out, someone, one of the like top venture capitalists out there called me relentless. I took that as a compliment, I’m like, I wasn’t gonna stop slow down until I got a meeting with him and we ended up having like three rounds of meetings.
Uh, he a very, very well-known venture capitalist. So even to get that far along with someone that gave me confidence. So I feel like there is some not overt discrimination, but again, saying things like I’ll ask my wife if she likes it.
I, I, I, think that, you know, like, listen, you went to three corporate events this week.
What, know, what do you need to ask your wife about like, events are huge. It’s not just, social events and even social events, again, there’s a lot of men involved in weddings and birthday parties and things like that. It’s not just corporate. So that I think is kind of like under the surface discrimination, but I didn’t feel any overt, you know, sexist comments or that.
But I did feel like, listen, you’re in a room with five men talking about, you know, these gorgeous, beautiful events and inspiration and the process. And sometimes there is this disconnect. You know, I had a friend starting an Airbnb for motorcycle rentals. That might be a little bit easier for them to relate to, you know? So I, I think there was some under the surface discrimination, but it didn’t stop me.
Courtney: yeah. Yeah.
We like to ask everyone this was there ever like a real, oh, shit moment where you were like questioning if you’re gonna be able to make it to that next step, or you were like, what have I done? I’ve left this life of security for this life of uncertainty and maybe brought your dad along with you. I don’t really know, but you’re like, oh shit, what have I done?
Julie: Yeah., I think the biggest, oh shit moment was, you know, we raised our series A round. We had 5 million round. We were set, we had this big lease to, you know, go from the 30-person, lease to a 90-person lease and then March 15th, March 20th, hit of the pandemic, and it was never an oh shit. I did the wrong thing or, oh shit this is a mistake. It was really more, how are we gonna get through this? Is this gonna be one month? Or is this gonna be two years? I never could have predicted it went on as long as we did, but I think, you know, because I’m, I’d like to say experienced founder, but I, that really means older.
I led a big team through the 2008 crisis and that was bad. 2008 and where people were even not comfortable having celebrations, like it was so bad. And then, you know, September 11th and so many things that I have, you know, worked through with teams and my co-founder similarly has led big teams through crisis. And so I think when we got back from, I was in Las Vegas, when it, when it all went down and saw people losing money left and right at the, at the conference, it was the special event.
I’m like we gotta get together. I got the exec team. We got on a zoom. Luckily, you know, we knew what zoom was because venture capitalists, had zooms all the time. You know, this wasn’t a new technology and we’re like, we’re gonna have to really shift the way we work. We’re gonna have to stay relevant. And like literally week one of the pandemic, we did our first digital event and I will never forget it.
I remember I was saying people are gonna have to continue networking, but through digital they’re gonna have to, so I, it was how to build your network online. And so it was everything about LinkedIn, Instagram, how to use crediting on Party Slate. And the first one was, so many people were like chatting and connecting. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Giving us something to build our business while we were working from home while there was no events and literally every single week we had this like digital marketing talk show. And I remember like the first one, I literally had tears in my eyes about like the pain people were going through.
I mean, I remember some people saying, I, I think I’m gonna lose my business that I’ve spent 20 years building. Like, that’s kind of the scariness of what was going on in that time. So I think what we did to turn around a very, very difficult situation is we added as much value as possible for free. This was not for just our, our customers or premium members. It was for the industry. We had many inspirational speakers, big names come on, reassure people, tell them what they’re doing to build their brand and what they’re doing to keep their business strong. And we had a lot of things about like cutting costs and efficiency.
So I think that’s how we got through it, but there was never a time where I’m like, oh my God, why did I do this. I, I, I, there was hard times that I had to pick myself up and, you know, talk to my co-founder or talk to my husband or, or friends about very, very tough times, but I love this business. So much. So just like, you’d go through a tough time with a teenager. You never regret having that teenager, but you certainly have times where, like, I can’t do this anymore.
Julie: And then you pick yourself back up. That’s kind of what I look at as a startup, is a very difficult, challenging teenager that you love more than anything.
