Minnesota Event Planning Company Gets Creative With Virtual Parties
Innovating to help customers keep their jobs during the pandemic has set event production company EideCom on track to double its business next year.
The onset of the pandemic “was the scariest time of my life,” Founder and CEO Charles Eide said, as the live events industry came to a halt and millions of dollars in future EideCom contracts s ‘evaporated.
Rather than panicking or ignoring the threat, Eide quickly acted on the advice of a mentor, predicting six months of zero income, including the layoff of a small number of employees. EideCom then reached out to event managers who had been clients, asking them how to help them avoid being made redundant and continue to communicate with their employees even when there were no in-person events.
âInstead of trying to sit still and heal our own wounds, we’ve taken a proactive approach with every client we’ve dealt with,â said Eide. âWe said to them, ‘You must be feeling the effect of this. What do you need from us? And how can we help you get through this?’â
Next, EideCom added streaming capabilities and other functionality to the software of a former Eide company. It has started offering a new product, SecondStage, as an online platform for virtual events, with content pre-recorded or broadcast live. Work on SecondStage began in April 2020 and produced its first virtual event in October 2020.
This effort is paying off in several ways for EideCom, which produced live events from the Minnesota Vikings draft teams to a Knights of Columbus program during World Youth Day in 2016 in Poland where the thousands of participants included Pope Francis.
Now the company is moving this month to a new, larger headquarters. Existing customers have come back strong and new ones, whose event partners have declined or disappeared, are signing up, Eide said. It is also diversifying to offer hybrid events, with in-person programs being broadcast to a distant audience.
âIf the pandemic hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be where we are today,â Eide said. “The outlook for EideCom and SecondStage has never been better.”
EideCom, founded in 2003, is building a multi-million dollar corporate headquarters in Brooklyn Park, one mile from its current home. The new space, comprising a fitness center and locker rooms, a cafÃ©, a studio and a warehouse, is more than triple the size of the company’s existing offices. It is in a large industrial building facing Highway 169.
âI always dreamed of having our own sign on the side of the road,â Eide said.
Eide also expects the company to grow from 22 employees to around 40 by the end of 2022.
Revenue, which increased 200% from 2017 to 2019 to nearly $ 6 million, fell 20% in 2020. Eide had feared a drop of 80 to 90%. Business has rebounded this year, surpassing $ 6 million in revenue en route to the Eide 2022 goal of $ 12 million.
What would become Eide’s career in event production began with his early fascination with audiovisual material and his affinity for Radio Shack. After attending corporate training sessions organized by his mother in the Twin Cities, he started bringing his father’s stereo system so that those in the back of the room could hear him.
Within a few years, Eide and Mike Danielson – his best friend, next door neighbor, and business partner in EideCom and SecondStage – began producing events for the University of St. Thomas. Danielson was a student in St Thomas while Eide “decided that college was not really a good use of my time” when he was already busy working, earning money and paying a rent.
âWe weren’t governed by an income statement,â Eide said. âWe have been guided by the passion and enthusiasm to give people a truly amazing experience. I think a lot of our early clients saw it in us and that’s where we’re sitting today. “
EideCom has become one of the biggest players nationwide in producing large corporate conferences, Eide said. The company has done shows with budgets of $ 20,000 to $ 2 million, while its sweet spot is between $ 100,000 and $ 1 million.
Eide is the âvisionaryâ of the company, projecting âwhat needs to happen and where we need to goâ. Danielson, CFO of EideCom, is the company’s integrator, “who is good at taking my crazy ideas and bringing them back to Earth,” Eide said.
Coley Wright, head of corporate events and strategic engagement at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, said the organization has been using EideCom exclusively since mid-2018 to produce live productions, town halls, board meetings and events for up to 1,600 participants.
When the pandemic forced Blue Cross to cancel their biggest customer event three weeks before it took place, “we immediately decided to buy their SecondStage platform.”
âAnyone can do production, but not everyone can do it well,â Wright said. “EideCom does it really well, and they keep looking for ways to see the customer succeed in ways you might not even have thought of before. Their job is to make you shine.”
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.