Welcome to another episode of the Pixilated Podcast. I’m Patrick Rife and today we’re going to talk with Lois Sarfo-Mensah from 3 Pillars Co.
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Hey guys, this is Patrick with Pixilated. I am excited for this next version of our podcast content. Today we are going to be featuring an interview slash co driven chat with a friend of ours. And it was a live stream. And here we are taking the audio and pushing it out for all of our podcast friends. So hope you enjoy it. Let us know what you think. Okay, take it away. Welcome to a, I think a first I don't think we really live streamed any interviews yet. My name is Patrick. I'm from Pixilated. I helped to produce a lot of the content for for Pixilated. And we had been doing a lot of video content last year and syndicating it onto podcasts. And that was a really fun run. But I really wanted to explore reinventing it and kind of doing it in a bit of a different way. And streaming seems like a really fun way to not only make it more active and engaging with the audience, but also to, to not make it as much work to film a bunch of video and upload it to all the social media platforms. So with that being said, I kind of been thinking about it and, and Lois and I had talked about it before we connected. And here we are. So today, it's going to be a hopefully, like a code driven chat about the events world and entrepreneurship. But you know, before I talk too much, I really want to, to welcome Lois to, to the show, andUnknown:
you know, I'll get awesome.Lois Sarfo-Mensah:
So, I am Lois Sarfo-Mensah.Unknown:
I am the owner of three pillars, co I'm not nervous. Right now, I just am literally technology is technology for me. And I am frozen. So I hope you guys can hear me. But I hope you are excited to join us in this conversation. three pillars CO is a primarily events, management company, but we also provide support in the term in areas of strategy and business services. And we have some great partners we work with. So we also do a lot of experience design or marketing and design. So that's us, I have a great team that is with us. And we love to you know, our our theme is to be a part of the three pillars family. So we're very much a fun bunch. And so doing things like this, where we get to really showcase what we like to talk about on a daily basis as a team and with other people in the community. Now we get to share it. So this is awesome. Yeah. So you know, Lois, and I connected for like just a phone chat about what I actually can't even remember what the image was for that. Yeah, it like went, it went left in all the best ways really quickly. And we ended up I think staying on the phone a really long time. And just realize that it was kind of fun catching up with one another and thought that the things that we were talking about, we were things that we were feeling like we recognized, you know, whether it's in, in the events world, which we both our businesses are built to largely serve events in hospitality. And, but then also inside of like the entrepreneurial space, and both being from Baltimore, both being retrievers go dog. Yes. That's probably the first actually really done that before. So you're here to share that with me. We kind of the idea was, oh, like, we want to catch up. And it's probably going to be on these topics. And like, wouldn't it be fun to just kind of, like, do it publicly and see how it goes? So with that being said, how's it going? You know, it's been going good, um, you know, given the circumstances, right. So, making things happen, making things work, being agile being fluid. So, being able to kind of move with with what's going on. It's a very interesting time. Because, you know, two years ago when you start when, you know, not when I started the business to spend a little bit more than that, but two years ago, when you were operating your business, it's very much thinking long term down the line, what are we thinking? One, five and 10 years, and then COVID hit, and that was not what we're going to be doing anymore. And so I think a really big part of our conversation is going to be about how COVID has made us have to be A little bit, you know, bending in the knees, your knees have to be ready. And then also kind of being able to forecast but at the same time, being able to be in the present and make really good decisions off of that alone. So I'm excited to kind of dive into that, because that's been a real big thing for us. You know, like I was saying, we have business strategy and marketing services that we do, which kind of was a, an easy fit for me, because of my background, before starting the business. And then it kind of bloomed from the idea that a lot of people are looking to put on events and things in the corporate world, they definitely know what they're wanting to do, right, because they have it in their strategic plan or in their timeline for the year and the budget document for the year. Right. But some others who are, especially in the social entrepreneurship world, and, and the kind of micro entrepreneurship sectors that I got into once I started running my own business, they had a lot of other elements that weren't in place. So that's kind of where our business strategy support boomed from. And we luckily did this prior to COVID. And so it just was a great way to keep the business afloat with events kind of revenge cancelling, and revenge coming back, and then revenge going back again, inside. And it's been interesting to see how things have been kind of moving and shaking, especially with a lot of the governmental guidance that's been put out in in terms of that. Yeah, yeah. Well, let's, let's dig on that for a minute. Because brought up yesterday, like that was a hot button issue. And yeah, and it's so funny, because I hadn't. I mean, I I recognized what it's done. And what we're talking about is we're talking about when the CDC announced their new guidelines for social distancing, and like reopening and, and how pivotal that moment was for all of society to really kind of for a portion of it through open the hatches, and then the whole rest of it just kind of got thrown into question mark phase, and it's reverberating through the events industry, right now in a really big way. So let's talk about that. Right, because I feel like everybody's heard everybody's story about, you know, what they had to do to make it through the last year. But after we talked about it, like last night, I I had some real, I had some real like anger in my heart, the more I thought, like, Man, this is that will really palace because it really didn't take into account the way that that declaration would reverberate through and and for everyone that has, you know, like, you know, the thing I said to you yesterday is like, we have known exactly how PixiWeb moves from being a virtual tool to a hybrid tool to being a live event tool. And it's The Sweetest the best version of it is like the live event tool, it gets really cool and fun in the live event space. But you know, marketing, doing it well like introducing it naturally. Like that takes 10 1214 weeks to really get that going. So it needs to be methodical. And I think what we found was we up until you know, like mid or late March or April, whenever they said it, like everything was still very much in virtual mode. Yeah. And then when that changed, it's like every client that we were talking to, they like they went into question marks they do, right? And now it's going to be it feels like learning curve is going to be almost double, because half the people are going to be figuring out like, Can we just like forego virtual altogether? Right? Or did we build a good audience? And we would be like throwing away revenue? And then there's gonna be the people that are like, Oh, do we have to do hybrid? Or do we just go to live or like, what is live 2.0 look like? So I feel like the the the, the scrum of the whole thing has just in a way it feels as daunting as it did 12 months ago, all of a sudden, yes, I feel like we're I feel like we're, you know, like, you can only but realign yourself so much. Exactly. We've changed a lot. And what we're not going to do is just pick back up the clothes that we were wearing before and go back to doing that, like