[quote style=”boxed”] You shouldn’t be afraid to give away your ideas! It’s really only by talking about your work and getting feedback from people that your concept can develop and become the best possible version of itself.[/quote]
Kaele Stock is a Kansas City native who, after having spent the past 15 years away from the area, has returned to the Midwest to start and develop eVents, her communications technology company whose products use social networking technology to build “instant communities” of people at an event. During her time away from Kansas City, Kaele lived in Phoenix, Arizona, studied English and government at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, lived and worked in New York City, and capitalized on various opportunities to travel and interact with the citizens of an array of nations around the world, including China, Lebanon, Italy, Germany, France, Argentina and Brazil. This rich experiential background has given Kaele a unique perspective on what drives people in terms of how and why they communicate, and this knowledge is one of the platforms upon which she has built eVents.
When she’s not working with the other eVents team members to continue building out product and service offerings, leading new business initiatives, and developing partnerships with public and private sector clients, Kaele Stock enjoys visiting Kansas City’s broad variety of restaurants, seeing live music, and cooking. Kaele also loves sports. A former All-American and collegiate swimmer, she is a fan of the Yankees and the Chiefs, and recently participated in a charity women’s’ flag football game that raised more than $35,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association.
In addition to her work with eVents, Kaele Stock serves on the board of directors for Research Micro-Grants Association (a private foundation that awards research grants and scholarships to advance information technology education and science), is a member of numerous professional associations, and plays an active role in the Kansas City chapter of the Georgetown University Alumni Association.
What are you working on right now?
We’re currently continuing to refine and develop eVents’ first product offering, called a ShareStream. ShareStreams aggregate input from smart phones, tablets, Twitter and social media streams, and text messages into a web-based application, which serves as a real-time record of an event, as well as an easily analyzed artifact after event activity has ended. ShareStreams can exist as their own stand-alone websites or they can be embedded into any existing website, and the basic service is available free of cost. We’re actually almost done developing a new capability, which involves making a customized slideshow using pictures from a ShareStream. We’re really excited about it!
Where did the idea for eVents come from?
Several years ago, I began working with a not-for-profit organization that awards grants for research about how people worldwide communicate online (Research Micro-Grants Association, or RMGA), as well as with a company that measures media messaging push-through (Global Frontier Analytics, or GFA). The concept of eVents arose from conversations with academic institutions I was working with on behalf of RMGA who were exploring how and why people communicate about events, as well as some of our other commercially focused GFA clients for whom events are the driving force behind the profitability of their businesses. It became increasingly clear to me that a demand existed for an event-centric social media application, so I assembled a team and began developing it at the beginning of 2012. We officially launched in March of 2012 and have been developing ShareStreams for a variety of clients nationwide ever since.
What does your typical day look like?
Unless I have a breakfast meeting (and you would be surprised by the number of people who want to schedule breakfast meetings!), I walk to work and am in the office by 9:30. Two of our four team members work remotely, so we have a call every morning at 10:00 to talk about what we’re working on, to share any new ideas we’ve had, and to catch up on what’s generally going on in each person’s life. After that, I spend the majority of my day engaging with and sourcing new clients. In the six months since we’ve launched, we’ve secured more than 50 clients, and I make it a priority to stay in touch with them about what they’re working on and how we can support them. So a lot of my time is spent emailing, talking to, and meeting in person with the people who’ve helped bring us to where we are today.
I consume a ton of news so I can have my finger on the pulse of what’s happening, particularly in the Kansas City area. In fact, the majority of clients we’ve secured to date have come from me reading about them and subsequently reaching out. I attend one or two events each week in the evenings, most of which entail a combination of socializing and working. On evenings that I’m not out networking, I’ll either go to the gym or meet up with family or friends for dinner. My job actually never stops–no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I always see opportunities for how our product could be used and how we can grow as a company. I love my work, though, so I wouldn’t want it any other way. I enjoy being engaged 24/7.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Communication. I talk to as many people as I can about what we do, listen closely to others when they talk about what they’re doing, and use these conversations as fuel to continue developing our product and growing our business. Communication among eVents team members is also a high priority. Even though we don’t all work in the same office, we’re in constant touch with one another every day, and we have a very open, collaborative working style. Whenever anyone comes up with a new thought, we all talk together to flesh it out and figure out how to transform it from a general concept into a real, functioning entity.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
How almost everything that we do anymore has become a social, shared experience. This trend has made us, as a population, far more communicative than ever before, which in turn enables all of us to be exposed to a greater number and variety of experiences. I think this makes us more richly informed and is allowing us to develop answers to questions we previously thought were impossible to answer.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve been extremely fortunate in that I’ve never had an absolutely horrible job! I think the most challenging one, though, would be the children’s summer sports day camp I worked at for several years in high school. I taught swimming lessons and was a lifeguard, so I oversaw large groups of unruly kids in an environment that has a huge potential for disaster: the pool. I learned two major lessons from this job: 1) Situations can go extremely awry far more quickly than you’d ever imagine, so it’s important to always pay attention, and 2) If you carry yourself with confidence and act like you know what you’re doing (even if you don’t), people respond accordingly.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would probably have tried to enfranchise more people in the tech and event planning communities a bit more when the product was in early stages of development, to ask for their insight on the concept. We might have been able to avoid spending time on some of the revisions we made to the first few versions of the ShareStream.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Network. There really is no substitute for putting yourself out there and meeting new people. Even if the people you meet with may not, at first glance, seem relevant to your business, they might know someone who is, and at a bare minimum, you’ll probably learn something new by talking to them. You really cannot have too broad of a network or have too many people know about who you are and what you’re working on, so it’s imperative to get out there and build up your list of contacts!
