After Cortnie Purdy-Fausner graduated from college with an engineering degree, she went into sales of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. She started planning some events with the companies she worked for, leading her to starting her own events production company, flying around the world to investigate venues. It was then that she saw a hole in the marketplace.
"I saw this crazy need for a platform where hotels could connect to event planners without having to fly us around the globe," she said. "On the flip side, all of us planners were having a really hard time finding these cool spaces, and even if you were familiar with a great space and you had been there, it was still hard to find information about the event spaces [even if] you went to their websites."
She and her husband, Donny Fausner, whose background is in business, began to study the travel market and saw a shift was coming in the number of millennials who would be traveling in 2016, the year they would statistically outnumber baby boomers as the largest living generation. Marrying that knowledge with Purdy-Fausner's perceived hole in the marketplace, the couple founded the Venue Report. Its directory of vendors went live in 2014.
"It just seemed like a glaring need," Fausner said, something they could jump into fully after studying the market and competition. "We bootstrapped this from the beginning and have been nonstop ever since."
The Venue Report connects venues with event planners (or just those looking to host a group event). It features a curated collection of venues with extensive profiles provided by the venues themselves as well as photos curated by the Venue Report. Its target market is millennials.
Today, Purdy-Fausner said, the site features about 2,500 member venues searchable by city and event type. The site also includes reports about the venues and accompanying photos.
"While we built out our directory, we also continued building out media, which was a challenge but we knew it was super important," she said. "We really worked to connect the two so that a user can come on the site and have an emotional connection through a story but be able to book a hotel room or message a venue from that story and alternatively be able to search through our directory."
A few weeks ago, Donny Fausner said, the Venue Report soft-launched a booking portal, enabling users to book rooms on the site. The technology from the booking portal was white-labeled from Florida's Palm Coast Travel, a Signature Travel Network agency.
The soft launch initially encompassed 130 Venue Report hotel and resort members that are also Signature preferred properties. Fausner said another 800 Signature properties were set to go live last week, and eventually all Venue Report members will be enabled for online booking.
With the portal, Fausner said, users can book up to two rooms online. Those who want more than two rooms qualify for the Venue Report's "white glove service," an offline endeavor that collects information on what users need, then passes bookings on to Palm Coast. Any communication from Palm Coast is branded as the Venue Report.
Users looking for both event spaces and rooms can message the venue directly on the Venue Report site and can use the same message to let the Venue Report know if those users need rooms, as well.
"Our focus has always been on gatherings," Fausner said. "Our solution is really for the social gathering element, everything from weddings and corporate events and retreats to social gatherings like a bridal shower, baby shower and such, down to even the group getaways."
Everything the Venue Report does is targeted toward millennials. Purdy-Fausner pointed out that the site is curated, but curated across multiple price points.
"The thing that we noticed was that millennials have really eclectic taste, and so while one day a millennial may be in a tepee in Joshua Tree [National Park]; another day they might be flying and staying at the Ritz Paris," she said. "We're curated across every price point, but what we look for is really great service, and really great imagery is important, as well, so that we can represent the property in the best visual light and maintain an editorial standard across our site."
Ignacio Maza, Signature Travel Network's executive vice president, said the Venue Report's business model is unique, and its reach is impressive, with more than 15 million consumers reached via social media channels and a subscription-based newsletter that reaches more than 95,000 households.
"Donny and Cortnie are at the helm of marketing and really taking a niche and blowing it out to its greatest possible extent," he said. "They are not only finding venues for their customers, but they're also helping their clients with their travel plans and group travel that is associated with celebrations and events."