we've we've come through, you know, a metamorphosis at this point. And we have to make sure that it makes sense with the new market, not with the old pick. So like, I'm just curious, like your opinions specifically from what you know, from CDC, changing the guidelines on like, what's it been like for you and your team? Yeah, and I mean, you touched on a lot of Big, big ideas and just kind of your evaluation of it. Um, you know, from the, the callousness of the change, I think that piece we kind of briefly touched on yesterday, I really believe that the a lot of the guidance guidances it's been about and no shade to them love Lego brick and mortar. But it's, it's for a brick and mortar experience. And for those who have physical spaces that they want to get people back into, but the changes have not been always beneficial for the service industry, which is hospitality, we are all in service based industry. A lot of us, you know, whether running events PixiWeb, you know, you're a technology events company, so you have space, because you have to store the technology. But, you know, prior to, you know, last year, your space was for that, that reason. So having a virtual environment is a great thing. And it was a great pivot. And like you said, another big point, taking 10 to 12 weeks to really get something implemented and out there and getting people understanding it from a marketing and development perspective. If you think about that, that's a quarter of your business here, like, especially if you are looking at, you know, business people are always looking at, I got to pay quarterly taxes. So what am I making in this quarter? So I really make that happen. And then in the long term, did I spend more in this quarter and get my ROI for the last three quarters, right? That's another big, big piece that is often missed. And I think the hospitality and defense industry has been so focused on bouncing back, or at least being able to get something out so that we can stay afloat during this whole situation, that there hasn't been the opportunity to be a part of the conversation from a decision making standpoint. And if they if they have been, then Who are these people? And how do we get in touch with them, so that they can actually be hearing from I mean, similar to like a government situation, right? Like, I just have this example, because we just did this yesterday, but like, I interviewed a councilman in another part of town. And he spoke a lot about how he has influenced in certain areas of government. But a lot of folks don't understand why has influenced lives. And even the areas where he doesn't have influence, he can be a voice of the people. So that's where I feel like we don't have that type of structure in the events and hospitality industry. And we are kind of segmented in different ways. You know, shameless plug to my good friends at the Venturi. I we have a lot of good conversations there. And love how jumping on the phone, Daphne hope not is the founder of the vendor. And she's also an event technology company focused on being almost like an events, events, industry, LinkedIn, for those who are in the industry, right, and hospitality. And a lot of what we talked about the last time she and I connected was, you know, pivoting and providing opportunities for the events industry to stay abreast on on things. But when these big changes happen, how do you technology is not something that can just happen like this, which you can, you can definitely speak to. But how do you make that jump? And how do you make a product or a service that is going to be viable in the market as it is today? And so I think, you know, one thing that really stuck to me is when you were like saying 10 to 12 weeks weeks to get something out, because I just I have really ran on a word of mouth. For my business. My business has not been high, like I have not marketed to that. And you know, I'll say that with full time, I'm very much a full transparency model. I say this to a lot of clients, as well as those just coming in looking for services, very much a high transparency model. I'll say it because I'm relatively straightforward, as well. So I you know, I have not marketed the business since starting it I being a service based business being in the hospitality field. And coming off of a very interesting departure from like working in someone else's firm to now having my own it was immediately jumping into how do I get clients and you know, how do I get the work in? So it's been difficult sometimes thinking about now that you've built this rapport on a word of mouth basis. Now, how do you start building the marketing and and I feel like you can probably talk to that part from the reverse because being a technology company, you have to market to technology You have to showcase the technology. Whereas with me being a service, it's my showcase is doing the work. So how do I find it? Yeah, it looks like that is like, crazy, like topical of the moment. And yeah, it's extremely jarring for us. Because, I mean, like a variety of reasons, like for one, you know, like, I've always been out front, like as the as the person that Pixilated, not that Nick doesn't have like, a very present presence inside of the brand, because he does. But you know, like, I was the one that was like, aggressive about being out and making friends and like, leading initiatives and just trying to, like, Get us out there. And I've always done it in this extremely personal way. Yeah. And, but with building products that are more about technology like those, like they should become more affordable, right? You have to sell more of them. Yeah. And that, like, doesn't necessarily work in the same way. And then, you know, like, in addition to that, you also have to, you know, like something that we're that we're dealing with right now is, and it's funny, we're just kind of, arguably, we didn't learn our lesson, but we kind of, I don't know, you could argue in both directions. But we learned cloud, right, which was we built PixiCloud, right. And PixiCloud is the software that powers the PixiTab Plus, and the PixiTab Plus is right, that we can ship out from all over the country. And we've got partnerships with, you know, like back, you know, balloon background companies, and with the marquee letter light up companies that they it's a whole business, right, and it's powered by PixiCloud. Our software, and the software is really built to be this like juggernaut photobooth software that can hook to like Salesforce or MailChimp and do like data collection and like, be in all of your retail stores and that whole nine yards. And there was a period of time where we were selling that on the Pixilated website, right, like, that's not what Pixilated consumers kind of are coming for, like they're coming for the daily rentals, right? They're coming for the staff, or they're coming for an event services company, right. So the same thing, we almost made the mistake, right, look. So with PixiWeb, we've been selling it all a cart all year long. And the banner has been virtual photobooth. Because that's where the market is, that's what people are looking for. Knowing all along that we were going to change it with it, we would gently re productize it when things started to open back up. Right. So now you're actively updating it so that way it's PixiWeb shared event, photo galleries, right. And then the virtual photo booth is just a feature underneath of this like, cool, like photo easy, like no code, no code photo website builder, right. Yeah. And to make it look just like your thing, and then you can share with all your friends and you get to capture like all this like super fun content, right? So it can go into our house right? Or it could go into Briana and Clinton's wedding, right, right to go into a business trip for like a team of 15 that are going to South by Southwest to saturate and like yes. stuff, right, like all of these different ways that you can embed it in your website. Or you can put QR codes around your event venue and have everything that gets taken and uploaded streamed up onto a slideshow that's built in, right? So yes, we know where it's going. But it's all about like building that, that that kind of rebrand. So that's how we've been selling it up until this