Jeff and Jessie Pavalone didn’t intend to plan their wedding during a pandemic.
The Kansas City couple is introducing technology to the wedding industry with their new Airbnb-style venue management system, meant to simplify wedding planning for both couples and event spaces.
Click here to explore their Digital Sandbox KC-backed startup, Venues Made Simple.
The Pavalones planned to get married in May 2020, before COVID forced them to have to organize their big day three times over. They finally married in September 2020, but it wasn’t without added stress over choosing a venue.
Venues Made Simple was born out of their frustration, said Jessie Pavalone, detailing pain points within the process of trying to book a venue online, and remotely.
“We live in Kansas City and we were trying to get married outside of Kansas City,” she said. “So we spent a lot of time looking at venue websites and trying to find pricing, availability. Just general questions that I feel like are pretty common questions. Can we bring our own alcohol? Do you have any specific catering partners?”
Trying to get such answers online resulted in phone tag, email threads and juggling delayed responses from venues.
“I just thought there’s gotta be better way to get this kind of information from the venues, especially with how digital the world is nowadays,” said Jessie Pavalone.
“I was dealing with this issue before COVID even started and it was kind of a coincidence that COVID … put a spotlight on all these issues that couples were having trying to book their venue remotely.”
The Pavalones set their focus on simplifying the booking process, both for couples and for venues.
“We spent a lot of time speaking with venue owners, venue managers, so we actually got a very good look at how they’re running their business and also the frustrations that they have,” said Jessie Pavalone. “A lot of that stemmed around … spending so much time responding to inquiries or getting a lot of dead leads because couples were just wanting to find out if they had a specific date available or were checking out what their price range is.”
Formally launched Aug. 1, Venues Made Simple boasts transparency — a top priority — in the couple’s bid to help resolve this struggle.
Venue listings include prices and date availability, as well as detailed information about what the property can and can’t accommodate. For example, The Century Club venue by Skyline & Co. boasts “soaring ceiling heights, towering lead glass windows, and intricate Gothic Revival architecture,” but you’ll have to bring your own alcohol.
All listings include starting costs and detailed amenity information. Each venue also has a breakdown of different ceremony types that the property accepts, as well as capacity and location information. Couples can get answers to basic questions without having to call and ask and can see in advance if their chosen date has been booked.
“We’re excited because this is bringing technology to an industry that doesn’t have a whole lot,” said Jeff Pavalone.
The art of the possible
Venues Made Simple has been a work-in-progress since March 2020, and has been shaped by challenges and unexpected opportunities, the couple said.
While building Venues Made Simple, they were approached by Tim Wirick, one of the owners of Skyline & Co., to go 50/50 on Yours Truly Event Rentals. Providing luxury furniture rentals for weddings and other events, the venture helped to create cash flow to support Venues Made Simple before its launch.
Wirick, who has several decades of experience in the wedding industry, described the Pavalones as “busy, go-getters.”
“They’re excited to really move things forward in the weddings and event space, which is exciting,” Wirick said.
“I’m excited to see their software and how it integrates with our calendar in giving real-time availability for couples,” said Wirick. “I think that’s going to be a huge advance, whereas no other platforms are really offering that service. We actually manually go in and update our calendar every week to let people know, on our website, what’s available and not available. So having something that’s integrated I think would be a cool piece of technology to really help couples fact track, if a date’s particular to them.”
Venues Made Simple has received funding from local entrepreneur support programs, including Digital Sandbox KC, and was a Comeback KC Ventures recipient.
The company’s primary struggle?
“Convincing people that we’re here to stay,” said Jeff Pavalone, “and convincing them of the vision that we have to change a historic industry that hasn’t had a lot of change in a long time. A lot of people are set in their ways … and they don’t really quite understand what the art of the possible is. What.. we could bring back to them, such as saving them 40 hours a month in time.”
“It takes a lot more effort than we had anticipated on our side of things to really convince them of all the different ways we can help them and benefit their business,” added Jessie Pavalone.
Expanding Venues Made Simple nationwide is “the end goal,” said the Pavalones.
But first: a focus on the core stakeholders.
“The true customer is … the venues,” said Jeff Pavalone. “We are solving the engaged couples’ issues, but if we solve the venue’s problems then in turn the engaged couples problems would be solved.”
And in the process, the adventure of Venues Made Simple also is strengthening the duo as a couple.
“The businesses that we dove into, the ventures that we dove into, has made our relationship stronger because we’ve learned how to communicate together,” said Jeff Pavalone. “We’re willing to learn and grow, and grow together.”