This new series interviews New Orleans area entrepreneurs who are launching startups and have participated in one or more of the local accelerator programs.
Magic Bank is a curated marketplace of gifts, experiences, venues and vendors that was designed specifically for event planners.
Founders Nicole Rock and Kristen Bykowski have been business partners for years, building out the Magic Bank database privately through their work at White Rabbits, a boutique service agency focused on providing unique experiences and gifts for individuals and corporate clients.
From wedding to corporate offsites, the newly launched e-commerce side of the business was created to eliminate the hassle of searching for items that fit client’s needs by connecting them to their extensive online database.
Hear from Rock below:
How and when did you come up with the idea for the business?
For the past four years, my best friend and business partner, Kristen Bykowski, and I had a business that specialized in customized gift giving and experience planning for both individual as well as corporate clients. Any time we found a unique gifting item, a cool experience, a vendor that offered something special, or a venue that no one else had heard of, we entered it into a database we created as a tool to make our lives easier, so we would have it on file for our clients. That database was called Magic Bank.
Our research began to grow into the thousands, and although we realized that the research itself was the most significant part of our service business, we always focused on the service side and making revenue. The Idea Village IDEAx program was a pivotal moment for us, because in conversation with our Entrepreneur in Residence, Doug Walner, we realized that people wanted access to what we knew. We had already proved that people were willing to pay for our services for four years and began the transition into the technology sector. We realized quickly that the best move was to offer our knowledge through Magic Bank as an amazing resource and one-stop-shop for Event Planners looking to offer something new and inspiring to their clients.
How did you get connected to The Idea Village?
I moved to New Orleans under a year ago and only knew one person. After two months of trying to work from home and feeling very isolated, I was told to go to Launch Pad, the co-working office space. On my walk there, I passed The Idea Village, which said on their door “For Entrepreneurs and those who believe in them.” I knew I had to go in. I admit I was a bit intimidated, but I finally got the courage to go in and introduce myself and our idea on how to change the Event Planning industry.
From there, Kristen and I applied to their accelerator program, IDEAx, and were accepted. The support and connections that The Idea Village offers is unbelievable! We wouldn’t be where we are without them. If you put in the hard work, they will give you the resources to make sure you’re on the right path to growing a scaleable business.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Kristen and I joke that our motto for Magic Bank should be, “Magic Bank: We Pivot.” There have been many challenges in everything from working together long distance (Kristen is in NYC), to choosing a technology development shop to build out Magic Bank, to learning how to do a company P&L and figure out 5 year financials. But no matter what the challenge is, the solution remains the same – you have to be flexible. We have a clear vision for the company, but are always open to suggestions on how to get there.
What is unique about your business?
Our entire e-commerce marketplace is built on the premise that people want to experience something different so I’d like to say… everything is unique! However, I think what makes us really stand out is that we’re pretty much a curated Google for Event Planners. We’re the only one-stop-shop where they can go and find things to blow their clients minds that they would normally have to spend hours searching multiple resources online for.
What is one piece of advice you would give an entrepreneur just starting out?
If you can go two days without thinking or working on your startup, don’t quit your day job. Starting a business is often compared to building a plane while trying to fly it for a reason – it’s hard and overwhelming and a lot of work. So if you don’t have a true passion and drive to put those hours in every single day, you’ll burn out quickly.
If you do have that passion and drive, my advice is simply to stick with it every single day. A lot of baby steps add up to giant leaps ahead. It’s fun to look back and see how far we’ve come in a short amount of time!
What does success look like one year from now?
We just launched our prototype (www.mymagicbank.com) last week, so one year from now we would like to have Version 1 completely built out. This would mean people could actually search the site by category and keyword and purchase directly from the marketplace. We would also have a more robust content and vendor management team, as well as increased vendor capabilities and back end integrations where vendors could directly input their new products and services for approval by our content team.
Our stretch goal (we always have to have a stretch goal!) would be to have a presence in more than one market. There are so many amazing festivals and events here in New Orleans, it is the perfect place to hit the ground running! From there… world domination.