The following is the third in a weekly series of articles about a “day in the life” of companies at the MakeOffices coworking space in Clarendon. The mini-series, which will run this fall, is sponsored by MakeOffices.
Move over Willy Wonka, the employees at SharpSeat are now the ones offering golden tickets. Whether for concerts or sporting events or theater performances, SharpSeat hooks up secondary market buyers with their dream tickets. The service essentially “is like StubHub, but cheaper,” say co-founder Andrew McCulloch.
He and the other two co-founders, Mike Williams and Brad Kurtzman, met while attending James Madison University and moved to Northern Virginia to take jobs after graduating. They attended a lot of ticketed events upon moving to the area and found themselves giving advice to friends looking to buy good tickets, too. But there was one major problem.
“There’s a ton of fees that we got sick of paying when shopping around on other sites,” McCulloch says. “We saw an opening in the secondary ticket market.” That’s when they decided they could do it better.
The three did a lot of research on secondary market ticket sales and ended up using their industry knowledge to start SharpSeat as a side project. “We found the average person didn’t know to look any further than Stubhub for secondary [tickets]. We saw an opportunity there to give them a better alternative,” Williams says.
They all eventually left their jobs to work full-time on SharpSeat. “We basically wanted to find a way to make tickets cheaper for the end customer,” McCulloch says. “We knew if we could find a way to keep costs down and still get access to the same tickets the big guys were getting, we could pass the savings on to customers.”
Their average day is a lot different now. The employees live in Virginia Square — two live together and the other lives down the street — so the MakeOffices Clarendon location where they work makes for an easy commute.
“One of the best parts is not having the commute around D.C.,” McCulloch says. He also found it important to stop working from home every day. “Keeping work and life separate was big for me because working in my kitchen all the time I’m [distracted]… Plus, here we’re surrounded by a bunch of other entrepreneurs that are getting things done.”
Being among other entrepreneurs has helped the employees stay motivated when doing their daily tasks, which include maintaining the website, coordinating with site developers, researching what events are coming up and fielding calls from the customer service team. And according to Williams, one of the big challenges they constantly face is marketing.
“For every business, [marketing] is probably 90 percent of the battle,” he says. “Just getting the word out there and getting people to visit the site, more than just your family and friends.”
Thanks to the business’ growth since launching two years ago — there is currently about $2 billion worth of tickets listed on the site, although it fluctuates seasonally — the team recently has been able to hire out for help with that marketing burden.
“Now we’ve hired a marketing firm to help us and we’re really looking to expand,” Kurtzman says. “This is our first business so we kind of learn as we go. We had to teach ourselves everything.”
They also outsource much of the customer service to a team in Chicago, but not all of it. The co-founders all use their venue expertise to give advice to customers who contact them looking for tips on purchasing the best tickets.
“So often people ask what’s the best value and where’s the best place to sit,” says McCulloch. “We know where you’re going to get a better value… Just little intricacies like that help out when we’re talking to clients.” Williams agrees, adding, “We have good knowledge of all the D.C. venues so we help people out” with getting the best ticket for their money.
To remain experts in the industry, the three often do offsite work — attending different types of events locally as well as traveling to other cities to check out their venues. “Obviously, it’s really fun to do that, but it is a part of what we have to do [for research],” Williams says.
Kurtzman explains that traveling to sites is how they gain knowledge of the best seats so they can offer direct customer support. “StubHub doesn’t really do that kind of thing,” he says.
When the SharpSeat employees aren’t traveling, they take advantage of the amenities in the MakeOffices Clarendon coworking space.
“Getting dedicated office space around here… is pretty unrealistic, especially for a small company like us,” says Williams. “Even for something half as nice as this, if you want a dedicated space the rents around here are so much that it just never really made sense to us. When this space opened up we couldn’t believe how cheap it was for what you get.”
One of the perks included in that price is a set of rotating taps of regionally-brewed beers. The SharpSeat co-founders say they like to head to the kitchen to try out new brews, relax and meet employees from the other businesses in the coworking space.
“Plus, I love the massage chairs,” Brad says, as the others laugh. “I usually use them once a day.”
Between the MakeOffices benefits and the satisfaction of doing a job they love, the SharpSeat team experiences something many typical employees don’t: They actually enjoy going to work.
“At my old job, I hated going to work. Now I love coming to this office,” Kurtzman says. Williams agrees, saying with a smile, “It’s kind of crazy that we’re voluntarily coming into an office after we wanted so badly to get out of one.”
The aptly named “Couples Retreat Day Spa” is holding its grand opening, according to a sign hanging from the awning.
Couples Retreat, according to the signage, offers various massage and reflexology services. It is advertising a $65 per hour rate.
The storefront is located next to Revolution Cycles and across the street from Whole Foods.
B&C closed last August, two and a half years after first opening. The business remains open in Alexandria.
