Whether you want to open a convention center with 200,000 square feet of meeting space, a boutique wedding venue with a capacity of 25 people, or anything in between, there's a lot you need to know to learn how to start an event venue. The good news? You're starting in the right place.
Although running an event venue is a rewarding experience, it doesn't come without challenges. Whether you’ve been in the events industry for a long time or are just dipping your toes in now, make sure you check out these high-level tips, tricks, and tools to help put your best foot forward.
Explore how to start an event venue with these 10 tips
1. Weigh the pros and cons of starting an event venue.
When learning how to start an event venue, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of the various obstacles that come with running a business. These vary from person to person and business to business, which is why we recommend starting with a pros and cons list that is unique to your life, goals, and situation.
The first category you need to assess is money. Can you afford the financial risk of running a business that requires expensive costs such as event venue insurance and event staff? Will the profits you make from the realistic amount of bookings you can expect over time lead to a profit?
In addition to the financial cost, there's also the cost of time. For example, if you plan to keep a full-time job as you start up your event venue, you have to keep in mind that your nights and weekends will probably be taken up. That may seem easy enough; however, once the venue is up and running, you're only getting started. Preparing the space for the event, marketing the venue, and dealing with customer service tasks may also need to take place in what little free time you have left.
On the other hand, you may be the kind of person who feels happiest and most fulfilled when you’re working non-stop. If that’s the case, this may fall under your pros column.
Even if there are some considerable cons on your personal list, make sure you research potential solutions before throwing in the towel. For example, hiring a business partner to help you run the venue may get you some money and time back, especially if they are more experienced in the events industry.
Making a pros and cons list is essential for you to have a realistic understanding of the various obstacles and rewards that will come with starting — and running — an event venue. If you’re still excited about the idea of starting an event venue after carefully weighing both sides, then you're probably ready to get started.
2. Conduct extensive market research.
Whether you have industry experience or not, you can't learn how to start an event venue without taking a deep dive into your market. The list of items to consider is a lengthy one, but here are a few questions to get started:
- Who will your main competitors be?
- Where are they located?
- What does their branding look like?
- What is their unique selling proposition?
- How do they structure their services?
- What is their pricing model and how much do they charge?
- What does their marketing look like?
- What are some strategies they’re using to improve their marketing and sales?
- What are planners, attendees, guests, and all other clients and customers saying about the venue online?
3. Write an event venue business plan.
If you’re planning on learning how to start an event venue, large or small, you need to create a comprehensive business plan. A business plan will help you and your team develop a strategy and manage the various aspects of the business.
The good news is that there are tons of resources available to help you with the steps needed to start an event venue. While organizations such as the Small Business Administration offers guides to writing a business plan, we recommend following an example that is specific to owning an event venue business.
4. Do the paperwork.
This should go without saying, but you need to make sure that you have the proper licenses and permits for your venue well before you host your first event. In most cases, your local municipality has the necessary information to help you navigate through the various requirements of your venue.
Pay special attention to zoning laws that pertain to your specific venue structure. For example, a barn-based event venue may have special requirements since some zones only allow barns to be used for farming and agriculture.
You’ll also want to work with a CPA or professional advisor on which tax structure makes the most sense for your event venue business. And don’t forget to look into event insurance quotes!
5. Choose a name for your venue.
Your event venue name should be something meaningful that people can remember forever and associate with your brand. But it should also have minimal competition in Google search results. When coming up with a name for your new business, it’s important that you take into account the style of events that you want to attract.
As Ivan Dimitrijevic, Director of Demand Generation at Funky Marketing says, “Even though there are many successful businesses with a vague name that doesn’t refer to their specific niches, it’s always advisable that this part of your brand resonates with the audience as much as possible, particularly if your business is still in its startup phase.”
6. Start preparing your space.
This tip will vary depending on the type of venue and if you're starting from the literal ground up or are taking over a space that's already built. Regardless, a few things to keep in mind when it comes to getting your venue ready:
- Hire contractors and inspectors to ensure that your space meets all necessary safety requirements.
