LA Startup Profle: Kristin McClune, President of Events Clique

→ by Andy Yen < @renowned >
at 1:00pm May 5, 2011

Throughout the year, Lalawag will be interviewing some of the most innovative and exciting startups from the LA area in our ongoing feature series, “LA Startup Spotlight.”

Kristin McClune is a Pepperdine graduate who started off her career working on marketing for a couple of LA-based startups. Her entrepreneurial drive has been burning inside her ever since she was a little girl, though, and has recently founded her own startup with the support of her family. Events Clique is a unique web service that allows people to plan and design event areas utilizing an industry-first real time 3D interface. It’s a small company, but a hard working one that has launched an impressive service.

Pitch us your service in three sentences or less.

Events Clique is a web-based event designing website that enables users to plan, design, and see their event in 3D before it happens. With our 3D Event Designer, we help bridge the gap between clients not being able to look at a blank space and imagine what the end result will look like. Events Clique also connects clients with our invite-only venues and vendors to help make their 3D event design a reality.

What made you decide to focus your company on that service?

The short answer is that there was an underdeveloped niche market with a perceived need.

As for the long answer: throughout college I interned at various companies planning events (both wedding and corporate events) and found that clients always had the same issue: not being able to envision the colors, setup, and/or décor that event planners had in mind for them. There were also overwhelmed bywebsites that cater to them by providing them with a never-ending list of venues and vendors without telling them which were quality choices.

Through a combination of my event planning internships, my 3D CAD-based senior project at Pepperdine University, and the well received success of companies such as MyDeco and Design Your Dorm (which both use 3D in the interior design space), we saw an opportunity to be first to market in an industry that had a need to be fulfilled for both the client and the event planner.

I was surprised at the ease of which I could start designing my event space in 3D from within my web browser. But I am using a cutting edge build of Google Chrome as my main web browser. Does the service require any sort of plug-in or installations of any sort or can anyone simply go in and start? Did you develop the software in-company or did you outsource it?

Thank you! One of our top priorities when developing the website was ease of use. Events Clique does not require any plug-in or installation and can be used in any web browser (if a user is using Internet Explorer, our only recommendation is that they use IE 7 or above for best results) It was very important to us in our original concept and design to not to hinder any user.

The software vision, concept, and design was all performed in-house. After a little over a year of extensive research, we found a development team that was a perfect fit for us — one who could create, code, and implement our vision and design.

How big is your team? Can you describe your company’s culture?

Within Events Clique, we have a team of four people, and our outsourced development team consists of 2-5 members depending on the workload.

Our culture is a very team oriented, innovative, driven and forward thinking one. We look very closely at our clients’ feedback, which helps Events Clique grow and get better, which in turn helps our venue and vendor clients enhance their service offerings and meet our users’ needs.

How did your company get its initial funding?  Do you have any advice for emerging startups on how to deal with funding?

Events Clique is currently self-funded within the family. Liz (my business partner and Mom), Michael (my brother), and Mickey (my Dad), all invested in Events Clique for the initial funding.

My advice for emerging startups is to work with family to get initial funding so you have a viable product and have more options for funding down the road. If you’re not willing to put your own money into a company you heavily believe in, then why would anyone else?

The 3D designing service almost has a “The Sims”-like game feel to it – it feels quite natural and I’m surprised that the events industry didn’t have something like it already. But it seems like it would be limited to the locations and objects that you already have on the site. How easy is it for a user or an event planner to put custom objects and locations into the 3D event space?

It is and it isn’t limited to the locations and objects we have on the site. For locations, we have added a “Create Your Own Event Space” feature for users to be able to customize their event space if we haven’t added it yet or if they are having an event in their own home or backyard. For products, in addition to our vendor-specific products, we have provided generic products so users can get an idea of colors, centerpiece heights, and layouts for their event.

It is very easy for a venue or vendor (event planner included) to put a venue or product online. They simply email us dimensions and 360-degree (non professional) pictures and our talented development team does the rest of the work! Then it becomes a trivial task for a user or event planner to put custom objects into their 3D event space – they simply “clique, drag, and drop”.

How do you deal with competition? Do you keep tabs on other companies that are doing similar things?

We are the first to market to bring venues, vendors, and clients together in a web-based 3D application. We do keep close tabs on other companies that use 3D rendering software, whether it be an offline product that one purchases, a web-based application that is new to market, or an industry that may crossover.

Tell us a little about your background?  What made you want to start your own company?

Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was that little girl in the 2nd grade who, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, always replied with, “I want to own my own company and have Daddy work for me!” (in addition to wanting to be a princess of course!) Every road trip my family would go on, I’d make them pull over to a store to get me a sketchbook and pencil because I had a new idea. I give my family major credit for never shooting down any of my ideas and for always encouraging me to explore and think through every concept I had. Bringing 3D event designing to the event planning industry was the concept I was most passionate about, and after a year of research and a solid business plan, they decided to partner with me and invest in what is now Events Clique.

Who are your three most influential entrepreneurs? Why?

My three most influential entrepreneurs are actually groups of entrepreneurs: 1) My parents 2) Kirk and Pepper Fernandez and 3) Don Ohlmeyer.

My parents have been entrepreneurs in the commercial real estate industry, most recently with MKC Asset Management, since I was a little girl. This allowed me to see the ins and outs of running a business firsthand from a very young age. They have inspired me to follow in their footsteps and create a company focused on something I am very are passionate about, believe strongly in, and see a need for.

Kirk and Pepper Fernandez, a brother-sister team, are the owners of Solutionz Conferencing, Inc. (the first company worked for out of college.) Kirk founded Solutionz while still at Pepperdine and since then has gone on to acquire and start up a vast array of other firms, including eCivis, while Pepper has stayed on to become CEO of Solutionz. They are defining members of the LA startup scene, being young, bright entrepreneurs. They’ve also encouraged me in my endeavor, giving priceless advice.

Don Ohlmeyer, former President of NBC, and entrepreneur, was my mentor and one of my professors during my senior year at Pepperdine. At one point in time he sat me down and asked me straight up what I wanted to do with my life – what my goals were after graduation, 5 years later, 10 years later. Not only did he inspire me from what he has been able to create in his own life, but his method of writing down goals, consistently looking at them, and then achieving them has helped me to achieve each goal I have set for myself and gotten me to where I am today.

What’s the hardest/best thing about being an entrepreneur?

The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is both creating a name for yourself and your business, and finding a balance between your work life and your personal life, especially when putting in 18+ hour work days.

The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that it’s rewarding when you see that a product you have created is helping other people and enhancing other’s professional services.

What’s one of your most successful decisions? Can you share something that’s worked really well for you that you think other entrepreneurs could learn from?

One of my most successful decisions was doing a soft launch of Events Clique at a particular event in order to build media connections.

What’s worked really well for us are building relationships with our clients (venues and vendors), asking them for their feedback, and then addressing their needs. The key to growing as a business is listening to what your users want and need.

What are your next goals? (Either for the current venture or for the company as a whole)

Our next goals are to become the go-to service for event designing throughout all of Southern California, followed by strategic expansion nationwide. We plan on considering other funding options to make these strategic expansions happen from both a B2B and B2C standpoint.

You can follow Events Clique on Twitter (@EventsClique) and on Facebook here.

About the Author: Andy Yen

Andy loves to live his digital life on the bleeding edge. He usually falls into the category of "early adopter" by being in on new gadgets and beta versions of software and sites. Most of the time it doesn't end up biting him in the ass. He also loves video games and music and curates a site called My Day Will Come if you're into those sorts of things.