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I actually have a recurring problem, which is to get people to understand and embrace something new, like ShareStream. Through talking with a large number of people about eVents’ ShareStreams and paying close attention to what resonates, I’ve been able to develop a succinct explanation of what we offer and what our product’s benefits are, but making people feel comfortable using a new tool still remains a problem. In fact, the first client we ever went after rejected us several times when we asked if we could support their event by developing a ShareStream. By not taking these refusals personally, working to find a creative angle of involvement that everybody felt comfortable with, and being persistent, I was able to overcome this challenge, and the many other similar ones that have followed it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
That you shouldn’t be afraid to give away your ideas! It’s really only by talking about your work and getting feedback from people that your concept can develop and become the best possible version of itself.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would love to make people more open to new experiences and more willing to make changes both within themselves and in their communities. I think that too often, we live complacently and fear change, even if the result of change is improvement. I think the best way to address this is to embody these qualities yourself (as I try to do), and share with people the importance of living this way.
Tell us a secret.
At one point in my childhood, my dream job was to be a shoe sales lady. A couple of years later, it was to be a farmer.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Yelp. I think it’s great that an open, free forum exists where people can share their experiences. This feedback helps not just potential patrons of establishments, but also the business owners as well.
- Google Maps. I unfortunately lack any sense of direction, so am constantly getting lost. Google Maps has bailed me out of many stressful situations.
- Vocus. We use this media database on work we do for our GFA clients, and it’s really helped us do our job better. Not only are its catalogs extensive, they’re also regularly updated, which is imperative for us to be able to do our analysis as accurately as possible.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Aside from @IdeasMensch, of course, I would say the following:
- @TheAtlantic. In addition to fascinating, in-depth stories on an incredible variety of timely topics, @TheAtlantic produces tons of entertaining infographics.
- @ebertchicago is Roger Ebert’s handle, and while you would expect it to be all about films, his smart and funny Tweets are about nearly everything else under the sun. You never know what to expect from him, other than what he has to say is going to be interesting.
- @iamdiddy. Although I know he rubs many people the wrong way, Diddy has built an enterprise by believing in himself and promoting his products relentlessly, and his Tweets reflect this. Having his Tweets included in my overall feed help keep these important principles at the top of my mind.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
This is a tough question for me, because I’m constantly laughing! I’d say the most recent time I laughed out loud was a few minutes ago, as I was reading an email from my aunt. She works at a roofing company and was describing how the roofers, who are normally rough and tough, were fawning over a stray kitten they’d found in one of the storage lots and decided to keep. That mental image struck me as really funny, especially since I’m a cat lover.
This question actually ties nicely to one of the things I love most about my job, which is that no matter how hectic things get, I always have time for my friends and family. That balance keeps me happy and centered, and therefore able to work to the best of my ability.
Who is your hero?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I would name my parents as my heroes. They’ve shown me what it means to work hard, make difficult decisions, love and support unconditionally, and live life in a way that makes the world a better place.
What (if anything) in college prepared you for the business world?
The English department at Georgetown is really focused on critical in-depth analysis. I would regularly write 7-10 page papers about a single paragraph in a book. This ability to think critically and effectively communicate my thoughts is something that prepared me for the business world and is a tool I use almost every day.
What was your first word?
Interestingly (and tellingly), my first word was “more.”
Kaele Stock on Twitter: @kaelestock
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eVents’ website: www.events-mgr.com