point. But we've built account user accounts for it, right? Because our idea is that we want to sign up, you know, what I want is for the person who is hiring me for commencement at Loyal, rather than us charging them a premium to do all of the back and forth, we built the tool so that way, we can sell them a subscription. And they can go in and they can build it themselves at a fraction of the cost. And they can use it multiple times a month. So it ends up being this really open ended engagement tool, right? They can use events, they can use it for hybrid, they can use it for live events, they can put it in the sports stadium if they wanted to, to collect like sports photos, right? There are all these ways that you could position it. But that being said, the majority people come Pixilated calm are not necessarily looking for subscriptions to it, right, they're looking for $1 card, they're looking for it productized and cool, and maybe, you know, blended with a theme. So. So that being said, We're going through the process right now of pushing the subscription version of PixiWeb and PixiWeb as an entity onto its own site that we can still refer to from Pixilated. But then when we're looking to engage the market, from people that are just saying, here's this software, you can subscribe to it and use it for your digital marketing and your engagement, your events, and whatever the case may be. We can have a different strategy there. So sorry, it's been a run on answer, but I don't know. It's very, very tricky to figure out how you how you transition that space and I definitely would say that like after a long time of trying to do it, like there are some brands that will just they'll just be You know, and I think that at the end of the day, the thing that people like most about Pixilated is these patentes packaged up experiences that are kind of turnkey in a sense. And the that, I think there's a huge market for people that want to subscribe to our kiosk software, or people that want to subscribe to PixiWeb shared photo gallery software. I just think that they're different people. And they're, you know, you need to pitch them differently, right. I think that there's a ton of, of I mean, I met with, with Jess Rutherford from sentimental fools for coffee this morning. And we were talking about PixiWeb. And I was like, Yeah, like, I think that planners are going to just sign up for a subscription themselves, because then every single event, they can do that. And they spread QR codes for that event around and they get all this awesome photo stuff. And then they give it to their client. But then they also have all of this UGC, that's just in their vaults. So that way, you end up every single event, you've got all of these photos and all this content that you can use down the line if you need to, or if you want to reference something. So whatever long story short, sometimes you have to put out, you know, secondary platforms that are more, you know, like, if there's a version of the product that you want, what we're learning is that you really got to tell that story there. And it is excellent if you can have that product be unencumbered by a bunch of other stuff. And I think what it is, is even the people that are coming and they're interested in they would consider a subscription. They still see all of Pixilated, right, kiosks and this and that. And it's just, it's a lot, right. Like we are a carnival. Yeah. The food truck model like just a little breakout. Yeah. You know, it's it's interesting to things that you said that you're more, you know, in the forefront of Pixilated. Then Then your partner is and I think I haven't met your partner. But I feel like the reason why is because your voice is so deep, that you can't, you can't be missed. I'm very much like, there's certain people you remember, for certain things, people will not forget, Patrick, because you have a very deep voice that can be heard. So you just gotta just run with it. Make it your marketing tool. You know? It's It's so funny that you say that. Because I have always, I've always aimed, I've always wanted to do voice work. So like, I want musician. Well, I understand recording Well, anyway. Yeah. And, and like, I like to read like, I think that you know, like I never minded reading out loud. Like, I think it would be interesting. But I've always like I never have the bandwidth to like, explore. So I was local this week. And I sat across from her, let me give her a shout. I sat across from Morgan Lambert from producers. Yeah, we were talking about it. And that came up, like, which is inevitably kind of does when you're around new people, they're like, your voice is astonishingly deep. I can't hear it. So it doesn't even sound deep to me, until I listened to it. Like I'll listen back to this later and be like, Whoa, that's interesting. But she was like, uh, send me a real like, we hire like voiceover artists all the time. So I was like, This is my this is like, finally get into voice work is gonna be right here in Baltimore with the producer. So you know, I'm my accountant. I love him to death. His name is Anton and I, Anton Anderson. And I call him Uncle Anton sometimes. And his one of his things is he's very soothing in terms of giving you advice that makes it make you want to, you want to do better kind of thing, and do more. And one of his biggest piece of advice is having multiple streams of income. You need to have your three various types. And you have it you have voiceovers, you have PixiWeb. And then you have Pixilated I mean, I don't know what else you need in this world. Patrick, I think you're good. I think I think you said all of them are gonna make it. We're just gonna put that out there. But yeah, so I think with what you were talking about in terms of this new subscription service and event planners may be having, do you think that's something that is going to be like a licensing model? And I asked that because I've been approached by other technology companies for different things. And they usually want to sell the event planner, a licensing model, which they purchase the license, and then they can we can sell it back to our client. And it usually sounds great in that in that instance, but I've been offered some that are upwards of 20 plus $1,000. And I'm like, Who are you talking to? Like, how am I going to get my return on a $20,000 subscription or licensing model? So I think you know that your your note about what you're looking to develop, considering what what do you think about that type of No, that's a great question. And kind of like that we didn't discuss this, but thanks for setting me up, to be able to say. So where we are right now like, I'm neither Nick nor I are technologists necessarily. We aren't coders like we've we've, you know, both flirted around with some no code apps before and that kind of thing, Nick more more so than I, he's definitely more technical than I am. And he is our he is the shepherd for that that side of the company like he is, in effect, our CTO role is his and he's pretty good at it for being non technical. Nick is extremely organized. And he is also has a really high capacity for understanding conceptually like, you know, systems. So a lot of tech and how it integrates makes it clicks for him, and he's able to really remember it. So wait, what was I? What was I saying? I totally went off on that tangent. I forgot what I was saying. When we were talking about, you know, doing this, this new subscription model, racing, yeah, yes. So at any rate, my point in going down, all of that is we're really practicing this lean methodology, and anybody that's been following along will see that we've radically changed the pricing, like over the last four weeks. And, and arguably, it's the we have a few people that signed up, and they definitely, you know, will get more than their, their money's worth, ultimately, you know, like, that's part of the thing that makes it weird about shifting prices. But it's not really saying that the product isn't worth what it what you paid for it, or what we think it's worth, it's that our strategy right now needs to be how can we engage as many potential people to just use it because we need to watch people use, like the most important thing PixiWeb user accounts needs, right