Dana: I think that’s so true. So I have a question. It sounds like you’ve had like some roller coasters, like true, like high, some pretty low lows. And I know hindsight’s always 20/20., but when I look back there are, I can, I can see very specific dips and there’s this one right before the pandemic, it was 2019 of the fall. We had a really tough situation with an employee that we honestly should have never hired, but we did.
And they ended up quitting, taking somebody else with them. And it was this very emotional questioning do we know what we’re doing? Are we leading these people into the black abyss, like, cause we don’t know what we’re doing. Like we’ve created this very, what used to be a wonderful environment. And we feel like there was this cancer in it that we couldn’t quite quell, right. But that all happened.
And I remember March hitting and all I could think of is thank God, one I have two less employees. but two thank God. I don’t have that negativity. I don’t have that person who expects me to know everything, expects me to figure it out and is not gonna be a team player in our team. And do you ever look back on situations like that where you’re just like, thank God I failed so terribly bad at this because it made this next phase so much easier.
Julie: Absolutely. I mean, I’ve had, you know, really tough employee issues. And again, anytime you manage a team, this is gonna come up. I think the big question is what do you do about it? Of course, I like to be introspective and say, you know, what have I done to lead to this, you know, usually when you have an employee like that, it’s a, a combination of missed expectations, but also miscommunication.
So I, I start there, but if, if, if you can’t break through that, after doing active, listening, after active listening, and you do have someone who’s not on the bus, you’ve got to put a timeline together to get rid of that person. And I, I hate to say it that way, but it, it, it will always end up hurting your business the longer you keep people on that are not believers in you as a leader or believers in the company. And so I find the easiest way to deal with this is yes, you can write a performance plan, like a company it’s like written, it’s documented from HR perspective.
I like to call it a walk around the block and the walk around the block is I can see that you are not happy here. Life is short. What do you think we should do? And then be quiet. And that’s the hardest part of like filling in, like, don’t start talking about, you did this, you did that. You did this, we heard this, you talked about me and you said this, forget all that life is short. I can see, you’re not happy from, you know, your, you know, your presence, your, you know, how you’re communicating.
What should we do? Again that is, that is really important. I even think with an unhappy client, those type of conversations are really great. Like this is just, I can tell this communication is tense. This is not working. I’m looking at myself. What could I do differently? I’m sure you are not happy. What do you think we should do? What’s your sense on what we should do. Like those type of open-ended questions, and then just try to listen as much as possible. I think a lot of times when you have those kind of conversations, they’ll come out pretty quickly say, you’re right, I’m gonna leave.
Great, that’s best. You wouldn’t say that, but that’s the best possible outcome. It’s much easier to have someone leave with their dignity and not burn a bridge. It’s a small world. Leave with your dignity. You know, wish them well and, and move on, then to have to be like, you know, again. But sometimes you do have to fire someone.
It is just, there’s certain points where you just, it’s not gonna work out. And, and so I try to look at myself. I look at, you know, the, if it’s not me, the manager who’s managing that person and as much as possible, be introspective, active listening, but a certain point, walk around the block. You know, some people literally do like a walk outside, but I think it’s just a conversation that’s casual and that’s short and concise. And hopefully you can break ties within an hour or less. Yeah. But you, I, my preference is for them to do it.
Dana: Mm-hmm right. Yeah, totally.
Courtney: I think it’s great advice. Mm-hmm
Julie: Yeah. But all of us have been there. And I know some people are like that are new managers are like, oh my God. Most of my time is just people issues. I’m like welcome to management.
Dana: That is management. A hundred percent. I mean, that’s what it is. You’re managing people. Mm-hmm
Julie: You’re managing people and you’re, you know, hopefully elevating yourself out of some of the day to day so that you can do higher value activities. You know, maybe your employees don’t do things just like you would do them, but you’ve gotta let them learn. You gotta let them make mistakes., sometimes it’s really hard for me when I see something going the wrong direction, but I’m like, I gotta, I gotta let them ’em do it.