- Clean up neglected areas in and around the venue.
- Consider refreshing the landscaping, paint, and so on.
- Take inventory of furniture options and decide whether you’ll provide your own or partner with a third party.
7. Get your venue's digital marketing in order.
Your brand new venue doesn't mean much if people don't know about it. Here are a few key marketing factors to implement:
- A website designed to provide a comprehensive overview of your business, including a description of your niche and the type of facility that you provide.
- Social media accounts including, but not limited, to Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest.
- High-quality photos and videos of the venue and its spaces.
- A 3D diagram of the venue and its layout options, which you can create using Cvent Event Diagramming.
- Business profiles on Google, Yelp, and other major and niche review sites. Once added, be sure to keep up with and respond to reviews.
- List your venue on sourcing platforms such as the Cvent Supplier Network and Wedding Spot. Add details about your venue's standout features as well as location, guest capacity, and amenities, and watch the leads flow through.
8. Hire great staff.
A venue is only as good as the people running it. Here are some essential event venue roles you should consider hiring:
- A venue coordinator. The venue coordinator is the person who helps the event planners and the vendors plan the event.
- Kitchen staff. If you plan to offer catering services, you may want to hire a head chef plus their preferred team of line chefs, cooks, food-preparers, servers, and assistants.
- Set-up and clean-up crew. These individuals will help with tables, chairs, and decor.
- Event staff. You’ll want extra hands on deck as errand runners, coat checkers, valets, and assistants for anything that comes up during your events.
Depending on the type of work that you're doing, these individuals may or may not be employed by your company. If you plan on using temporary workers, make sure that you hire event staffing companies that have a great reputation in your area.
Cvent spoke to Refvik & Light Productions Owner Kristin Light about her experience running two event venues in Toronto. In her email, Light emphasized, “HIRE GOOD PEOPLE. You absolutely cannot do this alone. Nor should you. It'll be a wonderful, enjoyable experience as long as you can maintain work-life balance!”
Light also said that once you find a vendor you really like, you should enter into a dedicated contract with them. As this event venue owner says, there is a “huge, massive, life-saving benefit to establishing preferred vendor relationships''. That includes caterers, staffing, and rentals.
9. Hire backup.
Being an event venue owner is a lot of responsibility. If someone doesn’t show up for work, it will immediately become your duty to complete the task if you don’t have backup available. As Light shared with us, “if your cleaner/manager/etc. calls in sick and you have no short-notice replacement, congratulations; it's you now. Grab a bucket, don an apron, whatever's needed. It's your job now.”
You may think to yourself that this is great for some rare emergencies, but Light would disagree. “Always expect this to happen. Event nights off are the exception, not the rule.”
10. Prepare yourself and your team.
Light also shared some tried and true tips on what to do to physically prepare for your events:
- Buy great shoes. “Spend the money on good footwear,” says Light. “Something simple that you can last 10-12 hours in, climb ladders in, and handle meetings in. Foot care is no joke.” We also recommend no-slip bottoms and the addition of cushioned floor mats for your kitchen staff.
- Stock your drawers. Light says there are some “mandatory drawers in a storage system somewhere accessible” that everyone must have. These drawers should be stocked with:
- Tape (multiple types)
- Safety pins
- Tide pens
- Phone chargers that guests can use, plus dongles for every tech connection
- Batteries of all types (rechargeables and one-time use)
- Shims/ wedges for leveling tables. “You will need a LOT of these,” writes Light.
- Clif Bars or another shelf-stable meal replacement. “There will be many a day you can neither get away, nor get fed by catering. Be prepared,” Light advises.
- Hold pre-event meetings. Even a quick huddle will go a long way towards making sure your event venue employees are all on the same page the day of.
You're on your way to learning how to start an event venue!
Up next: Learn about event venue trends to get some ideas for your own business.