now, its users, because when users are using it, they're coming up with questions. They're finding bugs, they're saying, Hey, did you think about doing this or like, you know, have you thought about, like, offering this as like an influencer package, so they can keep all their portfolio stuff? Or, like, have you thought about like bars using this to be able to have like UGC that goes on to their like monitors, and they just scan right, you know, like, all these apples, you know, like boat docks wanting to use it. So when you pull up and gas up, and your boat is like, looking clean, you know, like all these like ways to kind of like, turn it market it. So at any rate, the long story short is we played with our first iteration of pricing, which was very much kind of like a gold, silver bronze, except it was like enterprise, pro and plus or something along those lines. But ultimately, those were all just sketches. And we had beta mode. And beta is what we're selling now. And currently, it is extremely cheap. It's the cheapest that it's ever been. So what you get with beta is you actually get to have full access to all the tools. And you right now you can sign on for 30 bucks a month. So it's about like a return on your investment. But if you sign me nine bucks to your client, use it twice a month. You know, like, and the thing is, is it's pretty easy to sell if you show them. I don't know if you saw that Briana and Quintin blog posts that we did, but their wedding they use PixiWeb. And in the shared gallery sense, yeah, it is awesome. Like, like the variety of content that they got, like, all of these selfies with the Father, the bride's name was dewy, and he's like taking these selfies and his face is just, like pouring joy out of love. It was really, it was pretty wonderful to watch it, to watch that event really come to life and see how people used it. And it was encouraging in a lot of ways. So at any rate, yet, right now you can sign up for beta, it's 30 bucks a month, or if you pay for the year, I think it's it comes down to like $24 a month, I think it's 80 bucks for the year. And then the other thing is when you sign up for a beta account, you'll always stay at that pricing tier, even after we suspend beta and move into our tiers, which will probably be in the range of like, you know, probably there'll be a freemium, that's pretty redacted, right? And then it will be probably like a $50 single event, a $99 like five event, and then maybe like something, something for like, pros or firms and then kind of like an enterprise solution. So yeah, it will never be as cheap as it's going to be right now. You're grandfathered in, right? You get a suite price, and you keep getting all updates and all features and all the good stuff forever. So yeah, it's a good opportunity to take advantage of it now for people that are are about it. That's good. Definitely not gonna cost $20,000 we appreciate you for that. It's not gonna cost 20 grand No, no, I love that. Um, yeah, that's that's pretty. That's awesome. And I think I'm thinking about it from you know, The events and marketing perspective because similar to you, like you find that with events, there is that marketing component, whether you're, you know, for me, it's whether you're hired for it or not. And that's kind of where the idea of the strategy and marketing services start started to build for three pillars, because we were finding that folks were doing events, but then they were asking is that that dancing scope creep and ask them for that additional? How do I do this and writing emails and, you know, I, we tried to be very clear, that will push out whatever you want us to push out, but we don't write your contact, we don't know your audience. But more and more, I'm just like, you so you don't have anything? Hmm. You know, so then it's like, okay, now I have to bring somebody in. I've had to, I've had to tap into, you know, my preferred vendor network. For things like copywriting, things like my mark design, especially. And so it's been kind of that interesting development of this third pillar of marketing and design, in that sense, and then thinking about how you move forward with it, you know, and this whole conversation is about events. 2.0. And so how do we move forward with offering kind of all inclusive services, because we know that it's going to, you know, why put yourself in a position to have scope creep, you should just be ready for scope creep, right? So price yourself for for that, because you know, what's gonna happen? Right, like, exactly, if you've made it a line on them on line item on your general pricing? Yeah, is there like, Oh, this, you'd be like, Oh, no problem. Exactly. I can assume that they know that it's gonna cost Yeah, even that part? And you know, there's always those who are like, Oh, can we just take that out? Because we have somebody internally, and then three weeks later, you're just like, so I'm putting this back in? Right? You know, but being able to be flexible for those types of situations. I think it has been the biggest thing, but one thing I think will be kind of important for us to touch on is one of the things he said was about, you know, with COVID, we had to quickly jump into a virtual environment. Well, first, it was like the postponed don't cancel, right? There were things on LinkedIn everywhere about postponed, don't cancel, postpone, don't cancel. Eventually, everybody had to cancel or, you know, like, it wasn't a postponement. So, um, but then we moved into the virtual world. And there's a lot of folks who are doing that we're doing the virtual work and the virtual environment. But what has been your kind of experience? Because for, you know, in this question, what has been your experience of people putting in the work for the virtual for, especially for those who had later engagements in the in 2020, that didn't have to do a virtual experience twice. They had, they could only did it once. And even those who may have done it twice, because of COVID, kind of spanning across an 18 month, 18 month span, what has been your clearance with those folks who are ready to quickly jump into live because they may have not put in that enough energy to really bolster an online virtual community, per se? Yeah, it's, I mean, that's a really good question. So there's, there hasn't been a profound volume of those people. But the ones that have, you know, we did some live commencements. We worked with the University of Western Connecticut. And, but, and they did, so they used a blend, they use PixiWeb. And they use tabs. And, and so there was on site, physical kiosks, we shipped it all to them. And so we worked with a larger production company, and they just hired us. So it was a pretty easy scenario. And then ultimately, on the other side of it, you know, like the PixiTab, those kiosks are extremely simple to you know, they're designed to be, you know, lights out simple. They run on batteries, like, yeah, you turn a tablet on and turn a camera on and log it onto Wi Fi and launch an app and you're like, you're off to the races. So, in that regard, it hasn't been such a thing. I think also, you know, still, at the end of the day, as big of a deal as engagement in the virtual event became. There's still like a huge, you know, like it. I would say that virtual photo booths didn't ever become so definitively ubiquitous that it was just like a no brainer for Everyone, right? Because like, and it's not even, I don't think that people object to the concept of, of photos and being able to add that at all. I think that having to add anything into this platform where you're already, like, Listen, like we got the platform to work, like, Can we just like, let's just call it even like, a built in stuff? Like we'll use it? You know, there were definitely platforms that would discourage their clients from thinking about integrating things like that, right. So there's like some people that I'm like, I know that they do it. And they're like, they tell us they can't do it. Well, you didn't ask the right questions to get them back into the right corner. But like, any other client that use that virtual platform, and we iframed into it, and I know that it's possible, but you don't have a lot of leverage there. You know. So I mean, I guess