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Calgary’s Next Economy: Vendor Bridge bringing vendors and events together

Keaton McLean ran a vending company for four years and when he was touring across Canada for shows, he came to an important realization.

There was no one-stop resource for vendors to find shows where they could vend their wares.

“Missing one event can be costly,” McLean said.

McLean said there’s between 12 and 15 data points that can be collected to help vendors find shows. That could be application dates, cost, marketing and even the show itself – and that information isn’t always easy to find.

“That’s when I started into just compiling the list of all the events and I was like, ‘well, you know, event organizers need this just as much as the vendors,’” McLean said.

He said his startup, Vendor Bridge, is a time saver for the hundreds of vendors that fill any given show throughout the year. McLean said vendors can spend anywhere from 5 to 20 hours per month searching for and communicating with shows.

Vendor Bridge puts all the information into a searchable database.

Both vendors and event organizers can access the database, both to search the events to book shows, or to curate shows with the type of vendors organizers want.

The system allows organizers to invite vendors. They can search by product, cost, how long they’ve been in business and other market factors.

“Basically, everything they would need to know in order to fill those booth spaces about those vendors,” McLean said.

“And just in like a fraction of the time being that it’s all in one area.”

Network is key

McLean said he was surprised how much exposure they’d be getting in the Alberta Catalyzer Velocity program.

“The networking opportunities are endless,” he said.

But the real driver behind the program for him is narrowing in on a scalable strategy moving forward. He said just getting vendor sign ups require them going to the actual events themselves to talk with folks.

“It’s a slow growth process, where we’re looking for the marketing and the strategy to scale into different cities quicker,” he said.

McLean said he’s been exposed to a lot of things in such a short time that will be critical for him to move Vendor Bridge forward.

And that’s exactly what he wants to do.

Right now, he covers events in Alberta and British Columbia. He’d like to expand into others.

Beyond that, McLean envisions a point in time where they have event management software that’s a value add for organizers. He said it would really help smaller organizers that don’t have big operational budgets.

“I’d like to be sort of the go to resource facilitating all those connections,” he said.

At some point in the future, perhaps they’d start creating their own events. Building an event community would help supporting many of the small and medium-sized vendors.

It’s all with an eye on keeping shopping local.

“It’s also extremely environmentally friendly, shopping local.  There’s no packaging, there’s no shipping. Business owners are making full margins on the products,

“So bringing more attention for the public to look at this as like a main resource.”