Mayflower Venues Helps Find A Soon-To-Be-Wed Couple's Outdoor Wedding Venue
Summer to Fall is usually what most people consider as “wedding season.” And with the wedding, comes the planning and looking for a place to hold the ceremony. After all, since its a one-day event, it would be ideal to find a location that not only the guests would remember, but the couple as well.
Mayflower Venues is a web platform designed for soon-to-be-wed couples to find an ideal outdoor venue. Aside from finding a locale, the company also provides specific tools for each venue for a customized wedding experience.
We connected with Co-Founder and CEO Sam McElhinney and Head of Platform Operations Kelly Overstreet to learn more about how their platform is making looking for an outdoor wedding locale less frustrating. McElhinney also went into detail about the startup’s time as part of the MIT delta v program and Overstreet spoke with us about a particular user's experience with her wedding.
Colin Barry [CB]: I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins behind Mayflower Venues?
Sam McElhinney [SM]: Our tagline is “wedding creativity enabled.” What that is all about is empowering couples of all stripes to tell their story to all their closest friends and family on their wedding day. We saw logistics and technology as the way to enable couples to personalize unique venues that really reflect their story.
Many of our friends were frustrated with the big favorite venues not being specific to their values or customizable. They wanted the off the beaten path space (farms, family estates, orchards, etc.) that felt more unique to their values and that they could personalize with their own preferred vendors and little touches. But that type of venue then presents the challenge of “where do we find a non-traditional venue and how do we get a tent there? What kind of bathrooms do we need?.” Those challenges would intimidate many couples from doing something custom. That was when we realized, hey, event possibilities based on a venue’s physical capabilities, is actually a logistics problem and we can solve that with technology. When we started sharing this vision and our early prototypes with engaged couples, they loved it. Now we are seeing their stories come to life at these incredible weddings they are creating.
CB: What is the ultimate goal of Mayflower Venues?
Kelly Overstreet [KO]: Maximum self-expression for all couples on their wedding day. Weddings were essential for us to focus on because it’s a day that couples closest friends and family really remember forever as a defining “what this couple cares about” moment. With our off the beaten path, non-traditional venues, your guests immediately enter a different world and the whole day becomes a story, not just another wedding. There is nothing more rewarding for us than seeing a couple realize they can now create a wedding that is going to be unique to them.
CB: How does Mayflower Venues’ platform work?
SM: We enabled personalized celebration at unique, off the beaten path spaces. The way we do that is through a software-enabled platform. Alongside some of the best planners, caterers, rental companies, etc. we developed our own GPS enabled app to “digitize” a property. With the data from our app, we generate venue-specific profiles and planning tools that will allow a couple and their preferred vendors to create a custom celebration there remotely.
KO: Effectively, we used tech to systematize a process that is largely offline -- from discovery to touring to booking to coordinating with vendors. With Mayflower Venues, it’s all online for the first time. Let me give you an example. Historically couples would be calling venues with small questions, leaving voicemails, waiting for responses and then calling a specific vendor who had that question to share the venue answer. It was 5-6 phone calls per vendor question to figure out what was possible. Our goal was to capture all the possible scenarios and necessary
venue data upfront and bring that online, so six phone calls turns into merely sharing a Mayflower Venues “My Wedding” link of a venue-specific planning map with your preferred vendor.
From what size and shape of a tent can be used, to how many speakers they can plug in before blowing a fuse, we are giving that to couples online. Think of the stress relief that provides couple and their vendors - they are literally and figuratively no longer operating in the dark! Soon enough we will be able to tell you three vendors in your area who can deliver the kind of tent you want and are compatible with that venue. All online. That is our goal. Solve the logistics so the couple can focus on the creative. We want couples to be free to spend their time customizing menus, choosing flowers and thinking about entrance songs. Calling a venue to ask if they have enough water hookups to power a six stall flushable restroom trailer -- that’s not going to help you tell your story, so our software is going to do that for you.
CB: Since Mayflower is about creating experiences, have there been any customer experiences that have stood out to you?
KM: We had one couple who found us after spending weeks searching online for a venue they felt was unique, and they could personalize. After spending so many hours searching online for that rare kind of site, they said they decided it not exist. When they found Mayflower and the saw their venue in person the bride was over the moon. She literally called our company a “godsend” and was so excited to create something that was really going to be her and her fiances. When you have couples calling your product a “godsend” and giving you $5000 at the same time, it feels like you are making an impact.
CB: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months?
KO: We are a team of four right now across engineering and logistics. We are looking to add both a sales/marketing person as well as a full-stack developer.
CB: Your company was part of the MIT delta v cohort. Tell me a little more about your time spent during the program. Have you participated in any other events across the Boston tech scene?
SM: Amazing! The cohort is unbelievable. It’s the best of the best from entirely diverse backgrounds focused on such significant problems. People are working on problems from nuclear reactor cooling to connecting artists in rural India to shoppers in London. The first day in the cohort Bill Aulet reminds you that you were not selected to solve small problems but to have a significant impact. Really can’t say enough about it.
CB: Is the company bootstrapped or seeking investments?
SM: We were bootstrapped for the first year of existence with early customer revenues and a lot of ramen soup. We just raised a heavily oversubscribed Angel round of $520K in May.
CB: I’m always interested in how a startup came up with its name. How did Mayflower Venues get its name?
SM: To us, Mayflower Venues made sense for two main reasons. The “mayflower” plant is one of the earliest blossoms of the year, signaling the beginning of a new season and new life. Then, of course, you also have the Mayflower ship. On the surface, ships don't have much to do with weddings but they do represent the excitement of discovery and journeys to new places. Very metaphorically both these associations resonated with what weddings are about to us -- symbolizing the beginning of something new and beautiful as well as the excitement for the journey ahead with your partner.
Images courtesy of Mayflower Venues