From Broke to Thriving — Advice That Saved Ben’s Community Space
If you talked to Ben Seidl ten months ago, expanding his business to a second space would have been unimaginable. At that point, Ben’s community space was struggling, “When we first opened our brick and mortar location, we almost went bankrupt. Initially, our business model was setup to only charge artists 20% of all artwork sold, but the commission just didn’t pay our rent.”
Seeing that his space was vacant most of the time and had little foot traffic, Ben looked into alternative ways to make ends meet. He took a chance and listed his gallery on Peerspace in December 2016. Ten months later and over 100 bookings completed, you could say Ben has found his sweet spot. Instead of relying solely on artist commissions, Ben’s community-driven space now makes all of its money from event and meeting rentals. The cherry on top: those profits allow Ben to provide local artists free space to display and sell their work, giving 100% of the commissions back to artists.
After receiving such high demand for his current space, Ben saw an opportunity to capture a new segment of the market with a larger space. Ben says his new space will be four times the size and will include additional amenities in order to meet more guests’ needs. Read on to learn Ben’s fundamentals for building a business from your space.
Incorporate guest feedback
Ben attributes a lot of his success to providing exceptional service. “It’s about how you relate to people and how can you meet their needs. I think building a business on that premise really revolves around how you physically incorporate amenities that meet people’s needs.”
Ben suggests taking mental notes during every booking and to think about how you can invest to make their experience better. Ben received many requests for photo booths which Ben’s current space doesn’t have. So for his new space, he’s planning to make this a permanent feature. “The new space will have additional amenities that we realized via the Peerspace vines will help us accept more clients needs.” Factoring in guests requests and investing in those amenities will help you accept more bookings.
Say “yes” whenever possible
Being flexible and accommodating is part of what makes hosts so successful on Peerspace. Ben recommends, “If you want to build a business, then find ways to say yes to as many guests as possible and make their needs an integral part of your space.” Even with that outlook, Ben wasn’t able to appease everyone, saying, “We realized we were turning down a lot of business and some pretty exciting opportunities because our current space can only accommodate about fifty people.”
Realizing he was missing out on a good amount of business, Ben was inspired to open a larger space. “A ton of people wanted work with us and support our business, but we just didn’t have enough space. So we thought, we’d open a new space that fit a different segment of the market.” Between Ben’s current gallery space and the larger event space opening soon, Ben is capturing a larger size of the market, all while supporting more artists in the process.
Create a flexible space
Ben understands the power of having a flexible space, which he believes has helped him find success on Peerspace. “What makes our space in Berkeley so popular is the ability to morph it into whatever we need. We attract meetings, production, and all types of social events.”
For Ben’s new space, it’s going to be just as versatile, saying “It’s going to be really exciting to make it into one very amorphous place. It’s a dance between making it feel comfortable for someone to have a meeting there and also for someone to have their 30th birthday party there.”
Connect with guests face-to-face
We’ve learned from several hosts about the importance of welcoming guests into their space. Ben believes this is crucial, saying, “We make it a point to spend the first half hour or so with the client, to help them get settled into the space and make sure all their questions are answered.” In addition to making guests feel welcomed, it also gives Ben the opportunity to tell them about their community space’s mission to support local artists. Sharing this in person and showing the artwork in the space, has even led to artists sales during the bookings.
Make guests a part of your community
Ben’s creative space is centered around community. His space features a rotation of 32 local artists, everything from furniture makers to painters to ceramicists. “We created this symbiosis where we support local artists and provide a space for them to display their work and get 100% of sales. In turn, this artwork helps make our space unique and eclectic which drives more bookings.”
“When you create foot traffic, bring the community together, and host a successful event, that’s the sweet spot. There’s a unique opportunity for guests to support local artists and it’s such a joy knowing their money is going towards something they really believe in.”
It’s an exciting time for Ben as he works towards opening up his second space. Through his community-driven, guest-centric approach, Ben is not only providing exceptional experiences for everyone who walks through his doors, but also supporting local artists in the community — which, for Ben, is what it’s all about.
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