Jan. 5, 2021

Building Your Digital Brand with Partyslate CEO Julie Novack

Building Your Digital Brand with Partyslate CEO Julie Novack

Today we're talking to CEO, Julie Roth Novack, who spent 20 years in the digital agency world, where she planned over 50 large-scale galas and corporate events. In her mid-forties, Julie left her executive job to launch Partyslate, a website that inspires people planning events and connects them with the leading event professionals and venues across the country and the world. They are currently launched in 14 cities.

In an industry where 3% of venture capital money goes to female tech founders, we're going to learn how Julie is taking on a $112 billion market within the events industry through her company, Partyslate. Julie's going to walk through the five elements of brand strategy, scaling the business, how to book the gig and qualify a lead, and how to use the COVID era to expand your digital presence. What is the wild West of Instagram and Pinterest, and what's so special about posting professional photos on Partyslate? You're about to find out.

Transcript

Three important words to help you start off your week. You are extraordinary. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for joining us. I'm your host, Mike Zabrin, and welcome to Funktastic Chats, where we help you become extraordinary in your small business, and we help you dominate the field with creativity, originality and vision. In an industry where 3% of tech founders are female, we're going to learn how Julie is taking on a $112 billion market within the wedding industry through her company, Partyslate. Julie's going to walk through the five elements of brand strategy, scaling the business, how to book the gig and qualify a lead, and how to use the COVID era to expand your digital presence. What is the wild West of Instagram and Pinterest, and what's so special about posting professional photos on Partyslate? You're about to find out. Partyslate is a website that inspires people planning events, and connects them with the leading event professionals and venues across the country and the world. Brides, grooms, gala chairs, and any corporate event that you could think of uses Partyslate to browse thousands of curated photos to find ideas and trends for their next big event. People can save their favorite photos, then discover and contact local event professionals who bring their party to life. Partyslate is meant for people to find new ideas, get inspired and find the local event professionals and venues connected to the best events in the country. It's an inspirational platform for larger scale parties. Today we're talking to CEO, Julie Roth Novak who spent 20 years in the digital agency world, where she planned over 50 large-scale galas and corporate events. She became increasingly frustrated while planning a high profile cancer research gala, spending hours online looking for new ideas and venues, only to find wedding blogs, sterile vendor listing sites, and Pinterest dead ends. Julie was inspired and set out to create a website to address the $143 billion events industry. Since its founding in 2015, Partyslate has acquired thousands of the world's top event professionals and venues who upload beautiful event photos and galleries to the website. Partyslate is headquartered in Chicago and is officially launched in 14 cities nationwide. So we're talking to Julie, Hi Julie. Hi, that was a great introduction. You captured the essence of Partyslate, so thank you for that. Good. Good. Well, I've been a member, I've been a premium member I should say, of Partyslate since October. This is the only year long platform that I've ever signed up for, by the way every service I talk about on the podcast I personally use, but this is the only year long platform where I didn't ask for referrals for any of my friends on the platform I just signed up. This podcast is so important because as I was researching Partyslate and the team, and believe me, there's no shortage of content on Julie Novak, I was so inspired.... I'm so inspired about not only what a great company you have, but also how open and transparent you are about the growth of the company and your mission to take on a $112 billion market in the U S alone. And you recently said Partyslate is still in phase one. Could you tell me about some of the succeses in phase one and what goes into phase two? Because if you're still in phase one, I think I'm in like negative five. Well, you know , we are a venture backed business, and so I think the concept of growth when you raise venture capital is different because it's almost like venture capital funds are almost like gambling. They invest in a hundred companies and two to five will really make it. And so in order to get their business models to work, they have to see inordinate successes from their companies. And so, because we've raised venture capital money, you know, we need to grow not like by 10% a year, but we need to double or triple every year. I think it's all relative to the type of business that you started, so we really have grown so much. We have close to a million photos that have been uploaded to Partyslate. As you know, you can create a free profile page or you can get one of our premium packages that unlock new profile features such as meet the team, testimonials, and other things like that. But really, we do feel like we're just getting started. You know, we are in year five. We're in 14 cities, but really what we're excited about kind of for phase two is getting many, many more event professionals, and also introducing Partyslate to so many millions of people that plan, you know, typically it's larger scale events or the do it yourself parties, which again, I love for my kids, my backyard. I can find ideas on Pinterest for those, but when you're planning a big corporate event or a fundraiser where you want to raise $200,000 or a million dollars, or a product launch, you really want to have one of those next level events. We want to get more people familiar with Partyslate so they can use it as a source of inspiration. But again, for