I, I'm not seeing that as much. And I think it's because partially, because the deal flow has changed a lot in the way that it's working. And then, you know, like, we don't have our traditional set of products, like we're not bringing staffed anything back anymore. You know, like, yeah, that is something that we're going to leave to the pre COVID times and what Pixilated offered. And with that being said, while the shippable kiosks are awesome, for the right person, there are a lot of people that it's not awesome for. So, you know, like you were mentioning before, even and I think that there's some work that we can do on the product. But you were mentioning before, like turnkey kits, like having things all together, you know, like I found a gap in our offerings with the Pixie tabs and the pluses is, is a backdrop. So I think that we'll we're gonna figure out, you we already you can already add, like paper photo props to your order. But I think it will probably add some backdrops that can be command stripped to the wall, and things that are really light and things like that clients can keep, so they don't have to ship it back. So you know, maybe some balloon offerings, maybe some like shimmery things, and silver and bronze, you know, like just maybe some tinsel like just an obvious, you know, there's obvious six or 10 kind of ideas that would that people would love to do. So that way, when they're getting it, they're literally getting like a whole photo booth at a box, getting the kiosk and having to figure out the other side of it. So yeah, I mean, I'm not hearing as much How about you like, what has it been? What is your experience been? It's I mean, it's been, it's definitely been on the kind of the end of they are super excited for putting on something virtual, they're super excited about the opportunity to build the online community. But then what the missing piece, which is not what we're hired for, is to bring the community in. So I think there's a lot of that just unfortunately, you know, folks, assuming that they can run their virtual event the same way they could do, they did their live, and that the folks will just come. Unfortunately, that's not the case. And then in terms of live engagement, I've especially on the technology. And so, you know, the mention of turnkey, a lot of the virtual platforms, I've noticed because we don't, we don't stick to one specific virtual platform. Every client that comes in, we look at your needs, we look at what things you need, what things you desire, and what things do that would be just like knock your socks off, in terms of the experience, the content and the engagement. And then we we go out and source. So we have a couple of platforms that we've worked with, that were great, there were some that just weren't great. There were some that requires a lot more hand holding than the other. And so we chose to be more flexible in, in, in learning any platform you'd want to work with, to our own detriment, because I don't want to learn sometimes I'm like, I just don't want to learn another platform. But what we found is that once we do find them the right platform, especially within budgets, the budgets on these platforms are out of control. I mean everything from $2 per person to you know $20,000 for the platform, you know what I mean? minimum, which is a it's it's a great opportunity for corporate partners, but not for the the association trade show, trade folks, the those who are trying to deliver continuing education, it's just it's not viable because at that point How do they deliver the content without going? Going broke? Right? So we found that with all of those things considered, they think they have this great platform. And then that will turn key element where you go through the sales process, and then you're you're excited you have you feel like your sales team is going to really deliver you a product that is going to be great from the jump, and you're going to have that accountant that is missing the account manager experience, a lot of them don't have that. And you get the platform. And they tell you, it's turnkey, but it's so much in terms of very, very detailed plug and play and do this and all of that. So we're not able to support the client in the sense of how do you build the community? How do you get that marketing return, you know, prior to bringing on our marketing associate, and then our marketing partners, but like, how do you bring the community actually online. And then the other thing has been a lot of the platforms that are trying to deliver this very AI kind of experience, like, you feel like you're in the space and, and all of that, and I and to a certain point, and you know, I hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot, or, you know, making anybody feel some type of way, but I hate it. Like, I don't like the idea of a platform that makes you feel like you're actually in the space, because you spend more time clicking around trying to figure out what these avatars are doing than actually getting the content. And at the end of the day, the events are about the content, right? The experience can happen in so many different ways. You know, folks have had, you know, concerts and live performances, and they've had, you know, celebrity influence, they've had other influencers. And those are great, there's, you know, also the same way, we used to do the trade show game where you got to stamp the passport book, it can still happen on the virtual world. For me, the biggest thing is making sure that folks can keep engaged in, in the new COVID world, like we all have crazy attention span issues, like they're all going to, I mean, outside of everybody, you know, getting the vaccine or whether they want to or not, we're all going to be given Ritalin or something because we're just all like trying to multitask on a regular basis. And that's one thing COVID is definitely brought into the ground because there was no separation of church and state your home became your office became your playground, you became your your eateries, all that. So I'm not a big fan of, of this virtual platform looking like a being actually at the show, because there's a lot of waste of time and building that experience. And the return on that is very much low, right. And, and I say that because a lot of the organizations who think that's cool, and they buy into that, they end up not knowing how to build that into something where folks are actually going to enjoy it. As well as actually engage with their content, I'm seeing a lot of you know, or a lot of events where it starts out being a paid model. And then a great sponsor comes through, and it's a free model. So then 1000s of people or hundreds of people or whatever their demographic is purchased the tickets and attend. And, you know, before in the live event space, your metrics were those who registered and then those who actually checked in right now you have those who registered, those who visited the platform, those who went to one session and two session and three sessions, there's a lot more metrics. So your return and your ability to market to sponsors is a lot greater if you spend the time to build the community for folks to actually use the platform. And then of course, in terms of accessibility, it's it's, I think that's the the biggest piece that is kind of brushed under the rug and brought up as a last minute point to go virtual and hybrid is the accessibility. Um, prior to COVID. I was doing a conference under my, the firm I used to work for that was kind of in the forefront of everything because the folks who were part of that conference, were those who were developing technology from the research stage. So a great example that was always told to me was this group was playing with the idea of the iPhone model in the 90s in the late 90s. When but before we all even saw an actual touchscreen iPhone, right. So that gave that gives like it gives understanding of what they're working with so long before COVID and being a very international community with a conference that goes all over the world. They were always thinking about accessibility and it was always the forefront and It was definitely one that our firm could not mess up. And they had things like telepresence robots. And tell us telepresence