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"To organize a robust community, sometimes you have to put walls around it."
THINKING OUTSIDE THE CRATE
Steve Gilman '15 and his co-founders, Adam Ward and Cody Slape, recognized the importance of creating a platform to connect the community and the appeal of repurposing a common object in an innovative way. In 2014, they combined these concepts and launched Block Party Suites, a B2B company with the goal of better utilizing the space between businesses and consumers at outdoor events by transforming shipping containers into customizable suites. While the outdoor landscape of sporting events and music festivals has long been saturated with luxury tents and staid brand promotion techniques, this innovative approach has provided businesses with a novel way to reach their audience.
THE METAMORPHOSIS: SHIPPING CONTAINER TURNED LUXURY SUITE
There is no shortage of product supply, “for every 100 shipping containers that enter the U.S., 50 are shipped back empty, 45 are stored in lots, and only five are claimed for other purposes,” says Gilman. Block Party Suites uses a new model that opens on the side, and then works with a Texas-based fabricator to revamp the containers into full-fledged, double-decker entertainment venues, replete with track lighting, AC power, satellite TV, and comfortable furniture. They provide daily and weekly leasing options, take care of staking out a prime location, and handle all of the logistics of installing and packing the suite.
UNCRATING THE PAST
The word is out — with a contract for fall football season at Southern Methodist University and several exciting partnerships in the pipeline, Block Party Suites is growing quickly. In reflecting on the defining steps that led to their success, Gilman believes picking the right co-founders, building good relationships, and the mentorship he received from Columbia Business School were critical. “If you come to Columbia knowing that you want to become an entrepreneur, everything you learn you can start applying to your own business. Every class that was driven toward entrepreneurship invited interesting entrepreneurs to come in and tell their stories.” Gilman noted the valuable lessons he learned from CBS alumni and guest speakers like Greg Marsh from KeyMe, Ryan Peterson '08 of Flexport, Nik Bonaddio of numberFire, Ryan Simonetti from Convene, and Matthew Keiser of LiveIntent, all of whom had successes and failures, but ultimately persevered in building their ventures.
AN ISLAND SURROUNDED BY SHIPPING PORTS…AND FILLED WITH INSPIRING ENTREPRENEURS
“People don’t reach out to successful founders enough because they think they’re too busy…but usually they’re more than willing to help students,” explains Gilman. As a student, he remembers visiting a different startup every Friday, an advantage, he notes, that could not be found on this scale or magnitude anywhere else. “Plus,” Gilman adds, “there are enough resources and investors in New York that you could attend several events every week.”
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Block Party Suites is focused on scaling quickly, optimizing operations, and further enhancing the suites with new features to foster these important connections and experiences for their clients. There is no doubt that Gilman and his team have a bright future with substantial room for growth ahead. “We use the motto ‘Always Go,’” says Gilman, “which means chasing every opportunity, never waiting to do something tomorrow that you can do today — everything is worth exploring.”