someone like me, I'm always looking for new venues. I'm looking for new bands. I'm looking for new experiences that can take my events to the next level. That's really what we want to create on Partyslate. I think it's really inspiring for our listeners to know that this is not an overnight success and it wasn't, it's not something like an e-commerce or sales where you're receiving revenue right away. I think you mentioned it took like four years to leave your digital ad agency job to pursue Partyslate? Yeah. Well, he had a business plan that I kept refining. I had the URL, the website address for www.partyslate.com for about five years before... I didn't build anything, but again, I was building the model and thinking about it and really to be honest, obsessing about it. I knew I had to do it, but it's so scary, to be honest, leaving your paid job. I was an executive at mobile SAS company digital agency , and really putting yourself out there and raising money and asking friends and family, will you invest? You know, it is very scary, but I felt so compelled and so excited about the idea, that finally my husband said to me like, Julie, you got to do this. And I'm like, Oh my God, I got to do this, and so I quit my job the next day, again five years in the making. People that think like these tech startups that are, you know, the 22 year old in the garage, there has been a lot of research that older founders that have had experiences and manage teams do have a better chance of success. I was in my mid forties when I started this company and , it's never too late to follow your dream of what you want to do. How are you in a better position to launch Partyslate because of your huge background in digital marketing? Do you feel like you were better set up for Partyslate than you would have just jumping into it without that background? Yeah, I do, because I think what people don't understand is that a big part of growing and leading a company is people management, aligning goals, having systems, recruiting the best talent , dealing with a lot of crises. We're in a pandemic I've gone through September 11th and the 2008 financial crisis. I've run a $50 million business in my past. When you have a leader that has had those experiences, I do think it sets you up better for success. What I didn't have, is this is my first startup, so I didn't have tech startup experience. So many people in Silicon Valley, oh, this is their third for startup. So I didn't have that, but I did go through Techstars, which is a really prestigious tech accelerator program with my team. I've gone through the Chicago booth new venture challenge. So I feel like I've gotten a lot of coaching and I'm open to having mentors, even though, again, I'm a more experienced founder, to give me the ammunition and the things I didn't know from my past jobs. For me, I started out playing at local bars in Chicago and the musicians would make $75 to $100 a night. Most of the time, I would pay them out of my pocket. This was after I graduated college, where I was the barista at Starbucks, okay. And during that time though, we were learning how to seamlessly construct our set list, learning how to vibe with the audience and build more than just music, but building a show and an unforgettable experience. It wasn't until we started playing at a club that had just opened up at the time , which is right near you guys, called the Bassment, where a random couple who saw us play after the set had asked us to play their wedding. And I was like, REALLY? YOU DO? And I'll never forget. I'll never forget being on stage at that wedding because in my head, I thought... being on stage at that wedding, that this is what I was meant to do. And I knew in the back of my head that this was a start to something great. What was the turning point to you where you thought to yourself, you know, this idea of Partyslate is really coming to life now, and my heart and soul is meant for this? I mean, there's so many moments. I love that question. I kind of have goosebumps when you told the story about doing that first wedding and having that, kind of like, feeling like this is where I was meant to be. I can't identify one moment, but I will tell you that I really feel, I don't mean to sound corny, that I was born to do this job. I love technology. I love creativity. I mentioned before, I'm kind of a digital marketing geek, you know, 25 years of working with some of the largest brands in the world, and now building Partyslate's digital brand. But I also just love this industry. I can't explain it. I've worked in financial services and retail, and I've worked in every industry in my digital agency days. This industry is , you know it, is so incredible. The relationships , the fact that everyone comes together like a Broadway show to put on this experience, and you can't help but create relationships. You have to create relationships and trust... and the creativity of the industry. Not only musicians, but photographers and these decor companies. I actually think it's similar to the digital world in that with doing a digital experience, you need creative and you need tech. To do great events, you really need the creative portion, but you also need the production and the tech and the logistics side. And so it's actually more similar than you would think that I love digital, and I love events. To bring those two together is really like you said, this is what I feel like I was born to do. I did hear you planned your first birthday party when you were in like seventh grade? I did. I actually planned on a roller skating party. It was a boy girl party, and I still like saved my little list of things that I did. I love bringing people together and inspiring them. If I had a choice between, I won't tell my husband this, but like a car or like a really cool event, I would do a really cool event and get a lesser car, because I like the way events connect people. I think now during this pandemic, I mean, I just miss seeing people and I miss connecting, and to have that feeling of inspiring people, whether it's to give money to important charity, or whether it's to launch a new product or create family memories, just like you said it that way wedding. I think events, no matter what people say, the digital world, events will never go away. I think with the onset of social media, events are going to get bigger and bigger because they're becoming advertising for big products. Look at the Kardashians. Look what other people are doing. Their events are, yes, to celebrate, but they are to market new products. They are to amplify through social media. In some cases during the pandemic, they've been having these events with only three people, but it's to share an experience and create content. And so events are going to only get bigger, and I promise you, I believe in my heart of hearts that post pandemic, we're going to come back stronger than ever in this industry. 