robots were literally a robot that, you know, nothing exciting about it, we would actually allow folks to purchase their their registration through telepresence to have a friend actually put outfits and decorate it and all that. But literally, it was a robot with wheels that they controlled from wherever we had folks who were in international developing countries who were, you know, blessed to go to college, and be in research departments for developing technology, but not blessed with the opportunity to travel. One of the biggest things was when the Muslim ban came out, that made it a little difficult for a lot of folks in in certain countries to be able to come to the conference when it was in America, right? And so having the telepresence allowed them to be not only controlling this robot and being in all the sessions, it actually allowed for two way engagement, people could people were literally standing in front of this robot having a conversation with the robot with a two to one, you know what I mean? Like, it was just, it was just a good way to really increase accessibility. And I was really thinking that this pivot to the virtual world was going to be the biggest highlight was accessibility. But it wasn't, you know, it was just how do we bring this event back and bring the same people from the same segments of, you know, spaces back in. But it wasn't, and I, I tend to highlight it every time with every virtual engagement, that you're now able to reach people, and provide content to people that you never would have before. So just focus on your marketing was I focus on building your event. And it just, it didn't happen that way. So like you, I don't remember why I started out with this whole thing. But I'm very passionate about, you know, in terms of the the accessibility of events, and the viability of the virtual event. And it all starts with community building. And I think community building is a is a very missing piece in what the events industry is about, or should be about. Right, we're so focused on developing other people's communities that we're not focused on building our own community, which, hopefully, this conversation starts that for our, you know, little pocket of the world, right. But it's, it's definitely what we need to do. Yeah, I mean, so like, we're getting we're getting on here in time, I don't have anywhere to go. But also like for that, for the people that are watching, I don't want to keep them all morning. But But let's unpack that real quick. And, you know, like, you know, maybe we'll, you know, maybe there's some topics that we need to follow up to be episode number two, that we can get into more stuff, because I think that it would be interesting to have a broader conversation about community and, and I think, you know, I think that there's a lot for us to compare, we we went really heavily into the MPI community, you went really heavily into building in the ventry community, and I think that there's a commonality that's there, but you know, more specifically like to dig in with with the local space, right? Baltimore, so local, by local, we mean Baltimore. Like, what, what is that, like re reorganizing that can happen, right? Because like, there's the whole thing is right, like, it's a clean palette, like, we don't have to go back to the strategies, customs, like, grow city's like all of the things that aren't great, that weren't great, you know, that we didn't like, I mean, like, this is our jailbreak, it's our opportunity to create new iterations of all that stuff. And, you know, quite frankly, like, we're seeing some wonderful new venues that are opening up, like, I feel like the I feel like the, the, the time is right, and the pump is a bit primed, but like, what is that? What is that organizing body? Right? Because, like, I don't know, that it's necessarily something that is, you know, like a big global platform that needs to happen, you know, like, he did start up soiree. It was about, you know, like, building our community one person at a time and having him be like super local and making sure that they knew why we were inviting them and why they were there and like, what we didn't want the community to be like, you know, like we were always very like vocal about it not being like a place to sling business cards. And you know, it was meant to be like a networking of that was like a cool opportunity. Like we really like people to connect for their stuff. skills and perspectives that they could bring to colleagues in our city. So that way we could all build stronger businesses and stronger organizations. And like, the whole idea was if we, if we are, if we're all working together from, you know, short pants, right, which isn't to say that, like, it's been a long time since I've been in short pants, but like, if we do all this, and we're a team in the greater sense, when we all when some of us start to get on and start to have more dollars, right, and we can pay it back into our system, right? Like, right? Anybody knows anything about Baltimore, you like it no matter what, you've got some skepticism about putting your resources on other machine that's already built to them. Because like, things happen, I mean, Baltimore's not unique, right, that happens everywhere. But when you build your own organization, and you decide from an efficacy point of view, this is what we're about. Right? And this is how we're gonna like for us by us, and, and have it be very intentional, right? Because like, Baltimore has opportunities and challenges that are unique here. Right. And they are comprised of our infrastructure, and they're comprised of our people. And they're comprised of our, like, our education system, and they're, like, an all of the other, you know, like, micro tonalities, that create any city or place or space. And so I don't know, I'm kind of curious about like, like, do you have a perspective about, you know, like, what that is, or what it could look like, you know, I've, I've, you know, I've tried to develop something, I have developed something where I think, would be that kind of space. Because I've been to so many networking events from, you know, plugging all y'all now, like LinkedIn, local networking network under 40. Startup Grind, ladies get paid. I mean, the list goes on and on. Even doing something more community focused, did some work with Why is it blanking on me now? It's okay, but very much focused on conversations about what is important to our community. And it that was where I thought the greatest model came from, because it was encouraging folks to either select some pre selected conversations, and then you literally just select one, and you open your space, whether you're home, a restaurant space, whatever, to have intimate dinner conversations, or coffee or lunch conversations with folks about that topic. So we tried to do something like that here in Baltimore, where we could actually do those conversations about things important to Baltimore. And actually, they developed a report from that, um, you know, unfortunately, we only got one to one dinner planned in Baltimore. But I think that's part of the thing about Baltimore, also, is that it's hard to get those involved. But that is kind of the best situations I've found is, is that scenarios where there's a very intimate portion, and then there's fly on the wall kind of portion of that. And I think that is what's going to work for Baltimore, I mean, in our local area, I mean, we are a big Food City, like anything around food, food, beer. People will do it, I mean, you know, every great space that I can think of involves those two things, right? And then or has that opportunity to bring those two things in. And so how do we create not another event, but another space that folks can come in and feel like they get that one on one, I'm the only one that I've been to that is like, big in scale that feels like you can still get that kind of one on one experience. Probably would be Startup Grind one, which is funny to say, because startup time is very much International, and they have sectors and, and groups all over the world. But, you know, shout out to Jeffrey Friedman, and Chris Hogue and another gentleman, I'm blanking on his name, but they have started crying Columbia and Baltimore. And they