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If you’ve started a business before, then you know how winding the path towards entrepreneurship can be.
If you ask any given entrepreneur why they started their business, you’ll get a whole slew of answers—some stumble across a golden business idea, while some simply purchase a business that’s up and running and roll with it.
For Vahe Shahinian, leaving his long-held seat in the aerospace industry to start his own business was about building something from the ground up all himself.
And in doing so, Shahinian made the ultimate career pivot: aerospace engineer to mastermind of major concerts and live events.
Before Shahinian was at the helm of It’s My Seat, he was at the helm of spaceships—operating as an aerospace engineer with a bachelor’s and master’s in computer science.
The idea for It’s My Seat—a boutique ticketing service for events—came to him once he noticed that people really struggled to sell tickets to events and manage who sits where. Back in 2005, seating maps weren’t around.
Shahinian had a problem to solve and a business idea to seize, but It’s My Seat took a backseat when he went for his master’s at University of Southern California.
But back in the corporate world, Shahinian grew tired of the 9-to-5—a realization many entrepreneurial minds have.
“I wanted to program something myself. I wanted to pursue computer programming,” says Shahinian.
It’s My Seat came back into the picture in 2005, as Shahinian kept his corporate job but programmed on nights and weekends when he had the spare time. It’s My Seat went live with its first event in August of 2006.
After five years of working both his regular corporate job and building It’s My Seat from the ground up—no investors, fully on his own—Shahinian finally was able to leave his company in 2011, figuring he could sustain himself on It’s My Seat.
And from there on, It’s My Seat took off: Shahinian not only provided the seat mapping function that the concert world needed but also produced his own shows and concerts for the local Los Angeles event network.
“It’s My Seat got lots of support from local events,” says Shahinian.
It was clear that with only Ticketmaster in play and no way to efficiently sell tickets to live events and do so at a very affordable rate—Shahinian was onto something.
But that doesn’t mean he didn’t face the challenges that many new business owners face. Shahinian says that getting clients to use It’s My Seat’s service was the biggest challenge in the early days.
Like every small business, Shahinian had to build up a trust factor with his community and with artists and performers in the area.
Bigger events came in, helping Shahinian build up credibility. And from the beginning, It’s My Seat was masterminding events with up to 16,000 attendees.
It’s My Seat keeps growing and growing—more shows, more performers, and bigger venues. Now Shahinian faces the problem of being able to sustain and prep for that growth.
That’s where Fundera comes in. Shahinian was presented with an opportunity to put on a large tour of a popular ’80s band from Europe—Thomas Anders and the Modern Talking.
With stops in Seattle, D.C., Boston, and more, the Thomas Anders tour plans to be a big event. “In one day we sold 1,500 tickets,” Shahinian says, and in total, they sold 9,000 tickets fully online. This moment proved that It’s My Seat was working—and that online ticketing can be done right.
But as with any major moment of growth and production for a business, Shahinian needed to pay for the large upfront costs of the concert production before Shahinian and the band hit the road. By taking out a small business loan, Shahinian was able to pay for those costs, ensuring that the tour was off to a great start.
For Shahinian, the Thomas Anders tour is just the start.
Up next, Shahinian will be fully planning more tours like the one coming up this spring. His ticketing operation is run fully by his staff, leaving him room on his plate to take on these bigger projects—developing more relationships with artists, managing the business’s finances, and pushing It’s My Seat forward.
Shahinian wants to see major growth, hire more people, and venture out of Los Angeles.
And Shahinian knows the potential is there.
In 2006 they were one of the pioneers of the online ticketing space. But as the market has flooded with options, It’s My Seat’s boutique concert service is what makes them unique. They provide the staffing and all the technology for tickets, and they can fully personalize a show.
“What I did in 2005 myself—it worked—but now I’m bringing it to 2017,” says Shahinian.
The growth opportunities for It’s My Seat are there, and 2017 will be all about seizing them.