2021 and 2022 are both going to be the years of love, you know, and celebration. Totally. Me too. Partyslate features decor, caterers venues, photography, entertainment, and so much more. A couple of statistics to go along with what you just said. 350,000 event planners alone in the U S and five times the amount of photographers and venues in the U S. It's a huge industry. It's very fragmented. So there's, as you know, you could look at the Chicago market. There's tons of companies of 1 to 10 people, 1 to 20 people. And then of course there's even the big hotels. If you really look at it, they have a group of 10 to 20 people or even five people that are in their catering and events team. So it's a really massive network of small creative businesses. We want to make their digital marketing easier. I like to say that Partyslate profiles are like digital marketing in a box. You can share your photos, you can share your videos, you can put your testimonials on, all of your press and recognition , without having to hire a developer. Without having to go through the headaches of, yes, you need a beautiful website, but maybe your website could be 5 or 10 beautiful pages, and then link back to your Partyslate profile to share your content. We're just trying to make it a little bit easier to become a digital marketing expert. I love that. The digital world is all about content. I'm in a wedding band, I post a photo and then the content of that photo or photo album gets used to market my services. You said it best, you said, this is not the Wild West of Pinterest and Instagram. These are professionally posted photos that have linked back to professionals that created it. So let's say I post a picture of us playing a wedding and I credit the photographer, the caterer, the venue. What's the bigger picture of how does this help my business? Yes. So when you credit think about Instagram, cause most people are familiar with Instagram. When you tag someone on Instagram, you are notifying that person that they've been tagged, but it also through Instagram's algorithm, it also lets more people see the content that you've shared, especially if those people you tag interact with the photo or the post. There's some indication to Instagram that this is something big. On Partyslate, we've taken it to the next level. So when you tag the photographer or the videographer, your photos show up on their profile page as a credited event. It kind of has a little bit of the LinkedIn component of, you know, you can see who's worked together. And so basically what you're doing is like Instagram, you're expanding your digital footprint, and you're amplifying the content that you've created to more people so more people will see it. It's almost like your network offline. So you know all these people, and referrals flow freely by the people that you've worked with and trust you. We want to not replace that because that's never going to go away. We want to amplify those relationships in the digital space. So for example, if an engaged couple was looking at like the, let's say, the Four Seasons Chicago, they could see all of the event planners, the entertainment, the bands, the DJs that have worked at the Four Seasons. That gives them a sense of confidence, like, Oh, they know my venue. Right or wrong, even if you don't know the venue space, the people that plan these parties want to know that you're familiar with the venue. So we think that will help you market yourselves by connecting to those planners and venues that you work with. That's a big reason why it's important to upload a lot of photos. A lot of photos are so important on Partyslate, because you don't want to go and visit 10 venues. You want to go and visit three venues and a lot of photos gives you the bigger picture, right? Yep. And I think that if you're planning a gala or a fundraiser, I want to see that venue has done galas and fundraisers. If I'm planning a bar mitzvah, I want to see, you know, again, a lot of the venue, people like, Oh, we can host any event. That is probably true, but when you're researching and you see one venue with 50 bar mitzvahs and one with zero, that says something to you about, Oh, there's some nuances of, there's gotta be room for the reception and the photo booth, etc. So I think the more content... back to content marketing. The more content you can create that represents your brand, of course you don't want to just do any photos. The photos that represent your brand, you really want to make sure that it's accessible and easy to connect with those people that are looking for those ideas or, you know, people don't have good, a good way to envision, what does the space look like, or what is the dance floor look like? They want to see proof that you guys can handle my event. Using words, too, is so helpful to describe the event because 95% of people use Google. If you only have pictures, you're only going to appear on Google images, you know, and the ability to use text really helps SEO and your team is such a blessing for helping with that. What are some ways that your interns and your team at partyslate makes it really easy for professionals to get started with a profile? Yeah. So we have it's a self service platform with our free profile, but many people choose to do our premium