do do a lot of intentionality with their events locally. And then when I you know, because I went to a couple of and I did a panel on one of them. I went to Startup Grind literally, the week before COVID really became like a shut down thing like I am highly blessed and favored because I was in San Francisco when that first big case where the gentleman traveled into town he traveled in when I left and I was with people from all over the world. So um But I went to Startup Grind last year and though it had 10,000 people in small little Palo Alto have no idea why they do it there. I mean, I do, but I don't. Um, it felt like you made some real connections. Like I've had follow up conversations with almost everyone that I met there. And they had great conversations about, you know, though it's a heavy tech focus. It's very much an entrepreneurial group. And so we, you know, there were a lot of focus on black and tech, and women in tech and minority in tech, and then all of those also in entrepreneurship, right. And in other development areas, FinTech was huge. So women in FinTech and that's something that you wouldn't have seen prior to the past two years. So I think even in a larger scale, communities can build that for people. But then, you know, building it also on a smaller scale and picking that intentionality. I have a client that she is a firecracker in terms of social entrepreneurship. And that's what she has built her brand. And her business on and I did her conference for her in 2019. And those who were there, there was a lot of intentionality in terms of her, her, her speakers, her those who were there, and then how you connect in the longer term. And so, you know, it was something we were planning right before COVID also hit and we were planning to bring it in Baltimore, because we were really excited for the ecosystem of social entrepreneurship in Baltimore, being an opportunity. So actually, you know, Pixilated was at her last one. We did get the photo booth from you guys. In 2019. So that was that for? For what event? Purple cotton? Yeah, yes. So it's a great event. Yes. And she's, she's awesome. You know, we brought in my favorite balloon designer from Utah. And he built a phenomenal space for the photo booth and was up there. And yeah, so it was it was a good event. And it's it's kind of what we need to be doing in our local area. I think what is holding us back really is that Baltimore is very much where DC is cliquey, Baltimore is mishi. We don't move out of our niche circles. And I think that is what hinders that opportunity. Yeah. But you know, like, what I will say is, so we ran startup story for two years solid, and then we did some, like, sporadic events after that, but we did it every single month. So over two years, we did like 26 events, because there were some extras that were thrown in there as well. And we shut it down when it was at its prime. And people were like, chomping at the bit like it was the podcast was extremely successful. And like our whole strategy for it was do awesome. Pr. Yeah, via storytelling and interviews for all these other starter companies. Because like, it's very hard to figure out how to tell your own story at the beginning. And it's even better when someone else is willing to do it for you, because it gives the right kind of context. And we were like, that's perfect, because it's easy for us. Like I would just do interviews and just like, run my mouth and ask questions, then publish it for people and be like, here's the link like, right. So it was extremely rich, and it had the potential to become a content platform. And it had the potential to have the event still, like stay barnstorming. But like a handful of things happened. And some of them were just fatigue with doing it. Some of them were a desire to always shut things down at their at their Apex like we are not sentimental about letting something go when it's over with I think it's very powerful to do that. I think it's really respectful of the entity to that thing did really well for us. And I didn't want to do it without the passion and the enthusiasm for it. Like because all through it, I have found that very effortlessly. So but the other thing that started to become, you know, like, like a big learning lesson between year one and year two was was even taking our web price and then taking our marketing and looking at it and and and asking the questions like who that hits this landing page is gonna say this is for me, right right. And being white males and and also like our partners in startups already that we just kind of like randomly, it's like all these decisions that you make, and then you look back and the optics are just like, not if you were if you were trying to be more intentional, which there's nothing wrong with that. It would have been different but you know, like, it wasn't in our partners were great. Certainly no shame on them. But between year one and year two, we looked at it right and we were like okay, like we need to make this look More or less like what we wanted was because Pixilated isn't really, we didn't come out of being a tech company. And we didn't come out of really being a startup, like we came out of having to be in a garage where we couldn't co learn from people. So we really identified more with like, you know, like, people that own barber shops or like window. tinting companies are like, like the side like lawn, more businesses side hustles that, like, you get like, you figure out a thing. Rose and you can grow it. Yeah. And that's kind of how we came to be. So we wanted it to be for the majority of the city, right, and but there's an evolution that has to take place with that. And I think that I got to a point where I was just like, I am not really comfortable being the, I'm not really comfortable with my role in this whole brand. And what we want it to be because I want it to be, you know, like, the things that was lacking was direct funding, which I wanted to be able to do micro funding and stand up little tiny business ideas without them getting in with sharks, or even having to do too much of that stuff that can kind of kill an idea, right? Like, oh, man, if we could like stand up one of these a month and have the community stand them up, and then hold them, right and not sell to them just support them. Yeah. Right. Like, what would that be like? So that was one thing. But the other thing was also just recognizing, like, who I am, and what I think is, you know, what representation looks like. And like, that's not what it looks like in Baltimore. And I, we have this opportunity to create a model doesn't look like that. And in and I want to work on it. Yeah. But I'm also conscious of where I end up in its whole organizing capacity, because I want to create a platform that lifts up the most amount of people in my city. And for that to happen, it should look like my city, right? Like, that are welcoming people in, you know, it doesn't mean that there can't be a white guy there. Right? But it means that there should not be two white guys and two white women. You know, like and it also the other thing that I'm hyper conscious of even more so than that, is this like my my verbosity, right? Like, I like talk, I've got like, this big, deep voice, I'm right, by, like, I'm a big dude. There's a lot of physicality that is in that, right. And, because it's my skills, but there's a lot of, there's a lot of, I don't want to call it collateral damage, but like, it takes up space. Yeah, and you need to be conscious of that as well, you know, like, you can have a great idea, like you need shut up sometimes. And, like, sometimes your part is actively, like shutting up, and I think, knowing me, and knowing that I know that if and when like, we take a swing at this idea again, like, it's got to be heavily intentional, because I'm extremely uncomfortable with all of it, like, you can't help it like, but there's all you know, there's so many things that you just do, because like, those are all of our inherent, you know, biases that are built into us that we have to figure out ways to root them out. And I, I think for me, like, that's what I think about with Baltimore, and this whole thing happening is like, you know, I just keep waiting and watching for it to happen where I