November marks the start of crab season. For the Rotary Club of Rancho Cordova Sunrise, that means it’s time to get cracking.
Every year, the club hosts a crab feed as its major fundraiser. The 26 active members rent out a big hall and hold a raffle with all kinds of prizes, from wine to tools to golf equipment. The big draw, of course, is the food, which includes all-you-can-eat crab.
This annual event has been a city staple for the past 30-plus years, according to Charlie Simpson, the club’s current president. But for the most recent crab feed in December, the members decided to add a touch of technology.
They turned to Sievent, a social experience app that helps event organizers and attendees stay connected with information before, during and after an event. The app is an end-to-end platform that handles all facets of an event such as promotion, ticketing, payment, event analytics and social media management.
Sievent allowed attendees to reserve a spot for the crab feed and pay directly online with a credit card rather than tracking down one of the club members to pay for a ticket. The previous crab feed drew about 250 people, he says. But the one in December brought in about 300 people, which was good considering the club has never used an event app before, Simpson says.
“Most everybody is used to the old way, by word of mouth,” Simpson says. “But quite a few tried the online purchasing of tickets and it worked out really well.”
The founder of Sievent, Michael Purnell, is also a member of the Rotary Club of Rancho Cordova Sunrise. The crab feed gave him an opportunity to test his new product, which launched in August. Unlike other event-based apps that spotlight concerts and major festivals, Purnell chose to focus on smaller, local events, which he calls “the lifeblood of any community.”
“For us, events are more than just parties, concerts and spectacles,” Purnell says. “We want to enable the nonprofits and businesses to create a better awareness of their events, and that leads to better attendance and engagement.”
Originally from North Carolina, Purnell studied computer science at North Carolina A&T State University. The kernel for Sievent started there when he wanted to play pickup basketball games, but had a hard time finding people beyond his Facebook friends. Around the community, Purnell noticed that nonprofits, churches and other local organizations didn’t necessarily have the technology to reach their target audiences.
He moved to Sacramento in 2012 for a job opportunity at Intel. Four years later, he and his co-founder, Wesley Alexander, took their experience to create Sievent. (The name is a hybrid of Purnell’s 5-year-old son’s name, Sirius, and the word “event.”)
Purnell believes the Sacramento region is in the middle of a social transformation with evolving demographics and economics. With Sievent, he wanted to seize the opportunity to keep communities informed and connected as this shift continues.
“I’ve lived in Folsom then later moved to Rancho Cordova and I noticed other communities within Sacramento, such as Del Paso Heights, Oak Park, put on great community events all the time, but it seems like nobody knows about them,” he says. “I think the difference is in the access to resources.”
The initial funding for Sievent came from family and friends, which helped Purnell and Alexander make a mock-up of the app and write a mini-business plan. So far, with development and marketing, Purnell says they’ve spent around $70,000. For every paid ticket sold through Sievent, the startup receives a service fee of 2 percent plus 89 cents per transaction. The organization that hosts an event receives 100 percent of the proceeds. Within coming months, Purnell plans to expand the business model to include memberships to local groups at $9.99 a month, offering exclusive discounts and VIP access to events for users who accumulate points.
To this point, Purnell says he has connected with eight organizations within the region that produce more than 100-plus events a year. As a member of Phi Beta Sigma, he recently used Sievent for a beer festival hosted by the service fraternity. And he already has one repeat customer in Rancho Cordova. The rotary club has another fundraiser coming up in May: a Kentucky Derby party called “Run for the Roses.”
“Sievent will help us reach a wider audience of those who may want to attend,” Simpson says. “It is a process easily spread widely on the Internet, and a way to sell tickets online that is not labor intensive.”
Do you know an entrepreneur who has what it takes? Recommend their company for our “Startup of the Month” here.