membership because we add our white glove service, which we basically do photo posting, video posting. We kind of do a little of the legwork for you, and then you guys can go back and add the descriptions and the details and rearrange photos, things like that. But really to get started you just go to partyslate.com/pro and there's an easy page where you can just kind of click to create a free profile or contact us to learn more about our service and boosting packages. But really, I like to joke, like my mom could build a profile. I don't know if she did, but she was actually on one of my webinars when I said that, because, you know, she does listen in and follow along . No matter how old you are or, you know, your mom wants to know what you're doing right? Oh, I'm in here about this part of the interview from my mom. You want to have a mom that wants to know what you're doing, so that's nice. I appreciate her, but basically there's literally a gold button on the upper right corner of your profile, where you can add all your features, add your descriptions, add a new event like very easy drag and drop rearrange photos at your credit. So we've made it again, my 20 plus years of user experience working with some of the biggest brands in the world we've really recruited... I can't take credit for the best digital marketing talent and user experience and product experts that have made it really easy. So we made the free profile, a lot of value packed into it. We always say try it and get familiar. If you choose to do one of the bigger packages, because of course we do need to make money so I can pay salaries and keep Partyslate going, you get to unlock new features, such as multiple cover photos, the team section, testimonials, really rich what we call conversion tools so that more people will contact you because they get to know you better. I loved when, Ben, I think that's his name. I love Ben. He's our CFO, our chief fun officer. I don't know if you knew that. He's a very fun guy, so that's the perfect, that's the perfect role for him. He actually reached out to a photographer for me and asked for photos from an event like two years ago. I drive photographers absolutely bonkers with asking for photos. Like for some reason, I think if I message them on another platform, I'll get photos faster, but I thought they were so cool that he did that. We try to go that extra mile for our customers because without them, and we can't continue doing all these great articles and webinars and everything else. And so I'm so glad you mentioned Ben, I'm going to tell him that you gave him a shout out, he's famous. Oh, totally. He really is. He really is. Let's talk about the consumer part of Partyslate. Let's say a client is browsing Partyslate. I know from couples on popular wedding listing sites, there's a lot of stress around finding the right vendors. What are some other ways Partyslate makes it easy for the consumer side? Yeah. When consumers, and that's just our shorthand for people planning a party that have a budget to spend. When they come to the website, we have a lot of ways it can get inspired, but if they're really leaning in and looking for a venue, looking for a professional team, they can just go to our find venues section. Of course there's a lot of directories out there. What we find a little different in our directory is, when you click through these profile pages, You get this really rich view of the venue or of the event professional, and then you can also see again, who they've worked with and, you know, who they're familiar with venues are familiar with, etc. So we feel like it's a, again, like a portfolio sharing tool. You know how when you interview someone or you're meeting them for coffee or even a new client, you go to LinkedIn, you know , just, oh who are they? Who is this person? Well, we think Partyslate can become that kind of like, Hey, I want to, before I meet with this person, I want to check them out. Or if they don't know who you are yet, the directory can really help them sort and filter like you can search for, have you done a fundraiser? What are your sub expertise? So we've made it really easy to filter your list down, and we like to call it the stalking process, which is really research. We want them to be able to really get to know you before they contact you, and we found that it's seven or so touch points before they reach out. They're going to look at Instagram. They're going to look at your website. They're going to look on Partyslate. So make sure that's kind of your best foot forward when they're researching you. I love that you said that they're researching you before they're messaging you. And I think it's really important to sit back and know when a client reaches out to you on Partyslate, they're more than just a DM on Instagram. It's a high value lead, you know. What is your advice on that first client to customer interaction? Is it a long email, a short email? One question? What are some tips to get that immediate response back in your history? I am a 20 year salesperson, so here's... no, one's really asked me these questions, so I love answering these questions. So I don't like getting form emails from people. Like a long email.... you know, here is all about the venue and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Now I know they get a lot of inbound leads that aren't qualified, right? A lot of people can't reach out to everyone. I strongly feel a custom response, very short, is very important. If you want to qualify, let's say you can't get on the phone with everyone. You can ask a couple of follow-up questions like, Oh, so glad you reached out blah, blah, blah. I'm excited to learn more, a couple of quick questions before we jump on a call. Or if it's really qualified and you have a phone number, I dare you to just pick up the phone and call that person, because guess what? The first person that gets to them and gets them on the phone has a much better chance of closing the business. So if it's qualified and it feels good, cause again, you're going to do your own stalking, right? Like, is this person