Central Florida’s hospitality industry entertains and serves over 55 million visitors from throughout the globe each year in addition to its local residents. And due to the extraordinarily high volume of costomers, many restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and entertainment venues in the area can charge a premium rate for their services – a cost that local college students often can’t afford.
“For most college kids, spending two or three extra dollars is a huge deal,” said Julien Meyer, a 20-year-old Hospitality Management and Event Management double major at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “A couple bucks can really decide where we go to eat or hang out, so we’re always looking for some sort of deal.”
Many college students download coupon apps to their smartphones or visit websites, like Groupon.com, to find savings on lunch, groceries, coffee, and other various daytime activities; however, there are very few, if any, companies that market nightlife discounts specifically to college students.
Meyer, a self-described life-long entrepreneur, realized this market gap and founded collegeTKTS – a marketing firm that aims to connect UCF students with discounts to local concerts, eateries, special events, nightclubs and more.
“I used to DJ at different bars around town and I would always invite my friends to hang out, but many of them could only afford to go out one night a week,” Meyer said. “So I began talking to the managers I worked for to see if they could offer discounts to college students, and they loved the idea, but needed a medium. This was my ‘Aha!’ moment.”
With no other direct competition, Meyer launched collegeTKTS in August of 2012 and word quickly spread throughout the local hospitality industry.
“I know it sounds cliché, but my company grew faster than I ever expected,” said Meyer. “I thought I wouldn’t have any revenue my first year and that most of my time would be spent cold calling businesses.”
What Meyer underestimated was the power of networking.
“I scheduled meetings with the managers I knew from DJ-ing and pitched my company to them,” Meyer recalled. “They loved the company and began telling their friends, who also owned restaurants and bars around town. Before I knew it, businesses were calling me for my services.”
What collegeTKTS offers is simple, direct and effective. Through the company’s website, UCF students can register their .edu email address to receive a newsletter loaded with nightlife discounts from Meyer’s clients.
Within its first five months, more than 1,200 students subscribed to the company’s newsletter.
But despite Meyer’s success, the college junior was still looking for guidance to grow his business. Meyer ultimately found a mentor and business partner in Matt Ockwell, a UCF alumnus, ’10, who owned the bi-monthly coupon publication, CollegeStack.
“CollegeStack is very well-known around UCF and has a similar business model to my company,” said Meyer. “I reached out to their owner, Matt Ockwell, and he was happy to meet with me. We started talking about our goals and he asked me if I would be interested in purchasing his company.”
After rounds of negotiation, the two struck a deal on Jan. 11, and Meyer now owns collegeTKTS and CollegeStack to become the coupon kingpin of UCF.
“CollegeStack offers discounts to college students for lunch and other daytime activities, while collegeTKTS focuses on nightlife savings; so I have kind of cornered the market,” Meyer explained.
With the acquisition complete, Meyer and his team now manage over 100 client accounts.
“I want people to know that there is no formula for success, you just need to go out, experience things, and learn from those experiences,” said Meyer. “I hope that my story motivates and encourages others to act on their business ideas and instincts.”
Meyer’s story and entrepreneurial spirit was recently featured in Small Business Owner magazine, and will also soon be featured in Small Business Today Magazine.