Kelsey Recht, Venuebook, Woman Entrepreneur
Kelsey first reached out to me through email. I was a judge at an event and Kelsey was a contestant. She wrote to me about her company and what she was building...and of course asked if I would sit down and talk to her about Venuebook (a different name at that point) at another time. We made a date. I got the opportunity to meet her for the first time at the event I judged. After that she kept me posted on what she was building and the inevitable pitfalls she came across. Venuebook is place to discover and book a venue. It is more than that but I will get back to that.
Kelsey grew up outside of Minneapolis. Both her Grandfathers were entrepreneurs. Her Moms Dad launched a variety of companies. The largest one is a glass company that actually made glass for the Freedom Tower. When he moved on he sold the entire company back to the employees and it still exists today. He came out of the Great Depression having money originally and then nothing. She believes that fundamentally taught him how to build things and he understood how to motivate people. He was a good leader. No doubt a very important asset for an entrepreneur. Her fathers father worked in a brokerage house eventually rising to the top to run the company. Her mother worked in retailing until she stayed home with the kids. Her father is a CFO for small companies.
Kelsey decided to go east for college. She wanted something out of her comfort zone and a totally different experience. After graduating high school she headed to Williams where she majored in economics. She spent a semester in Florence, Italy living with a family that lived two blocks from the Duomo. She didn't know a lick of Italian when she got there but by the time she left Kelsey spoke fluently.
After graduating she went on a major job search. She interviewed for 10 banking jobs ending up in the last round for all of them and ended up with zero offers. She never really wanted to be a banker but she liked finance and numbers. The one company that had a job that was different from the rest was Fidelity in Boston. Kelsey thinks they saw something in her because she didn't even push for the job as she was so focused on banking. It ended up being an amazing job. She had no finance background per se but they gave her a computer and a few parameters and let her figure it out. She had to figure out how to create a structure inside an environment. That experience helped her guide the way that she manages today. Giving people more responsibility that they are actually ready for can sometimes give people the freedom they need to grow vs pushing someone into a particular role.
She stayed at Fidelity for two years. She grew a lot but realized she wanted to do something with more in an operational role. She landed a job in Sears Holding Company. She moved to Chicago and worked in business development and acquisitions. The company had been independent right before she got there. They had just bought 70% of the small companies back and continued to buy others back while Kelsey was there. She spent a lot of time in Canada looking at other companies to buy. She was involved with the purchasing of a few small retail operations. An interesting job that allowed her to see a lot of everything. Sears is an interesting holding company. Sears Mexico is completely different than the Sears in the US and the Sears in Canada is different too.
She had blazed her own trail at both Fidelity and Sears and decided it would make sense to go to business school. She was married and both her and her husband decided to go together...of course they would have to go to where they both got in together. They both got in to Kellogg.
It was in business school she has started thinking about Venuebook. Kelsey was involved with a non-profit organization called Minds Matter dedicated to helping high performing kids that want to go to college from under served neighborhoods. The organization was big in NYC and began to go national with one of the first chapters opening in Chicago. They started with 10 kids in the first year and now 100 kids a year in the Chicago area. Kelsey worked on hosting events to create awareness and didn't understand why there wasn't a resource for the venues.
The summer between her first and second year of business school she worked for an online marketing company. She said she got the best advice there when it comes to building a business. Start small and test a lot of things on a small scale. I couldn't agree more.
After Kelsey graduated she started testing the venue market on a small scale to see if there was a business to be built. She really did not know the venues or tech but began to figure it out. She hired a young kid she met through graduate school friend who was connected to a whole tech team in Nepal. They didn't do a great job but she learned a lot. She learned one major rule which is she needed a tech partner/CTO right from the start. She know knew what to build and not to build. It didn't cost her alot but it was the mistakes in a small environment that taught her how to build something big.
She moved to NYC, hired at CTO this past August and began to build. She knew it was abou the software. The software helps the venue easily keep their bookings and in turn book more. Think of an Open Table for events yet this helps the management of the space/venue owner and the management of the party planner/person.
The more time I spent with Kelsey, the more impressed I became with her. She is methodical, driven and listens. So, yes I am an investor in Venuebook and am looking foward to watching this platform grow into other cities around the country. Get on line and book an event!