real, blah, blah, blah. I would, again I really are you guys to just pick up that phone, younger people don't feel comfortable doing it. I promise you will lead to more sales. I think vendors are sometimes like, Oh my God, I spent so much time writing this whole thing out and, then the client just never got back to me. And, you know, I think there's also that balance of, like you said with the form emails, I think what you're getting at is like, you don't want to give it all away either where the client doesn't have a reason to respond back to you. You know what I mean? If you get Tons of inbound leads and you're a really popular venue, you may want to qualify and just say, Oh, I'm so excited to learn more about, you know, they contacted you. They already know a lot about you. Do not send a form letter. I feel very strongly about that. And if you think it's qualified, pick up the phone, if you don't know if it's qualified, still send something, it can still be a form. They won't know it's a form letter, but you could still send something like, you know, Hey Julie, I just saw you reached out so excited to talk to you, blah, blah, blah, blah. Two questions before we jump on a call. How many people... and it's something like that, and they say, you know, 10 people and you're venue for a thousand, you know that you don't need to talk to this person, right? So you can do some qualifying questions and if they don't answer your questions, they're not qualified. And again, if they don't respond right away, ask it again, Hey, you're just bumping this to the top, you know, want to know what, you know, what date and blah, blah, blah. So I really feel no form letters short and sweet, and I say conversation, like you're a real person. Don't send a form letter of, I smell a form letter. I don't answer it. Yeah. People can tell when a form letter is using personalization fields in there. You know what I mean? If you just change out the name, our follow up emails, you know, don't put like a party slate is the leading blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You already, they already know who we are. So just, you know, respond, you know, great. Just went to your Instagram, obsessed with the blah, blah, blah, you know, make it personal. Just Friday at two o'clock work for you.? What are some low commitment questions that you can ask for a client specifically in the wedding industry? You mentioned a couple, how many people are going to be there, how many guests are you having? What are some other ones that you think are low commitment that are also qualifiers too? Yeah, I I think it, you know, even asking do you have an event planner? If there's an event planner, there's typically a larger scale budget, and again, that's not required, you don't have to have an event planner, but you know, Hey, just curious. Do you have an event planner? Like very low key. I think, you know, I'm just curious what you do when you get inbound leads. What are your qualifying questions? So at first, I would send a personal email, I would either ask too many questions or I would send them all of my options and all my pricing right away. And I had nobody like you to tell me that. And so man, you know, not hearing your response back, I just kind of assumed that our band sucked, you know, and then I figured out. I was like, you know, if I don't ever have a chance to talk to this client on the phone, I'll never be able to tell them why our product is so great in the first place, Change your mindset. I encourage anyone who is listening to change your mindset to the only goal is to get them on a phone call. And now in this new world, we live in, a Zoom. That is your only goal. So everything you do is working towards getting them on that call, do not share anything, always hold back information. They asked for pricing, we actually have a bunch of options. I have three questions to ask you before I can send your pricing. Tuesday at two o'clock, do you have time for a quick zoom? Or today, or better yet pick up the phone and call them. I have two questions, never ask more than three questions. I would say two is the most. You want to start creating this dialogue, this conversation, but the only goal is to get them on the phone. If you've qualified that you want to talk to them, that's it. And they ask for pricing, they could ask for pricing 20 different ways. You're not going to send them pricing until you talk to them. That's so great. And I think that's important too, because really the pricing is so customized in the wedding world too so you're not even going to really, I mean, you'll have an idea, but it's best for both parties to talk on the phone. Absolutely. There isn't like a package, like it's, you know, $2,000. Maybe a photo booth is like, this is our prices for photo booth. That's fine, but even those photo booth companies, there's a thousand photo booth companies. You got to get them on the phone to differentiate why your photo booth is better than, whether it's your props, your service, your followup, your social.. You have to differentiate yourself., So you've got to get them on the phone. That's your only goal to get them on the phone. You could even say something in your email, like, Hey, I've a really you know, fun, experiential thing that we're doing with this last wedding. I'd love to tell you about it. Just something to get them on the phone. That's your only goal. I always tell people. Yes, they can ask for pricing. They can ask over and over again, but you have three questions and a 15 minute call and then I'll get you that pricing right away. Julie, I know you have so much more to talk about, but don't go anywhere. We're going to take a quick break. That's Julie rotten Novak, CEO of party slate. And you can go to www.party slate.com and get started. Create a free profile. It's easy to make. And you can watch the entire events world open up right in front of your eyes, through your computer screen. Like never seen before a stick around. We'll be right back with Julie. Okay. 