How 1871's PartySlate is breaking into the $112B events industry

Written by Sam Dewey
Published on Jun. 20, 2016
How 1871's PartySlate is breaking into the $112B events industry

In a crowded events industry generating about $112 billion in the U.S. alone, it can be hard to stand out as the life of the party.

But that’s exactly what Chicago’s PartySlate has its sights set on: if not the life of the party, then, at least, bringing some life back to the party.

The company aims to arm part-time event planners with the inspiration and resources they need to plan and execute a larger-scale event, be it a wedding, corporate holiday party, gala or bar/bat mitzvah.

“The vision was to build an inspiration engine,” said PartySlate CEO and co-founder Julie Novack.

Today, PartySlate acts as a marketplace for anyone looking for big, fresh ideas to plan an outstanding event. Here’s how it works: the platform relies heavily on high-quality visuals from local event professionals (think venues, caterers, photographers, designers) to inspire planners with ideas that can help make their event a success.

It may sound a bit like Pinterest or a host of other competitors, but where PartySlate thrives is in its attribution of these event-themed photos. All images on the platform link directly to a local event professional’s PartySlate profile. So, instead of finding a floral arrangement online and scouting out a florist with enough skill to replicate it, PartySlate connects users directly to the people who came up with creative ideas and designs in the first place.

For instance — if a user came upon the header image of this article on PartySlate’s website, they would see the following catalogue of credits for the event in the photo: Event Planner: Paulette Wolf Events, Photographer: Sheri Whitko Photography, Decor: Preston Bailey Designs, Lighting: Lightswitch and Caterer: J&L Catering.

Profiles are free for event professionals to set up, but Novack said they can pay for a $400/month subscription service to elevate their presence.

The company launched in 2015 after being invited to the first cohort of 1871’s woman-centered WiSTEM entrepreneurial program — before the Party Slate team even had a website. It’s since got the site up and running and set up shop out of 1871’s 2.0 expansion.

Novack credits many of the company’s wins to the its participation in the program — and 1871 in general.

“The connection to a like-minded group of women who are putting everything on the line to follow their dreams and start their own businesses [makes it] a really great community to be apart of,” Novack said of the two-year old initiative to support women-led businesses in Chicago.

In addition, Novak said the PartySlate team has grown into a team made up of six full-timers and five summer interns. With $1 million in venture capital under their belt, she said they’re already expanding to four additional markets — starting first with Dallas, and taking on Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco shortly thereafter.

It’s fairly fast-paced growth. But Novack, a former Razorfish exec, attributes their early success to what she called having a team (including co-founder John Haro and executive creative director Mark Semon) of “startup professionals.”

“We’re in our forties — we’ve all run big businesses. With our experience and our networks, we were able to raise money faster because they believe in our team,” she said. “Between the three of us, we have over 60 years of digital experience and a lot of connections ... With that experience, I think we have a little bit of an advantage over those who haven’t seen as much in the business world that really is working to our advantage.”

Images via PartySlate/Sheri Whitko Photography. 

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