can, like, I can offer support, right, and I can keep, you know, like, you know, like, like, even with, um, you know, with the the conversation around developers, right in Baltimore, like develop like, like, it's a weird thing. Yeah, it's a weird thing. And I know people in some of those organizations, and I know that there are good people in those organizations, but it doesn't mean it isn't, like, glaringly awkward at times. So like even thinking about, like, the things that you throw your support behind them being community driven, you know, like, I'm incredibly excited about our time kitchen, you know, like, I've been a supporter of chef cat for a long time, and I like, have so much. I've, like, so happy for her, like, she is just, I mean, talking about hard work, like that woman has worked her ass off in all of these different things. And she's, like, always, like, so creative and so positive and just pushing forward with it. So like, I'm excited because I feel like that's a natural community, right, that was not being underwritten by developer like, it's tied to their mission statement. And they're, you know, like, it's going to be a venue, it's going to be like a kitchen for hire, they're going to have like outside seating and a patio. So it's going to become, you know, it's going to become a destination. And I think that we need more stuff like that. Like, I think we need more stuff where people get the right resources that they need to build their dream, because the companies are waiting to like, I mean, the same thing happened with you know, like dub co was a tremendous success because dovecote is amazing, right like, and that neighborhood is amazing and it was deserved. Have something that cool forever. And then they came in. And they were, they were their honest selves, and they found their community effortlessly. And it was a, you know, a runaway success, you know, not that it didn't take, again, tons and tons of work. But yeah, yeah, but so I don't know, I think my, my closing statement on this whole thing is just, I am considerate about the role that I play and how I play it, and I want to be helpful, and I don't want to, I don't want to be overbearing, and you know, like, I don't want to overplay my hand, because, you know, to beat to support something and see it come to fruition in the city that I think is deserving of it is that we'll be reward enough like to have, you know, stuff to see I mean, even see things like, you know, like, there's a few businesses that kind of got started during startups who are a and like to see, you know, like, bottoms up bagels, like they've got their shop on on Green Mountain now. But like, when we were running the art gallery on cross street market, like we gave it to them to do pop up low, when we didn't have art on the walls, we would give the space away for people to do pop ups. And they did like a huge pop up that was successful there. Same thing with mirror kitchen collective, like they did a pop up in Pixilated federal Hill. And now they're like these awesome, you know, like companies that are doing good stuff. And they are companies of themselves, you know, that. It's that they have good give back. They have good community advocacy and give back. That's what makes that's what makes a business different. When they when they give back. Yeah, and you know, and that's like that beautiful blend, right, it took, and I'm gonna I'm not gonna remember her her name. And that's my mistake. But, you know, like, it took the chef. Right, emigrating from Syria, right? Yeah. And it took, you know, like, there are other team members, right to help support the whole thing. But then they've also got, you know, they've got people that have backgrounds in public health that are working there as well. Right. So they're thinking about it, they're thinking about their model and like, knowing, you know, knowing the real important things, right, which is like not giving up on its authenticity not compromising when it comes to who is there any mom? Like, who she is, right? Like, what they make that type of thing. But also, like, you know, whether it's, it's, it's being, you know, like, that aspirational side of Isn't this a cool concept, right? Like, we've got this person and now like, we've done this thing, or the farmers market, but then like, yeah, like, the proof is in the pudding when they when COVID hit, right? Immediately, they were like, Oh, yeah, we're just gonna feed people feed everyone 50 people for free as much as we possibly can, which I think was like total, like a, like, that's masterful that. And those, like, visited my number one beef always with Baltimore, how many of those ideas are all through the city? Right? All through the city? How many of those ideas and concepts how many kids have like a cool idea that's never gonna even listen to? right? Exactly. Like what we need is we need community in organizations and programs that are easy to access, that you can trust the stewards who are there to get you through it successfully, and that are focused on how those things should look in our ecosystem. Not, you know, like Fox scaling, right? Like, we're not like, We're not trying to take this this model to mobiel. Or like other cities that you are telling us trend in the same direction. Like, it's just about here. And that's what we always did with soiree, too. We were like, no, like, we're not. We're not syndicating. You can't do a startup story in Denver, like, this is the Baltimore thing. And like, the reason it works is that we live here, and these are our friends. And we're here for a common reason. So off the soapbox. Off the soapbox. You know, we love a soapbox. We love it. So it's an hour and 10 minutes. And we should probably wrap this. Yeah, this is really fun. This has been good. This has been very good. I love it. Well, so I am going to, I'm going to publish the audio from out on our podcasts or I'll share that with you. So that way you can check it out and share it around if you'd like to. And then to everyone who's watching or that watches this later down the line. If you make it this far into it. One, you're a super fan, so I guess shirt. Give me some gear, we'll send them out less than wonderful. But yeah, if you have any ideas, definitely leave them in the comments for this live video lesson, I will make sure that we kind of keep our eye on it and or tag us. You know, like if something that we chatted about in over the last hour was interesting and profound or you have an opinion and you want to share it like we'd love to hear it. We kind of thought that this would just be fun to give it give it a shot and see where it goes. So we'd Love to hear any feedback about Yeah, but that's like, yes, you can tell us we're chatty Cathy's and we're okay with that. Yeah. Lois, why don't you let just in case anybody does like, you know, if there's anybody that's been listening, and there's something that you mentioned that they want to chat with you about what's what's a good email for you? And maybe put it in the chat as well? Yeah, my email is Lois, l o. i s as in Sam, at the number three pillars dot c o, if you send it to comm I won't get it. And I'll definitely put it in the chat. But you can also reach me or anyone on my team at three pillars. co. And, you know, check us out ask any questions. Let me know, a little bit. So if anybody wants to get me get Pixilated calm if firstname.lastname@example.org I just also put it there in the comments. Also, if anyone that is listening wants to try a 14 day free trial of PixiWeb. If you've got some some events that are coming up, I mean, this weekend, it takes minutes to build them. So if you've got some Juneteenth events, if you've got pride events, if you got Father's Day events, and you want to try it out, like options there, shoot me an email at Patrick at Pixilated COMM And I will set you up with an account and we'll let you try it out. I'm also gonna send you a link so you can sign up and check it out as well. It's fully redacted. So it'll work so yes, a free trial and you can go make some money right away on it like immediately. Thank you so much for your time. I suspect that we will probably do this again sometime. But otherwise I will. I'll talk to you soon. Talk to you later. Have a good one. Peace. Bye