Interview With Steve Edwards
Describe your product or service:
“SaaS virtual event platform.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“We are a future-focused company that excels through innovation.
CORE VALUES AND MISSION STATEMENT:
“Being part of the Premier Virtual family means you adhere to the core values that our company was built on.
We are a future-focused company that believes, through innovation, we can provide our clients with the best possible solutions to be successful. We build these relationships with integrity, trust, honesty, transparency, and a culture of teamwork built on servant leadership. We are all leaders who seek to positively influence each other.”
How are you funded? (I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.)
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“Founder and CEO Steve Edwards is a small-town Wisconsin guy who joined the Army right out of high school. Steve was in the 82nd Airborne jumping out of planes but realized that was not what he wanted to do the rest of his life.
After the Army, Steve had a few different jobs but landed with a company that put on in-person job fairs in the Northeast and agreed to handle the Southeast region.
After nearly nine years hosting these in-person job fairs throughout Florida and the Southeast, Steve decided there had to be a better way to help companies recruit qualified employees. He saw attendance at events going down and realized people prefer to apply online, [rather] than in line. That’s when Steve made the leap to virtual and started to design his own platform.
Since Steve was a recruiter for so long, he knew exactly what needed to be in [Premier Virtual’s] software. He wanted to make it as efficient and effective as possible for companies to host virtual job fairs and online hiring events, and that’s exactly what Premier Virtual accomplished.
In 2018, the team was developing the first version of the software. In late 2019, Premier Virtual launched, and everyone knows what happened in March of 2020: COVID-19 hit. It forced everyone to consider another way to hire, and virtual [events] took off. Premier Virtual powered nearly 3,000 events in our first year — that’s more than Steve did in nearly nine years combined for in-person events. Premier Virtual has now launched version 2.0 and has had over 35,000 employers and more than 300,000 candidates on the platform. [It] has grown from just two employees to 20!
Because of Steve’s background as a recruiter, Premier Virtual didn’t just get into this space to monetize virtual. Premier Virtual knows the ins and outs of recruiting and how challenging it is. From this perspective, we were able to design a platform that makes it easy for recruiters to sign on, set up their event, and get in front of as many qualified candidates as possible. We also are unique in our flat-rate pricing, how we deliver our reports giving the hosts ownership of all the resumes submitted, and we pride ourselves on world-class customer support. We always get high marks on sites like G2 and Capterra from our clients, telling us how great our team is, and that’s really what sets us apart.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I have always had the entrepreneur spirit in me. I started my first business in college with a buddy. I was in the corporate world to make money after college and soon learned I was sick of making other people rich by my efforts.”
How did you come up with your startup idea?
“I was in the job fair industry for nine years, and the industry was dying. People would rather apply online than wait in line. I found out about virtual events from a mentor and instantly fell in love. I said it would be the future of recruiting. No one was really doing what I wanted to do, so I dove in head first.”
How did you decide to actually act on the idea?
“I hosted a few virtual hiring events and loved the potential, but the platforms out there were not great. In December of 2018, I was driving to a networking event, and the theme was ‘Make your Move,’ and I decided on the way down there that I was going all-in on virtual and was going to develop a solution that helps connect candidates and companies.”
What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“I took a chance. I told my wife and business partner that we were going to develop software and not make money for a few years. When they said ‘let’s go,’ I knew it was the right decision.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“Christine (wife) and Gary (business partner) sat down and came up with all different names, and we ended up deciding on a name that Christine came up with.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“The biggest challenge was getting people to see the vision. Virtual is a hot topic now, but three years ago, no one thought it would work. People laughed at me when I said what the vision of Premier Virtual was. I also bootstrapped the entire operation from day one. Development delays and budget kept me up a lot of nights.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Our platform gives any employer the ability to host a virtual hiring event. Literally any company that has a job opening is a potential client, and we continue to find ways to adapt our pricing and licensing model to make our technology affordable for any company, no matter what size.
To date, our clients include workforce solution boards, the US military, technology organizations, school boards and universities, as well as private companies.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Our slogan is ‘Hiring Happens Here.’ We want everyone to know that virtual hiring events are the most efficient and effective way to attract and hire new candidates. We get the word out through digital advertising channels, social media, blogs, podcasts, sales team outreach, and webinars for the most part.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“The team reached out to companies that had to cancel their in-person events. COVID-19 forced everyone to consider virtual, so it helped steer a lot of attention our way. After our first few events, we leveraged the success to attract more clients and to grow through referrals. We were also very active on Google and built a large pipeline of leads that we were able to convert after showcasing our platform in a demo. We’ve become the number one virtual platform in the workforce solution industry.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to monitor the health of your business?
“We look at leads to demos to closing ratio. We know we need to have a certain number of demos each month; in order to close the number of new clients, we need to remain profitable and continue to grow.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“‘Scaling Up’ by Verne Harnish.”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?
“‘Grant Cardone Training.’”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“[It’s] more stressful than corporate America. The ups and downs with business can make someone lose their hair.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“My wife and two kids are very important to me. They know I work hard to support a lifestyle, and time at home is family time. I drop my one son off at school daily and am home for dinner or bedtime almost nightly.”
How do you stay motivated?
“I have a family and team that relies on me. That is all the motivation I need.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“I have to live off my calendar. The days and weeks get busy, so blocking time off keeps me sane.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“There are a few different things I am proud of. Proving people wrong that laughed at me, being able to support my family, and building a top-rated software and team culture where people want to come to work daily.”
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