Who's That Gal: Laura Wallendal of Bookity
It's time to "meet" Laura of Bookity! Reservations are no longer awkward for customers and venues, thanks to this startup! Read below to find out more and actually meet Laura tomorrow!
Tell us about your educational background (Art History at UMinnesota) and how that helped to create a startup.
My educational background actually had little to do with creating a startup! I found Art History very interesting, but I wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in it. My early professional background of working at EF was what helped me create a startup. Having a strong sales experience and helping teachers travel with students inspired me to improve the process and help more students see the world (both local, national and international). My co-founder and I created a consultancy working with small study abroad companies and from there software to aid in the process.
You attended the AAM conference this spring, what was the biggest takeaway for you, personally, and for Bookity?
I absolutely loved the AAM conference! We created a big splash by handing out “Bookity” wristbands with a url on it for a giveaway. We handed out about 700 wristbands and got almost 200 opt-ins - everyone was excited to wear them and show them off as well.
I also got the chance to spend a lot of time with some of our customers. We got to take them out to drinks and dinner - it gave us a unique chance to get to know them better, their needs better and really understand how they saw us in the market.
Bookity seems like an automatic answer for venues to gain exposure from millennials and more ticket sales. Tell us about your company’s growth. Has the economy been a factor in sales trends?
Bookity helps museums manage their group reservations in a smoother, simpler way - we have definitely seen a downturn in the number of reservations year over year. However, we have seen an interesting upswing in programs going out to schools from museums. It’s a more cost-effective option for the schools because they don’t need to pay for the cost of a bus.
We also believe in putting out great content for museums. Engaging millennials is a very hot topic right now - they have a dwindling donor base and need to begin to engage a new wave of donors - just in a very different way.
The three of us all “suffer” from wanderlust. Let’s hear about your latest trip (and why) as well as your next trip (and why)!
My last trip was to Iceland! My favorite part of the whole trip was a 7-hour hike to the second-tallest peak near Sulfoss. It’s an active volcano and we went with a guide up to the top, had lunch overlooking miles of mountains and finished our hike with swimming in a hot spring river. It was one of the most incredible travel experiences.
My next trip is to Switzerland. A bit of a hiking theme here, too. I love adventure trips and the outdoors. I am traveling through the Swiss Alps hiking from hotel to hotel.
How does working in the Boston area support and affect Brookity?
Boston (and Providence!) are incredible startup areas. It’s helpful that there are so many students and a great culture of education here. It’s also a hub of culture, history and the arts. Many of our initial customers are historic sites along the Freedom Trail.
What’s the story behind the name of Bookity (formerly EdTrips, right)?
We were EdTrips when we created a marketplace for teachers to find field trip opportunities. We signed up almost 500 museums, mostly in Boston/Greater Boston. Then, we realized the booking process for these museums was primarily done by paper/pencil so we developed a reservations software for museums. When we first launched it into the market under the name EdTrips, our customers were confused about what the software was for! We were at a museums conference when we came up with the name Bookity for the bookings software.
What are some of the challenges with running a startup?
From building a team, to raising money to getting enough early customers to validate an idea - there’s incredible challenges and rewards with running a startup. With every new phase there’s a new set of challenges, but I would say for me personally the most challenging thing is letting go of a customer who might not be a good fit for your product (but who you would absolutely love to work with anyway!).
Is there a certain type of wishlist venue you’d like to get on board with Bookity?
I’m a huge field trip nerd, so I love them all from the small historic sites to the huge science, art and history museums. We’d love to work with a Smithsonian one day! Maybe the Air and Space Museum? It’s such an incredible place.
#1 travel tip: Buy duty free at the airport before you get to your first hotel/hostel. Much cheaper!
Favorite city to visit: Cairns, Australia
Favorite item to travel with: My mom’s Pentax from 1975 - my parents took it with them on their honeymoon and it’s been around the world with me. It’s very sturdy and I love using film.
Favorite summer in Boston activity: Sitting outside at a restaurant with friends and people watching
Last book you read: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
COME MEET LAURA AT LADIES LOUNGE!
Join the JUGs, General Assembly, and WeWork for a night of inspiration as we talk travel, startups, tech and all things in between with Polina!
Thursday, July 30th, 2015 at 6:30pm - 8:30pm
WeWork Fort Point
51 Melcher St.
Boston, MA 02210