Jeff Osuji knew his latest business venture was at the 2019 Black Alumni Ball in Washington, D.C. His platform, Eventnoir, served as the registration site for this annual event, which connects and celebrates black professionals and influencers.
“It was a stress test for us,” Osuji said of the 1,500-person event. It was the largest event yet to use its ticketing platform, which focuses on black-centric events and culture.
“What surprised me was that not only did people register and everything worked out, but people got to know the brand,” said the Chicago native. “Often [the Black community] There’s no sense of being seen or heard, so when there’s a brand or product that puts us first and allows us to be seen, there’s a real sense of alignment, loyalty and affection.”
Not only did the attendees embrace the platform, the event organizers were also impressed. This partly stems from the platform’s business model. The company offers revenue sharing on processing fees with event hosts, unlike mainstream ticketing platforms that keep this revenue for themselves. This business model was important to Osuji and co-founder Femi Masha for two reasons:
“The black community has made major contributions to culture and often we get the lowest return on our investment,” Osuji explains. “It was really important for us to create something that allowed us to share in the investments we’ve made, and give event curators — who are creating culture every day — a big piece of the pie.”
The road to success
Eventnoir marks the second successful business for Osuji and Masha. In 2008, the pair founded an event curation company, Events by Pyramid, while they were both chemistry majors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They came up with the idea of a ticketing platform while thinking of ways to scale this business but did not have the funds to develop it at that time.
Fast-forward about a dozen years and both have successful careers, Osuji in advertising and Masha in law, while also managing their events business. The difference? They now had enough revenue to invest in their technology ventures.
Osuji quit his job in 2019 to focus full time on Eventnoir. The founders hired a website development firm and launched the first iteration that same year. When the pandemic hit in 2020, both businesses felt the impact. Osuji was able to navigate the turbulent times by hosting online events and becoming a realtor to support himself and the businesses.
Osuji and Eventnoire got a boost in 2021 when they won ticketing platform Mountain Dew’s Real Change Opportunity Fund Competition and a share of the $1 million prize. It’s the first of several tech funds to recognize the value of the company, which has also received funding from the startup’s Black Founders Fund and Google for TechRise.
This investment, support and recognition holds particular significance for Osuji because technology funders have historically overlooked black-owned technology companies.
“These grants are helpful not only financially but also with recognition and exposure. These are the things black businesses need to thrive: capital and exposure,” he said. “It also means the world is seeing how unfair things have been going on for years. Hopefully, this will lead to a change in business leaders and businesses to provide economic support to our communities. goes.”
Osuji also benefited from the support of the local small business community. He discovered the resources of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Innovation Hub 1871 while attending an AfroTech dinner in Chicago.
“I had no idea this resource existed and was amazed at how much support we have in a community here in Chicago,” Osuji said. “Joining these organizations was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
He said the Polsky Center provided him with guidance on the fundamentals of his business and identifying opportunities for growth.
“[The] Polski [Center] It was a real game changer for our business,” said the entrepreneur. “When you’re a small business, you don’t have a big team to bounce ideas off of and [The] Polski [Center] It gave me access to that team and research on different perspectives and business opportunities.”
A global future
In the coming year, Osuji plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign, aiming to complete the pre-seed round by February.
These funds will help eventnoir go international Osuji, who has been named one of WVON/Ariel Investment’s 2022 40 under 40 Game Changers, aims to expand the business to Africa and London next year with the overall goal of serving the entire African diaspora. They plan to launch an app for their mobile customers in the first quarter of 2023.
The business, which has been featured in local and national media, including WTTW, Summary, ForbesAnd from chicagoCurrently has a five-person team and is looking to add another sales position early next year
Reflecting on his company’s success, Osuji says he learned a key lesson from his entrepreneurial endeavours:
“There’s room for smaller players to compete, no matter how big the industry, if you’re able to show that to your customers,” he said.
// Follow Eventnoire on Instagram @eventnoirehq or on Twitter @eventnoire. Contact [email protected] for partnership inquiries.