Courtney: Well, getting back to kind of like what Party Slate does, and which is obviously in that digital marketing kind of sphere for weddings and the event industry, which is super competitive. Right. So we know you’re the experts here. So wouldn’t it give our listeners a little bit of expert advice. So how can a business make their brand stand out, kind of in the way that you’ve made party slate stand out?
Julie: Yeah, it does come back to even before you think digital, you know, it’s easy to think about like, oh, what does the website look like? What is the… really thinking about what your, your mission, your vision, your differentiators are, your brand personality., if I were to meet you guys in an elevator and you had like, literally only two minutes to tell me about your venue, what are the three things you would say that makes your, your venue different and unique? So documenting all those things. I don’t care whether you’re a planner, a venue, or Party Slate. For Party Slate, you know, we really wanna be, an elevated experience.
And so we’re really going after the top 10% of the market. That is different than the mass market websites. We wanna be all about event inspiration and design and really those rich portfolio pages. We don’t wanna be a listing. We don’t wanna be like, Yelp. I love Yelp for restaurants and plumbers, but not for event professionals.
For us, it’s really about that elevated experience. It’s about that rich portfolio page. And it’s about connecting with people that are planning these kind of larger scale events. So we try to really differentiate ourself up front. So once you have your differentiators, you have your brand personality, we’re a positive design focused personality.
We don’t say, oh, we hate this. We love this. Like, we’re not gonna be like the fashion police. We’re always more, more positive. There’s other brands that are more sarcastic or, you know, friendly. We’re really elevated and, you know, Vogue of event design. That’s really what, what we aspire to be. So knowing that personality is, is important and then really understanding, you know, if, if there’s a, like a, a hook for someone on the, in a digital space, what do you wanna be known for?
So for example, there’s a lot of planners that are just experts in a certain location, a destination. So what are you writing about to build that brand, to build that brand? That you’re a global destination planner. Do you have pages on like your favorite destinations in Greece? You know, 10 things to think about when you’re doing a destination event.
So really thinking about what those things are and then for extra credit, if you think about search engine optimization, doing a little bit of research on what are people actually searching on?, there’s a lot of free tools out there. We use a platform that’s, you know, you do have to pay for it again. I’m happy to send over some of these resources, but you put in, you know, like, San Diego wedding planner, San Diego vineyard planner. What are those terms that people are actually searching on that you have a shot at ranking for?
So to get to stand out on digital, people have to find you. So it starts with what are people searching on and how can they, when they find you within three seconds or two minutes, can they really understand? Who you are, what you do and what your differentiators are.
What I see a lot of people doing is, you know, thinking about their navigation, thinking about the photos they wanna use, that is secondary to you have 30 seconds to make an impression. Who are you? What do you do? I call it a digital handshake. How do I quickly know? Sometimes I look at websites and I’m like, are you a dress designer or are you a venue or are you a photographer?
Literally like, it’s so obvious to me, but it’s not obvious to them because they’re too close to it. So I talk about the five areas of digital. You need to think about it’s your website. It’s your social media presence. It’s your third-party platforms like it or not, you know, Party Slate, other platforms are out there and you need to have a strong presence.
Pick a couple. You don’t have to do all of them. Even the free profile and Party Slate is a great place to build a digital presence. And then you need to think about your brand and your network. And so those are the things I tell people to really think about and write down a plan. Don’t keep beating yourself up.
Like I’m not doing enough. It’s not enough. Create a cadence of how often you’re gonna post on, on social media and what platforms are important to you. Put a goal together for your website. A lot of people just need a facelift. They don’t need a full redesign, and really, really keep it simple, simple, simple.
That’s what I always tell people do not get too cute with your website with. Fancy navigation and scrolling photos. It’s not going to be appreciated by Google and that’s what’s really important. And also I think your visitors, they want something simple. Who are you? What do you do? Do your photos speak to me, do the, does the copy feel personal? Is the about page helping me be better understand who you guys are as people, not just this venue is so amazing. What is your founding story? Those are the type of things that I think people. Know they need to do, but oftentimes forget.