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Back to the overall picture of Partyslate, partyslate is in 14 cities and you guys are headquartered in Chicago. Mentors of yours we're telling you don't move too quickly. Was that a gut feeling at the time? Or was there any part of you that thought there might be some risk involved to moving as quickly as you did? Or tell me about that process? So we have a lot of debates, we joke about this boardroom debate of how fast we move to new cities and how much we concentrate on growing existing cities. Really the first year of Partyslate was just Chicago. Then we did LA, New York and other cities after that. I always felt that having the big names like Mindy Weiss and Colin Cowie and others , you know, Preston Bailey on Partyslate would help us grow. We do have big names in Chicago too, but more like the celebrity kind of names. And so I believe we expanded at the right time after a year of being in Chicago. I think the question for us is, you know, New York and LA are so huge. We probably only have 10, 20% of the event professionals that we want. How fast do we skim the top of each cities and get the top two, 300, versus going deeper in the New York Metro area and surrounding areas in LA, South Southern California even Chicago, you know, thinking about the suburbs and other ways that we can get more professionals. So I don't know if we have the answer, but we feel once you have 500, 600 event professionals, all the credits start taking over. So the credits that you put up there, if they don't have a profile, we invite them to create a free profile so that your work shows up on their page, but then they also have a headstart on their profile page. So I don't have a clean answer for you, but I do think the first year spent in Chicago was the right thing to do to really build out what we call product market fit, to really build out how does our business work? Does Partyslate have set out metrics before making the call to move on to the next city. Is there some math involved? Yeah. There's math involved in like what's the profitability, so to speak of a city. So how much revenue can we get from Chicago, New York or LA? How much traffic do we have in each city. How much content do we have? So we do have a lot of formulas I kind of call it unit economics of like, what's the economics of a city? What's the economics of a sale? So a lot of my geeky Techstars mentors and others have really helped us think through how to venture capitalists look at the business and, do we think of the core strategy for really building out a business. I say building a startup is like a high rise. Let's say you're building a skyscraper even. You have to raise a lot of money, and finance that skyscraper and that skyscraper is not profitable for years until you start filling the building. And so for a venture backed business, you raise money and knowing that you're building this infrastructure, this foundation to have a skyscraper that will be profitable one day. And so we know our profitability is probably two years out, so we're still investing in our foundation and growing, and then we hope to have a very highly scalable platform that will create a high profitability one day. A big part of Partyslate's foundation for me is that Partyslate is such an advocate on diversity. You guys actually started a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, which audits the culture and finds areas of improvement. You've partnered with black owned businesses when launching in new cities. Diversity is so important within the wedding industry. In fact we recently participated in a styled shoot with Jessica Levi from Clover events and Ashley Best from Best events. I think they both have parties like profiles too. And this is the question they asked me that I want to pass along to you. Why is diversity so important within the events industry? I mean, it's critical, not just in the events industry, but the world we live in and we take it very seriously. Our new DEI diversity equity and inclusion committee is so, so important and doing such great work. So the reason why it's so important is we live in a diverse world. We need to reflect the world we live in. And I think as a brand, and as you're running your business, you want to make sure people see you as an inclusive company and that you represent the world, not just a slice of people. We also think the diversity adds to the creativity. We want to see different types of events, different traditions, different styles, different sets of event professionals that come together to create this fabulous experience. We're looking both internally at how we become more diverse ourselves, as far as when we start growing again after this pandemic, but also diverse thinking. Different ways of thinking and really making sure that we're being inclusive and representing the world we live in on social media, on our platform and we just, again, take it very seriously. So I'm so glad to hear you say that you've been very involved as well. A quick side story. I used to play in a blues band in college and we would open up for Buddy Guy and tour around the country. And we were sitting in the van one day and the band leader said, you know, we might be an all white blues band, but if you don't understand where I'm coming from, then you'll never understand my music or play it right. He would play CDs from black artists the entire way in the van driving from Chicago to Rhode Island straight. He would tell me, yeah, I mean, the notes you're playing, like that's a blues song, but the blues is all about emotion. Blues music represented the opposing voice that refused to be silenced by oppression and segregation. The blues is expressed with this unprecedented clarity honesty, simplicity. So if you want to play an African-American art form, you need to study the history. I was watching this YouTube video on your channel with the owner of Guerdy Design, and I want to take a quote from what she said in that video. She says sit back and think before you speak, who am I leaving out? And she has a collage of photos in her contract featuring people of color and same sex marriage, and she says some of the extent of I'm letting