Duo carves out, grows ticketing niche
Midwestix expands into new states, beefs up staff and rolls out new technology
Friday, March 15, 2013 7:00 AM
Midwestix co-founders Kathryn Dickel and Heather Hansen said it has been fun to grow their company alongside the organizations and events it has worked with over the last 10 years. Photo by Duane Tinkey
Kathryn Dickel and Heather Hansen didn’t know much about the ticketing world when they first started their company, Iowatix, in 2002. But they realized that Des Moines and Iowa artists needed a more affordable ticketing service than Ticketmaster.
Their business idea has proven successful. By 2010, Iowatix had outgrown its name by expanding outside state lines. Rechristening their enterprise as Midwestix, the pair now works with bands and event organizers in “anything that touches Iowa” and are moving the company into Colorado and Kentucky as well
They’ve also beefed up the staff in the last few years, now employing eight people full time – almost all of whom are involved in the Des Moines music scene in bands of their own – as well as seasonal employees to help out during their busy summer months.
“We still feel very much like a startup,” Dickel said, “but now we have relationships and experience. But we still need to be innovative.”
Midwestix has worked as the ticket provider for big names like the Des Moines Social Club and Winefest Des Moines. The owners said that it’s been fun to grow the company alongside the events and organizations it serves.
“The fact that we’re all still standing says a lot about the readiness of Des Moines to embrace the entertainment culture,” Dickel said. “I think it’s great that we’ve all made it.”
Adapting its strategy to keep up with ever-changing technology, Midwestix introduced mobile ticketing in October, which allows users to receive tickets on their smartphones as well as to forward tickets to friends. The latter feature can come in handy when friends arrive separately at an event, they said.
Because ticket sales increase so much in the summer due to a larger volume of festivals and shows, Hansen and Dickel didn’t have solid numbers to show how consumers have responded to the mobile ticketing option.
But the two believe that mobile ticketing will make up about half of total tickets sold within a year or two.
In December, they rolled out a feature that allows customers to buy tickets straight from their favorite band or event’s Facebook page. “Everybody is doing everything on Facebook,” Hansen said. “We have to be where the consumer is.”
Fans can then share with their Facebook friends that they purchased tickets to an event and receive a rebate. The program has been tested in several locations and shows that users will share their purchase between 10 and 40 percent of the time.
For every person who shares a purchase through Facebook, an average of 200 people will see the event on their news feeds, a stream of videos, photos and comments shared by friends.
But the same technology Midwestix is deploying to sell more tickets is also making things more difficult. When Dickel and Hansen started out in 2002, their only competitor was Ticketmaster. But now, a host of new Greater Des Moines-based companies, including Tikly LLC and Red Truck Tickets LLC, are offering similar services.
“The Internet has brought a flood of new companies into the market,” Dickel said. “Because technology makes it easy and gives consumers a lot more choices.”
Even with the new competition and new technology, the two said their focus is still customer service, adding they offer a flexible platform, support for their clients and a suite of services, including marketing and promotion, rather than the self-service out-of-the-box approach that some other companies use.
“We like to think it says a lot about us because we built a successful ticketing company here, so more people think it’s doable, not just in Des Moines, but all over,” Dickel added.
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