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

Vendor Bridge founder Keaton McLean. CONTRIBUTION

Keaton McLean ran a sales venture for four years, and while touring Canada for shows, he came to an important realization.

There was no one stop resource for sellers to find shows to sell their wares on.

“Missing an event can be expensive,” McLean said.

According to McLean, there are between 12 and 15 data points that can be collected to help providers find shows. That can be application dates, costs, marketing, even the show itself — and that information isn’t always easy to find.

“That’s when I started just putting together the list of all the events, and I was like, ‘Well, you know, event organizers need this as much as vendors do,'” McLean said.

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

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Vendor Bridge stores all information in a searchable database.

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

The system allows organizers to invite vendors. You can search by product, cost, service life and other market factors.

“Basically everything they would need to know to fill these booth spaces through these vendors,” McLean said.

“And only a fraction of the time is everything in one area.”

Network is the key

McLean said he was surprised at how much attention they were getting in the Alberta Catalyzer Velocity program.

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“The networking opportunities are endless,” he said.

But the real driver behind the program for him is to focus on a scalable strategy for the future. He said just to get signups from vendors, they have to go to the actual events themselves to talk to people.

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

McLean said that in such a short amount of time he has been exposed to many things that will be critical for him to advance Vendor Bridge.

And that’s exactly what he wants to do.

He is currently covering events in Alberta and British Columbia. He would like to expand into others.

Additionally, McLean envisions a time when they will have event management software that will add value to organizers. He said it would really help smaller organizers who don’t have large operating budgets.

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“I want to be a kind of go-to person that facilitates all of these connections,” he said.

At some point in the future they might start creating their own events. Building an event community would help support many of the small and medium sized vendors.

It’s all with the goal of keeping shopping local.

“Plus, it’s extremely eco-friendly to shop locally. There is no packaging, there is no shipping. Business owners make full margins on the products,

“To get more attention from the public to consider this as a primary resource.”

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