the client know we're open-minded and a believer in love. I'm a believer my brand, and you should build your brand without apology. Whatever you associate yourself with, this is reflective of you, and if they trust you and like you they'll give you the wedding. And I thought that was so beautiful and She's such an amazing leader, and I loved doing that. Talk about goosebumps. It was a personal branding event. And again, little things like, in your contract, do you have bride and groom? You can't use those terms to be inclusive for everyone and your imagery , but also who you work with and how you and who you associate yourself with. So I'm really proud that outside of Partyslate, I'm working with Kareem Quo Wells, the King of all mitzvahs, a DJ here in Chicago and Robin Robinson former newscaster to create a new group called We Up. The goal is to help black owned businesses scale and great generational wealth here in Chicago. And we had our first webinar last week and it was absolutely inspirational. We had a popcorn company called Urby pop. Black owned businesses from the South side, they are dynamic and creative. I think they have six kids are like, Oh my God. We're giving them connections and we're sponsoring them and we're helping them, and we hope to help six black owned businesses in 2021. I'm just proud personally that I've taken it beyond Partyslate and I'm awake and excited to help make an impact. No matter if it's just five or six businesses I can help, putting a spotlight on under represented groups. Yeah. I mean, I also thought that was so beautiful and smart for that woman from Guerdy Design to send that message before a client even signs the contract, and it kind of leads me to my next question, which is talking about brand. Could you tell our listeners the difference between company brand, and your personal brand? Yes. So if it's a small business, if you're 1 to 5 employees or 1 to 10 employees, personal brand and company brand are very tied together, but they are different. So your company brand, it's really important to know your mission, your vision, your core values, what you believe in, how you're different and really position that. But then as your personal brand, I always like to say what are your superpowers? What are the things you're excited about? So for me, I've built my personal brand around of course, Partyslate and being a connector. That's one thing, but also helping female founders, female tech founders, especially, but helping female founders scale their business. I think it's about 3% of all venture capital money go to female founded tech companies. So really helping underrepresented groups and women really scale their business, and then I just love digital marketing education. Maybe I think as a kid, I always wanted to be a math teacher, but now I like teaching digital marketing and I don't know everything, but my team is so smart, so they make me look good. I'm not the best email marketing person, but I have such a good email marketing person at Partyslate. If I can share email marketing best practices,and blogs and content marketing, and personal branding, that's my kind of third bubble of personal branding that I do. So, you know, you really need to think about like, what are your content bubbles? What do you get excited about? What do you like talking about, and it can be anything. If you love animals and you're volunteering at paws, you know, you could build a brand about that. Like, you really want to make sure people can remember what you stand for. And that's really what personal branding is. So, yeah, I mean, what you stand for are your core values, what you believe... They do overlap with small businesses, but like, if you think about a hotel, like the four seasons is one of the strongest brands in the world. From not only service expertise, but food and everything else that four seasons, luxury four seasons stands for. But then you also have, you know, Jamie who runs the four seasons catering group. She isn't a social media person, but she is very well known. She's been there for over 20 years. She did my wedding. She's got a personal brand through her relationships and, you know, really a personal brand of trust and follow through, etc. So you need to think through what do you stand for and what does your company stand for? And of course there might be the overlap there. Then we go into the five elements of brand strategy. So with that, you have your purpose, your values, your personality, and your identity. How do these Topics tie back always to your marketing. Do you have any tips for that? Really the basis of all your marketing strategy has to tie back to your brand strategy. When we talk about purpose, Partyslate believes that inspired events inspire people. We want to help people plan these events that really create great memories, keep that message through in all of our posts that we create and we don't repeat those words, but the essence of our posts are tied back to that vision and mission that we have. And so I think when you create your vision, and again, the difference between mission is what you're setting out to do, and your vision is where you're going and what you aspire towards. When you think through those things, how are these marketing communications helping you get closer or reinforcing where you're going and who you are. So your purpose is your mission and what you want to do. How about your personality? How does that play in to that? So like the, I know a lot of different companies have different personalities. So Marcy bloom is, you know, a big planner in New York. She is very sarcastic. And like, you look at her posts and you're like, she is sarcastic. She does not apologize for it. She is funny. She is dry. And then you look someone like you know, Guerdy is more about elegance and design and diversity, and you want to think through like what you stand for. So for Partyslate, we want to be all about inspiration and in our brand is really about, you know, we are this beautiful blank canvas and you come and get inspired and connect with all the great people that really are behind