Hat tip to Eric LeKuch
‘Sound of Music’ Star Recalls Arlington Upbringing — Showbiz star Nicholas Hammond, who played Friedrich von Trapp in the “Sound of Music” 50 years ago, recently recounted his childhood in Arlington. “I loved growing up there, in a much simpler time,” he told Charlie Clark. “My brother and I had paper routes. Your parents thought nothing of kids going off on their bikes pre-dawn and throwing papers onto front-door steps. We’d play ball, or go on our bikes or explore the woods. It all seemed very safe.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Local Masseuse Working Out Trump Stress — Locals are stressing out about the idea of Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States. Reports the Post: “Amanda Long, an Arlington, Va., massage therapist… has grown accustomed in recent weeks to clients laying down on her table and bellowing, ‘Can you believe this guy?’ Long allows her clients to vent for a few minutes before she tries to quiet them, if only so they can relax and she can attend to their aches.” [Washington Post]
Comcast Outage in Crystal City — Comcast customers in parts of Crystal City and South Arlington were without their TV, voice and internet service for most of the day yesterday. Service has since been restored, we hear.
Garvey: Use Garages During Snowstorms — To speed up snow plowing on local streets, county leaders want to try to reduce the number of cars parked on the side of the road during snowstorms. To facilitate that, County Board Chair Libby Garvey has asked county staff to look into the idea of opening up Arlington’s parking garages as emergency snow parking areas. [InsideNova]
Winter Is Over — The groundhog was right: an early spring is here. It may still be officially winter, but all computer models are pointing to warmer-than-average weather through April. [Capital Weather Gang]
Massage practitioners have been required to obtain county permits to perform massages and to operate a massage parlor in Arlington since the mid-1970s. At that time, massage parlors were often viewed as fronts for prostitution businesses.
That licensing process is now “superfluous,” according to county staff, because the Virginia Board of Nursing has been doing its own licensing for massage therapists since 1997. Plus, officials say, prostitution isn’t nearly as endemic as it once was in the massage industry.
“The whole field of massage has evolved and changed incredibly in the past couple of decades, such that there are a lot of very legitimate medical practitioners out there using massage for all kinds of health reasons,” Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier told ARLnow.com in September.
The Board agreed with county staff’s recommendation to do away with the massage licensing ordinance.
“This code is outdated, degrading and redundant,” Board member Jay Fisette said, adding that eliminating the ordinance would be an example of the Board following its New Years promise to break down some of “the barriers to small business.”
Before the Board’s vote last night, regulations required massage therapists to submit a form, a $50 fee, a massage school diploma or certificate, two passport size photos, a Virginia massage therapist certificate and an FBI record check including fingerprints. Now, message practitioners will only need a state license.
Arlington County Police will still investigate any accusation of prostitution activity related to a message business, county staff said.
Bullet Hit White House — Two bullets have been discovered on the White House grounds after Friday night’s shooting incident. Oscar Ramiro Ortega is wanted in connection with the shooting. The 21-year-old was stopped by Arlington County Police on the morning of the shooting for suspicious behavior, but ultimately he was photographed and released. Ortega might have been squatting in a vacant home in North Arlington. [NBC Washington]
County Board to Vote on Massage Regulation — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote over the weekend on whether to effectively deregulate the massage industry in Arlington. The industry was first regulated in the mid-20th century due to the use of massage parlors as a front for prostitution.
Police to Teach Teachers About Bullying — An Arlington County Police Department School Resource Officer will be educating teachers and staff at Yorktown High School about bullying today. Cpl. Jim Tuomey has developed a presentation on bullying and cyber-bullying that he hopes to eventually give at other schools around the county. [Arlington County Police]
Guas’ Favorite Cheap Eats — For its November issue, Southern Living magazine asked Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) owner and chef David Guas what some of his favorite “cheap eats” are in and around Arlington. Guas picked Lebanese Taverna (4400 Old Dominion Drive), Uncle Julios’s (4301 N. Fairfax Drive), Lost Dog Cafe (5876 N. Washington Blvd), and Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (6249 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church). [Southern Living]
Flickr pool photo by Mennyj
The County Board is expected to vote in October on a request to advertise an ordinance change that would no longer require massage therapists to obtain a permit from the county’s health department. Instead, local massage therapists will only have to be certified by the state.
Arlington County’s massage regulation started decades ago, in response to a proliferation of prostitution operations masquerading as massage parlors. County officials say those days are largely past, and its time to look at massage therapists in a new light.
“The whole field of massage has evolved and changed incredibly in the past couple of decades, such that there are a lot of very legitimate medical practitioners out there using massage for all kinds of health reasons,” Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier told ARLnow.com. “In a way, it’s kind of an archaic law that we’re getting rid of… the old way of looking at massage therapists really does have to change.”
Allgeier said that the Arlington County Police department, not the health department, will be responsible for making sure that massage businesses — like the recently-opened Arlington Physical Center on Columbia Pike — are on the up and up.
“If there are illegal activities going on — that is, prostitution — that it needs to be treated as a police matter,” Allgeier said. “That’s the way to deal with the illegal activity that’s going on, not by requiring all massage professionals to go through an unnecessary… bureaucratic licensure process.”
Current regulations require massage practitioners to apply for a county Massage Therapist Permit by submitting a form, a $50 fee, a massage school diploma or certificate, two passport size photos, a Virginia massage therapist certificate and an FBI record check including fingerprints.