Welcome to What’s New Wednesday, where we profile local startups—and the entrepreneurs behind them. This week, we meet Crystal Grave, who launched Snappening.com in April.
Type of business: Online event planning resources
Address: P.O. Box 2765, Indianapolis, 46206
Founded: April 2011
Owner: Crystal Grave
Owner’s background: Grave, 34, has a marketing degree from the University of Indianapolis, an MBA in finance from Butler University and 15 years of experience in sales and marketing.
She got her start as a promotions assistant (and then VIP coordinator) for the World Mardi Gras entertainment complex, then moved on to positions with the Indianapolis Star, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and Music for All Inc.
An admitted “type A” personality, Grave said she wanted the personal challenge that came from building a business from scratch.
Most recently, she spent nearly five years as business development manager at law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP, leaving to start the company she’d been planning since 2009.
“I thought if I didn’t do this before I turned 35, it was going to get too scary,” Grave said. “So I forced myself to go out and be scared.”
Why started business: During her corporate marketing days, Grave occasionally was called on to help orchestrate special events—and realized the process often was an “enormous waste of time” because there wasn’t a single source of information on local venues or event planners consumers could turn to for help.
So she set out to provide a comprehensive, searchable online database.
Graves convened focus groups to solicit input on the idea, and “took them along” as she developed the business. She even let focus groups pick the name and tag line—“event planning, in a snap”—despite her own misgivings.
“I’m glad I didn’t let myself stand in the way,” she said.
Grave also assembled a stable of “partner” organizations she consulted with and hired to handle specific tasks like programming, search engine optimization and website design.
And though she remains sole owner of Snappening, she said their input was invaluable.
“As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest things you lose in the short-term is a leadership team—somebody else to bounce ideas off of, someone to poke holes in your logic,” she said.
Competitive advantage: In less than a year, Snappening.com has compiled information on 1,600 event venues and 90 event planners—the most comprehensive database of its kind in central Indiana, Grave said.
Grave said her knowledge of and connections to the central Indiana event marketplace also is advantage, helping Snappening keep its databases updated.
“It needs a human being who knows what’s going on in the city,” she said. “Snappening was built with end users in mind.”
A basic listing is free, but venues and planners can pay for “premium” services—prices are tiered based on size—that include online tools and promotional efforts.
“We want to help our clients be remembered all year long,” Grave said.
Consumers can search for free or pay for premium subscriptions that allow them to create their own event pages and photo galleries, receive multiple quotes simultaneously and accept online RSVPs.
Startup cost: $350,000
Funding source: Personal savings, SBA-backed loan
Potential problem and contingency plan: Even the most comprehensive database isn’t worth much if no one searches it. So Grave has spent time and effort “creating reasons” for people to come to Snappening.com.
Super Bowl XLVI was a golden opportunity. The company built at least three special online landing pages tied to the big game and compiled a venue guide to help out-of-town planners navigate the Indianapolis market.
Grave said the website had record traffic on Jan. 23—the day after the New York Giants and New England Patriots secured their spots in the NFL championship—and signed on several new clients in the weeks leading up to the festivities.
First-year goal: Grave aims to establish a “strong relationship” with at least 10 percent of the central Indiana venue and event-planning marketplace—signing them on as underwriting partners or serious prospects.
She hopes to parlay Snappening.com’s Super Bowl win into additional business in Indianapolis and eventually elsewhere. But she knows it won’t be easy.
“You’ve got to work it,” she said.