the art of the party. And so our brand, you could think of more like a Vogue fashion. We don't want to be sarcastic. We don't want to be like, cheeky. We want to just celebrate the beauty and the inspiration of these experiences. It's not saying that I can't be that way from time to time, but you're not going to see like our sarcastic posts from Partyslate. Gotcha. How about your identity? How does that tie into... Your visual identity is usually the first place people go to when you think about brand. And I actually think it's one really important element, but it's actually not the most important element. So the visual design is, you know, what the things look like and feel like. So for Partyslate, it's very modern and simple. Lots of, you know, we do have accent colors of gold and kind of you know, maroon kind of pink color, but really it's a lot of black and white because we believe the photos and the videos, they're the art of Partyslate. So we want art designed to be like a mock, beautiful contemporary art museum that you're walking into. and the art is what stands out. When you see Partyslate's design, you'll notice that it's very minimalistic and that's very purposeful because we want the art and the glory of Partyslate to be your work and your photos and your fantastic events. Well, you have such an amazing team that Icouldn't do it do it without my team, just to be clear. Just I and my co-founder, John Horrow , we've worked together for over 15 years and is it all, I was joking like rainbows and unicorns? No, it's like a brother sister relationship. We don't always agree, but we've worked together for so long and he is like the tech product and analytical thinker, and I am the marketing sales and the front of the company, but like, I couldn't do it without this amazing team that we have. What do you look for as far as proactiveness in your employees and especially in the growth phase? I mean , how have you learned to rely on your team during the trial and error process of building Partyslate, and especially new features before you guys scale them into the big picture? Yeah. I mean we really look for people that are passionate about either... and again, I will not say that, you know, John is like, Oh, I love events. But what John's excited about is building a global platform that's scalable and great technology and really building something amazing. But we look for people that are passionate about solving problems. We look for people that can be self-directed, but take coaching. And I think when we talk about cultural fit, we feel like we're very much like a family. We're looking for people that want to create relationships and really collaborate and join a team that's really purposeful about what we're building. Partyslate is the ultimate inspiration platform, and it's meant to find local event professionals and venues connected the best events in the country. Julie, before I let you go, what's on the table for Partyslate within like, let's say the next two years or so? So we are excited to number one, do many more digital events. So in December we are doing a two day digital conference called the main event. It is free to attend. I can send you over the link or just go to Partyslate and you can find it. That is something that's really exciting to us is to have a bigger platform to share more ideas. We're also excited to lean into more ways we can create an easier experience for consumers. So how can we take them through more of a guided experience to help them find not only the right inspiration, but the right event professionals. We're well on our way to doing that, but we think we can build even more features to help consumers. Then we're always looking for new problems we can solve, mainly sales and marketing related for event professionals. How can we help you organize your photos more? How can we help you really blast your content out to more people, become better digital marketers? So we have a lot of exciting things coming up. I'm also very excited, we just launched her keyword search. So now you can search for like beach weddings and find photos, and of course we're going to be refining that over time. So we have a lot of ideas, but it's always going to be towards solving problems and opportunities tied back to our mission, which is being the leading event inspiration platform that helps people plan these events and connect them with the best local event professionals. I am so excited to keep up with all the features, and I'm also excited to watch my business grow through Partyslate. I'm excited to watch my friend's businesses grow through Partyslate. It really is a website that features the best of the best. And Julie, thank you so much for chatting. Please follow us on Instagram too, or just @Partyslate. We've got a lot of great updates about our events and new things that are happening and for any of the event professionals you know, on the podcast please take a look and try it out. Create a free profile at partyslate.com/pro. Thanks so much, Julie. I appreciate it. Thanks for coming on the podcast and you have a Julie Roth, no back to CEO parties. They make sure you go on their website, show him some love www.party plate.com and create a free profile to get started. See what they have to offer, and you're going to meet new people, you're going to connect with new people, you're going to get more gigs and you're going to find the professionals to plan your next event. All at the same time, you're going to learn so much about the events industry, openening up right in front of your eyes through your computer screen like you've never seen it before. And when you signed up for our subscription, you might even work with their chief executive fun officer, Ben. I learned that was his title today. He was amazing. He was the guy who signed me up and worked with me out of my own profile. Please be safe, be happy. Things are rough right now with COVID, but you know what things are going to come back around, 2021, 2022, and on are going to be the years of love, celebration and joy. We'll see you next week. And remember, you are extraordinary