Dana: Yeah, I think too, like, I love the, I you saying like, just, what is your mission? What is your vision? Cuz I think for so many years, like we didn’t have one and we didn’t even think about it and we. We’re consistently finding ourselves that we weren’t in the market. We wanted to be in, we didn’t have the clients that we wanted.
and so for us, we’re definitely in that elevated experience. We want clients that really love community that are very guest focused. They’re not the bridezillas like we don’t really attract those kind of people, but I, I belong to this, I’ve mentioned this before on this podcast, this venue owner’s community on Facebook. Which I honestly am on it just for like giggles, because it just makes me laugh all the time., as terrible as that sounds,
But you have, you have all these people and it’s these owners of these, of these venues. And a lot of them, I would say 90% of them are barns. So it’s something that they have, they had on their family land or that they jumped on the barn trend or whatever, and their gripes and complaints about things, complaints about things are so normal to the event world. Right, but they get so offended by it and it’s because they, they just they’re too close to they, they really don’t understand it. And they complain a lot about like the, these quality of clients.
Well, when you go and you one, you listen to them, talk, you listen to how they sell their venue, that’s who they’re attracting is someone who doesn’t find their space to be professional or necessarily respected. Like it’s just, you know, they’re, they’re trying to be too cool or too aloof or too, like, bring anything you want here, you know? And like, not really knowing like what they’re actually what they want and what they’re saying isn’t matching. Like it’s just not matching.
Julie: Yeah. I find that people that don’t come from the event industry that open a venue, they have a pretty rude awakening of how this industry works., I, I won’t name any names, but there’s a venue in New York that was opened by a bunch of real estate, you know, developers and., they wouldn’t allow people to bring in their own lighting company.
They, you couldn’t do a dance floor. It was too hard to get like certain things that were just like the word got out from the planner community. And they they’re, they’re just not gonna make it that, you know, maybe corporate they will, but in the world of events you need number one, you’ve got to have strong planner relationships.
If you wanna get the elevated events and number two, you have to be very accommodating to design. And I think that if you’re not accommodating to, to the design of the event and you have a lot of limitations, the words gonna get out that you’re just difficult to work with and people are, you’re not gonna attract the type of clients you want.
I think that, you know, being from the industry like you guys are and learning the industry. Planner. I, I believe you guys are still, you obviously have a great planning company, too. That background, is so great for your venue because you know what planners need. And even if you aren’t working with a professional planner, for an event, you know what they, that you, you know, what the party host needs in order to have a successful event.
And I think that people do not understand. That world they don’t, they don’t understand it. I can just be by this New York venue. I’m like, they’re gonna have a hard time.
Dana: Well, and I think, I, I really think it just leads to burnout because you have this expectation of what it’s supposed to be like, and you’re not willing to be flexible and change with what the market actually is. And I think that’s a lot of entrepreneurs in general, no matter what. Field or industry you’re in.
I think that you walk into with this expectation that it’s going to be this way, but maybe you don’t know, you didn’t know enough about that market or about that industry. You just had this great idea and then you get burnt out because you’re just you, it’s not fun because it’s not what you thought it was gonna be.
And I see that a lot. Like it just, I see it a lot in the events industry for sure. But I see. A lot around like you, I, I, just always think about this, high school friend of mine who opened up a bar and she always seems miserable.
like, she seems miserable all the time and I’m like, she does, are you actually, do you enjoy what you do? And she’s like, it’s just so much harder than I ever thought it would be.
And that goes, that goes back to, you know, it’s hard, but if you love it and again, I don’t mean love every single day and I’m not crying in the car, all those things, it does happen. But if you believe it to your, you know, your soul, that this is something that’s gonna help people and, and no one’s gonna stop you those hard days or the complaining clients or the employees that, don’t appreciate you.
Or, you know, again, the not on the bus, you can get through all those things, but if not it’s gonna be really tough and you’re gonna, after the third or fourth time you get knocked down, you’re gonna, you’re gonna quit. And, and that’s okay too. You could decide like, you know, I tried. And this wasn’t for me and move on to the next thing.
