Jackson Fish Market
Posted on July 8, 2009 by hillel on Events, Small and Special

Small and Special Recap

Last Tuesday, our little tech startup put on our own small business conference – Small and Special. You may wonder, why is a web startup still in its early development taking the time, effort, and resources to put on a small business conference. I could tell you how we increased our visibility in the community, how we got more experience at doing events, and how we did a bunch of networking as part of putting it together. And all those things would be true. But in reality, we did it because we felt like it.

sands by charmaine

And in fact, the ability to do what we feel like, even when it’s not 100% measurably on path to our eventual business success is part of why we started Jackson Fish Market and to this day remain 100% independent of investors and outside oversight.

We’ve each been to countless conferences as attendees, exhibitors, speakers, and organizers. Sometimes all of the above. And we each wanted to go to a conference that would address our needs in terms of being inspired and seeing others be successful in a model that we’re pursuing. And that’s how Small and Special was born. In terms of putting on a conference that we enjoyed, the event was a home run. Though, I would recommend anyone who wants to put on a conference cause the one they want to attend doesn’t exist to think really carefully. It’s a non-trivial amount of work. At various times the week before the even we would look at each other and say “why the hell did we do this?” Those comments were mostly kidding around. Mostly.

In the end, the conference achieved its goal which was to be the event that we wanted to attend. Luckily, 200 other people also felt similarly. Some factoids from the event:

  • We sold out the conference on the previous Friday afternoon. 200 tickets at $25 a pop (plus the eventbrite service fee)
  • The venue worked beautifully — the Georgetown Ballroom is a very cool space. Parking was a bit of a pain but people figured it out and nobody got ticketed or towed (i think/hope)
  • We started 10 minutes later than we intended and ended 25 minutes later than we intended
  • We had a 2 minute custom video from Governor Gregoire of Washington state kick off the event. Super cute. They have a form where you can request her coming to your event. Runners up get a video if she can’t show up in person.
  • We had 8 speakers at the event and 7 sponsors. The sponsors got to speak for 2 minutes, the speakers for 15.
  • Massive Monkees, who donated their services for a sponsorship did a breakdancing performance to open up the second half of the event. That seemed to get everyone pumped.
  • We haven’t finished adding everything up yet, but we came pretty close to breaking even on the entire event in terms of cash we put out. This doesn’t count the time JFM full-timers spent on the event though. We’d definitely have to charge more money for this to be a non-trivial source of revenue.

Folks did a great job covering/representing the event on the web. Some coverage includes:

  • Tweeting was pretty constant throughout the event. You can see the entire real-time stream from the event on Twitter at #SandS.
  • While our official photographer Kevin Moore did a kickass job taking pictures (which I haven’t processed or uploaded yet), Charmaine Velasco, an attendee, also did a fantastic job taking photos and posting them quickly! Check them out on Flickr. (Kevin’s photos to come soon.)
  • JF over at the No Friday blog writes their recap of the day.
  • Matt Heinz turned his afternoon into 10 lessons he learned from the conference.
  • Marcelo Calbucci put together his take on the conference and garnered a bunch of comments from attendees (and one of the speakers) as well.

The feedback on the web was very useful. But we were particularly proud of our event survey which had only one question: “Would you attend next year.” Some people added comments on the back. Of the folks who filled out our arduous survey, 111 said yes, 2 said maybe, and 1 said “no but I would recommend it to others.” I’m pretty sure we can’t complain about those numbers. That said, there was tons of good feedback on how to improve things for a further Small and Special event. I’ll list some of those thoughts here:

  • Not enough mingling time. The break was too short.
  • The after-event gathering was half-assed and only a tenth of the attendees and a couple of speakers made it. (The staff was busy cleaning up and couldn’t get there.) Also, the one 20 year old we had in the audience couldn’t go.
  • Some folks wanted to ask their own questions instead of having me ask the questions of each speaker.
  • Would have been nice to have a program listing the speakers so folks knew who was up next.
  • Some folks wanted at least one of the speakers to talk more about failures and how to overcome them.
  • A couple of attendees wished there were more specifics and “how-to”s from the speakers on how they created their businesses

Those were the main bits of feedback. All helpful should we put on another one of these.

Thanks need to go out to many folks:

That’s about all in terms of the recap. Bryan is working on producing the videos that were taken and those will all be posted at Small and Special in the next few weeks once they’re ready to go. We’ll obviously post/tweet when they are up. You can also follow @smallandspecial on Twitter and become a Facebook fan for updates. We were super happy with the afternoon, and glad that most everyone seemed to have felt it was a good use of their time.

I’ll leave you with this comment from one of the attendees that inspired us:

“This conference was very inspirational to me as a small business owner. I will bring 4-10 people with me [next time]. I know I will be invited to speak at this conference in a couple of years… even next year.”

Love that confidence. Super inspiring!

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