“I’m sure we will talk some about our hopes for the Iowa entrepreneurial community,” said Andrea Hansen CEO and Co-Founder of Venuefox, of her and Co-Founder ’s appearance at the February edition of the Business Innovation Zone’s Start Up Stories. “We had a great experience at the Iowa Start-Up Accelerator, there is a lot of energy in the Corridor as well as in the Metro, and as we discovered, in pockets throughout the state. I genuinely hope we can build upon this to form a state-wide entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Hansen, who began Venuefox by herself in what she describes as a “part-time passion project” will be answering questions from Mike Colwell, Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, as well as from attendees to the monthly luncheon and networking event.
With a 15-year career in non-profit management and fundraising for universities, this Iowa native had significant event planning credentials. “All of my jobs involved event planning, even if that wasn’t the core responsibility of the position,” she recalled. Like most in her position, she had a top 10 list of venues and vendors, but came to wonder what other more unique and flexible options might exist.
She further wondered why the answer to her question was so elusive. “There was no Trip Advisor, or Expedia which could serve as a one stop shop with multiple options and all the elements needed to plan and coordinate an event, at least nothing that was like the solution I was starting to envision.” And so, Venuefox was conceived.
Partnering with venues and vendors, Venuefox is an on-line concierge service, which allows small and medium sized businesses to peruse and choose from the listed vendors. Venuefox essentially serves as a marketing vehicle and 3rd party sales tool for the vendors while providing an easy cafeteria plan approach for customers, of particular value to those smaller businesses and organizations which do not staff event planners. Revenue is derived both as a listing fee from the partners and a percentage from events planned through the site while being a free service to the small businesses utilizing the site. Of their attention to less well-known event venues Hansen explains, “We’ll partner with the big traditional hotels, but we also want to highlight the different and unique locales. The non-traditional venues can offer a special experience for the organization.”
Early in the evolution of her vision Hansen saw the wisdom of bringing on a partner with a complementary skill set when she was introduced to Mollenhauer who was looking for a project. “He jumped right in as if he had thought of it himself and we have had a great working relationship from the outset,” she says of her Co-Founder who actually coined the name Venuefox.
The two continued to develop the product slowly as a nights and weekend project until what Hansen describes as a “life changing event” when they were accepted into the inaugural class of Iowa Start Up Accelerator in Cedar Rapids in August of this past year. At that point they left the security of the day jobs and went all in.
“I was blown away,” Hansen would say repeatedly of the intensity and opportunity they would find in the experience. “We knew it would be special, but did not know how transformative it would be. There were multiple “aha” moments and we came away with essentially a new Venuefox,” she observed. Uncovering rookie mistakes in their choice of technological platform as well as a failure to adequately narrow their focus, Venuefox is now undergoing redesign from the ground up with an expected re-launch imminent. Meanwhile the principals are doing presales to vendors, reaching out to potential users and raising some initial funding.
Happy to share with the February audience what she freely admits were a number of rookie mistakes, and her experiences at the Iowa Start-Up Accelerator as well as her impressions of the Corridor entrepreneurial ecosystem this first time entrepreneur is also strongly committed to taking the Iowa entrepreneurial community to the next level. “I agree with what John Jackovin has been saying, about the need for mentorship and honest constructive criticism locally, with a little less Iowa nice,” she says noting that Des Moines should be proud to no longer be seen as an underdog in the start-up world, but should not rest on its laurels.
This mother of two on a successful career track when she leapt into entrepreneurism seems likely to bring to Start-Up Stories a unique perspective and energy reflected in her Linked In summary, “I’m Awesome, we should meet.”
$15 admission fee (includes lunch) or free (if you don’t want lunch).
11: 30 a.m.
February 18th, 2015
Ruan II, 601 Locust
Conference Room 101
Purchase your tickets/make reservations –https://www.desmoinesmetro.com/en/calendar/february_startup_stories_event/
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Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact the BIZ for details.
The BIZ’s mission is to connect entrepreneurial needs with qualified community and state resources and to provide guided professional and business direction. The BIZ helps entrepreneurs maximize their successes by helping them navigate resources, strengthen knowledge, improve skills, form strategic alliances and secure proper capitalization.