There are a lot of events in this industry and anyone who has ever had to plan one – and feed the attendees as well – knows that it’s never easy, especially in a city where companies like to keep the costs down and the novelty/entertainment value high, so before you book yet another restaurant or event space, or tear your hair out waiting for caterers to finally get back to you with estimates that may well be way over what you’d budgeted, check out Fiestah, a New York City-based startup to help you get your event planned faster than you can say ‘guacamole.’ Well, almost.
Fiestah.com is a marketplace that connects event planners, office managers, even moms – anyone tasked with organizing a party, event, luncheon or dinner – with the vendors they need, in three easy steps: the event planner signs into the Fiestah dashboard, registers the event (time, place, duration, number of people, budget) and inputs the items that they need (food, services, equipment). Then the planner can relax as bids come in from Fiestah’s trusted member vendors, and the party’s on. Service providers include bakers, chefs, DJs, bartenders, photographers, food trucks, caterers. Plus the incidentals, from the tables and chairs to the flowers and the face painters. “We take the most stressful part out of planning events by reversing the process,” said Stefanos Missailidis, the company’s CEO. “You don’t have to research or even go looking through the site for vendors – the vendors come to you.” Fiestah makes the process even easier by eliminating that awkwardness that ensues when it comes time to pay up by providing an escrow service. The money goes straight into the vendor’s bank account, once the task is completed. “This way, both parties are protected,” Missailidis noted. The company generates revenue by taking a 10% cut of each transaction.
Fiestah was founded by Missailidis, Nurul Yahya (COO) and Marvin Tam (CTO), three friends who attended a New York Startup Weekend in November 2011 with an inkling of an idea inspired by an earlier company Yahya had founded, making bridal invitations. She learned that the brides she was working with were going crazy trying to find the people, especially vendors, who could work within their budgets. Enter fiestah.com. They didn’t win the Startup Weekend, but they did get a lot of great feedback – and requests for the service. A company was born. They kept testing the market, talking to people, and working weekend and on the side, putting together the prototype. Four months later, they quit their jobs to pursue Fiestah full time and started calling event planners. “They really weren’t our target market,” Missailidis said. “We want to help people like us, who don’t have a network of vendors: office managers, medium sized businesses, moms.” Not to mention the Startup Weekends, hackathons and a number of other industry networking events they’ve helped to cater. To date, Fiestah has helped out at over fifty events – and counting – including manager meetings; holiday parties, lunches and dinners; tailgate parties, happy hours – even children’s birthday parties.
The team members all have pedigree backgrounds. Yahya dabbled in IT consulting, project management, and strategy at Goldman Sachs, Accenture, and Barclays Capital. Missailidis took his Business Information Technology degree from Virginia Tech straight to Accenture, where he worked in IT and strategy consulting, and where he and Yahya met. Tam made a name for himself in the offices of Yahoo!, the New York Times, and Jetsetter.
Most of their time has been spent getting traction in the marketplace, and building out the site and the vendor list. Next on the to-do list: raise a seed round so they can expand the site with vendor profiles, ratings and reviews, build in a community aspect, then set up shop in San Francisco, their next target city. They’ve been bootstrapping, so far, but Fiestah.com was just picked to present at the Women 2.0 conference in front of investors, and are partnering up with Startup Weekend and Lean Startup Machine to start rolling out Fiestah nationwide. Then again, they have been bringing in revenue, which, as Missailidis noted, in the startup world is rare.
And as they might say in the catering world, well done