There’s no shame in, in that at all. In fact, I think a lot of people have learned a lot by either having a failed business or a business that closed before they thought it would, because they’re like, okay. I decided, you know, my cousin opened up a bakery. I don’t wanna get up at two in the three in the morning to get the bakery ready.
I thought this French bakery and out in Berkeley, it was gonna be great. You know, it. It was the terrible, terrible lifestyle. And so at least she tried it, she learned it. And I, I think that I give people so much credit for trying things.
Dana: yeah. I love that for you too. I love that freedom of that. Like, let it, sorry. We call em unsuccessful attempts.
Courtney: That’s right. At some point you’re gonna attempt something there’s gonna be successful, but there’s gonna be lots of unsuccessful ones along the way.
Julie: Absolutely. I agree a hundred percent, but I, I think at the end of the day for Party Slate, you know, I have, I kinda have two, two different things that keep me going one. I love events and I love this
Julie: and I wanna help these small businesses become better digital marketers. Yes. Party Slate is a big piece of it, but I also do free website reviews.
We help with social media. We do a lot to help this industry. And that keeps me going. And then on the consumer side or the party host side, you know, I know how stressful it is to plan a large-scale event. It’s very, very challenging. You have all these expectations, you have a lot of stakeholders, and if we can make it just a little bit easier and a little bit more enjoyable to get inspired and save a little bit of time finding the right team, that right elevated team for you to bring your vision to life.
That is also important to me. So I kind of have these two sides. I, I tell people if I knew I was starting two businesses, not one, I might have been scared away, but I, it is a marketplace is like two businesses. We have our consumers, our people planning parties, what they need and what keeps them up at night, what their, we call it jobs to be done.
What are their key jobs that they need to do related to planning a party? And then we have these, all these thousands and thousands of small businesses and, you know, the one, the two connect that’s really, our job is bringing them together.
Dana: I love that. I love your energy for it all. Yeah. It’s so passionate. Well, we would love to end and hear, like, how has party slate changed your life?
Julie: The first way it’s changed my life is it’s really given me a stronger sense of purpose. I think, you know, I had many jobs before where I felt connected to the company, but there’s nothing like You know, having your own baby, so to speak and helping it grow and, and, and seeing all the changes.
And I think in building this team that really does feel like family., to me, you know, yesterday we had a, a tragic, shooting about three miles from my house up in Highland Park, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. You know, first thing we’re doing is texting all the employees that live in the area.
What do you need? Is everyone accounted for? Like, it really does feel like family. And I think that, has really made a big impact on like, wow, you can work with these people that you love. You can learn from them, have this kind of second family, of course I have my own family, but my second family, which I’m sure you guys feel as well with your team.
I think that’s really made a big impact. And then I also think I’ve just gained a lot of confidence. I, I feel that I love this, you know, this platform that we’re building. I, I love the industry and just doing things like this and speaking and sharing the knowledge and helping other., especially women, builder businesses has given me a lot of joy, you know, like when you help other people, you actually get a lot of satisfaction.
And I know you guys do your coaching and I know that it just feels good. So I, I would say it’s built a lot of confidence, in my purpose and what I’m doing.
Dana: Thanks everyone for gathering us today to talk about the hustle. For our episode with Julie, we are drinking a margarita. We hope we get the chance to make it this week in cheers to dreaming out loud. To learn more and connect with Julie, you can visit Party Slate on Instagram at partyslate, or visit her personal account on Instagram at Juliepartyslate. Make sure you check out the website by searching partyslate.com.
Courtney: To learn more about our hustles, Visit us on the gram at canddevents, at thebradfordnc, At hustleandgather, and at anthem.house. And if you’re interested in learning more about our speaking training or venue consulting, head to our website hustleandgather.com.
Dana: And if you love us and you love this show, we’d be more than honored If you left a rating and a review.
Courtney: this podcast is a production of Earfluence. I’m Courtney
Dana: and I’m Dana.
Courtney: And we’ll talk with you next time on hustle and gather.
Hustle and Gather is hosted by Courtney Hopper and Dana Kadwell, and is produced by Earfluence. Courtney and Dana’s hustles include C&D Events, Hustle and Gather, and The Bradford Wedding Venue.