I’ve been wrongly accused of “always thinking of some crazy scheme to make money.” Sure, I’m always thinking about how to make money, but that’s because it’s fascinating that there are so many different ways to make money and sometimes, they all seem like a lot of fun. So I started the BILO: Business I‘d Like to Own series. In case you missed the first edition, I looked at seasonal restaurants as a viable business if you are willing to go hard and work 20 hours for a few months out of the year.
My next BILO subject was right under my nose: owning and operating a conference, special event (like a marathon or gala) or a festival. We all go to festivals (LA has the Avocado Festival and Strawberry Festival to name a couple) and marathons are becoming increasingly popular (the brand-new New Year’s Half-Marathon in Downtown LA is sure to sell out quickly, with tickets up to $110 and set to increase in a week). And then there are the crazy special events, like the 60,000 people who showed up at Burning Man this year, an event in its 26th year with stats like this:
The outfit that stages the festival, BlackRock City LLC, is now a $23 million-per-year concern with 40 full-time employees, hundreds of volunteers, and a nonprofit art foundation that doles out grants.
-Outside Magazine article, October 2012
The amount of organization and sophistication now required for Burning Man to be a success is a full-scale operation. Marathons can also become your full-time business (an acquaintance who started a marathon just two years ago has made it his full-time job). It’s a business that definitely BILO-worthy, but I think on the smaller scale would be where most people could reasonably start, like this year’s Financal Blogger Conference.
FinCon is in its second year, and both editions of the conference have been extremely successful. I was going to do the usual examination of what it takes to make this business successful and what factors most people forget to consider, but FinCon creator and owner, Phil Taylor of PT Money, already did an in-depth review of everything about FinCon12, including a breakdown of the numbers from both 2011 and 2012. As he says, he made over $35,000 in profit this year, compared to just over $11,000 in its inaugural year. There was an increase of $85,000 in sponsorships this year, and sponsors took some valuable real estate in the form of short presentations ahead of keynote speakers. Phil’s review of the conference is seriously in-depth and he was also kind enough to respond to a few of my questions just for BILO. The following interview is an American Debt Project exclusive!
Interview with Phil Taylor (PT Money), Owner of the Financial Blogger Conference
ADP: In the first two years of FinCon, your attendees, out of their own enthusiasm for the event, did a lot to promote the conference and ensure its success. How do you envision your marketing of the conference going forward?
PT: You’re right. This conference would be nothing without the energy from the core group of financial bloggers who drive the enthusiasm for this event using Twitter, online forums, and even their blogs. I’m forever indebted to them and I will do my best to be a good steward of my position as organizer. Therefore, it’s critical that I keep my finger on the pulse of the community. I need to know what they are thinking, what they want at FinCon both on-stage and off. I also need to know how I can better connect them with the people they need to connect with and help them learn the things they want to learn while at FinCon. I do this by utilizing post-conference surveys to see what they want next, and by making them a part of the on-stage content selection for next year. I’m even considering an advisory panel to help bring in ideas from key stakeholders (bloggers, exhibitors, press, etc.).
- As our community of independent financial bloggers naturally grows, and
- As authors, columnists, freelancers, CPAs and CFPs, and others (who are interested in using blogging (or new media) as a way to reach a broader audience) come into the fold.
ADP: What has been the best perk of being a conference owner?
ADP: What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own special event?
PT: My biggest piece of advice is to tap into an already engaged community. Find the people that naturally want to be together and make it happen for them. Other than that, make sure you pay good people that you trust to help you pull it all together.
I’d like to thank Phil for being so generous with his time to give such excellent answers to my questions. Conference ownership can be financially lucrative, but as we can see from FinCon, it’s also a labor of love. I don’t think anyone doubts that Phil truly enjoys bringing everyone together for this event because it’s also a ton of work, throughout the year and during the conference. He made a good amount for his efforts this year, but will be reinvesting some of that money into next year’s conference. And with great goals to keep the conference relevant and personal for bloggers, FinCon may not become as big as Burning Man anytime soon, but that’s OK. FinCon showcases the parts of business ownership that I love: the ability to make something new, to be creative and flexible in order to generate revenue, and to find a way to use what you know to provide something new and valuable to an existing market.
#FinCon12: My Recap
I’ll keep it brief: I had an excellent time at FinCon. I could see why bloggers were so enthusiastic about the conference–it really was summer camp for blogs. I didn’t get back to my room earlier than 2 am on any night because I kept thinking, “I still want to talk to all these people!” and I got to meet lots of my blogging friends, from Jana, Erin, Andrea and Serendipity and my amazing roommate Marissa to new-to-me bloggers like Mike at The Fit World Traveler (he can give you real insider tips on getting the most out of your frequent flier miles plus I like anyone who uses the word “arbitrage” in casual conversation) and Agatha K, whose Ignite speech was so funny it made me do my silent laugh. Who else? Average Joe was anything but, See Debt Run and Frugal Portland were uber cute, and J.D. Roth was a Zen master. Every Keynote speaker did a great job and each meal was a chance to sit with someone new and find some common threads. I got some great advice from my friends at Wisebread and Ryan at Cash Money Life about affiliate advertising, which I will be implementing soon. Oh, and a word to the wise: never challenge the Financial Samurai to a tennis match when you haven’t played in two months!
Back to BILO: Would you consider starting a conference or special event? If you have one in mind you’d like to start, you don’t have to share the specifics but tell us why it would work. Do you like the planning and logistics aspect of owning an event?