Eight Years of TrivWorks: A Look Back

Corporate.trivia.events.jpgCorporate trivia events

I can hardly believe it, but it was exactly eight years ago today that TrivWorks was born. It’s been an absolutely unbelievable ride thus far, from pub quiz provider to the nation’s premier trivia company for corporate event entertainment. I thought it would be fun to take a quick jaunt down memory lane, to tell the story of this unique venture – and perhaps provide a glimpse of what’s to come in the future!

Let’s step back eight years ago, to the beginning of August 2009. At the time I was living in New York City on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, working full-time as an event programmer at the 92nd Street Y, a prestigious cultural center. At that point I had also been working side gigs to supplement my income: in addition to freelancing at a corporate scavenger hunt company as a hunt writer, producer & guide, I was writing and hosting two weekly bar trivia nights in the city (it’s actually been ten years since I started out as a trivia emcee).

Like most places back then, New York was still reeling from the devastating effects of the recent global financial crisis. Earlier in the year, 92Y had laid off 10% of its staff, shifting the workload to other employees. Like many of my colleagues, I suddenly found myself doing the work of two people, for no additional compensation. Frustrated as I was, though, I was also empathetic with my employers’ situation in that they simply didn’t have the resources available to properly compensate hard-working staff.

I had been asked to emcee a handful of private and corporate trivia events over the past few years, mostly by bar regulars who came up to me after an evening of pub quiz. These events were almost always casual and informal, but I still devoted myself fully to customizing them as much as possible for the expected audience. The result I saw was amazing; whereas at my public bar trivia gigs the fun seemed to be derived from asking pop culture questions targeting the mostly 20s/30s crowds in attendance, at the private events I could go much deeper, and ask questions that ONLY the invited audience would know. Also, unlike the bar gigs, at these private events everybody knew each other. This added a fantastic element of camaraderie and competition, which I hadn’t seen before.

As such, I had been kicking around the idea of forming my own professional trivia events company for a while. However, unlike other fledgling live trivia entertainment vendors who were seeking to expand their reach to bars and restaurants, I wanted to create something specifically geared towards corporate and private audiences. The service would be fully-customized, produced by a professional event programmer (me), and emceed by NYC’s best trivia host (also me…!).

When the economy collapsed, I felt an urgency to put my ideas into action, and the vision for my venture started to take shape with much more clarity. I put a strategic plan together outlining exactly what I wanted to establish, and what my first year in business would look like:

Establish a Brand

  • Come up with a mission and vision
  • Choose a business name
  • Establish a business entity
  • Create a logo
  • Get some professional photographs taken
  • Put up a Website
  • Write copy for said Website
  • Establish a social media presence

Build Brand Credibility & Reputation

  • Develop a client list
  • Grow a loyal following
  • Obtain compelling testimonials
  • Acquire favorable press coverage

Look Towards the Future

  • Steadily build, expand and grow

I carefully went through all of the steps from the top, knowing that whatever decisions I made at that point would have vast implications on which direction my business would go. I chose my company name (a fun story in and of itself – click here to read more about it), hired a graphic artist to create a cool logo, and professional photographers to capture some “action” shots for the Website. I then found an accountant who helped me create a business entity, and got a new bank account set up. I spent hour upon hour writing and re-writing Web copy, and read everything I could lay my hands on regarding digital marketing and SEO.

On the first week of August, 2009 after several months of careful planning and preparation, I finally went “live” with my new endeavor. My Website went up, my social feeds were activated, and I started introducing myself as “David from TrivWorks” at my bar gigs – with my new logo & Website URL prominently printed on the answer sheets. When I think back to that week eight years ago, I remember it being an extremely exciting moment. I had built a business – a real, actual company – completely from scratch!

The plan back then was for TrivWorks to be a side business, nothing more. I was running it out of my apartment, tinkering day and night with the marketing, reading voraciously, and plugging it at my public gigs. I can still remember the excitement I felt when that first official inquiry came though: not from a regular approaching me at bar trivia, but an Email submitted through my Website contact form, from someone who had found me online. It was exhilarating – because what I had built…worked!

In the time since first hitting “go” on this enterprise, it has taken me places I could never have imagined back then. Within a year I had obtained over a dozen globally-recognized brands as clients, including PepsiCo, MTV, Lincoln Center and The Economist. I had received several glowing testimonials and references, been written about in Time Out New York, New York Magazine and other outlets, and produced trivia events for corporate groups throughout the tri-state area, and even Washington, D.C.

Most exciting, however, was that I had been approached via Twitter for potential collaboration by NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan, who in addition to being one of New York’s most well-known media personalities, had just come off of a 2-season run hosting VH1’s The World Series of Pop Culture. We announced our collaboration in 2010, and by 2011 Pat and I had produced the largest trivia night New York has ever seen, bringing 300 raucous pop culture trivia fans to The Bell House in Brooklyn.

By 2011, just two years after launching a starter Website from the desktop in my apartment, I was able to resign from 92Y and take TrivWorks full-time. Things have only grown since then: I’ve built an entire roster of hosting talent, including professional emcees and “Special Talent” emcees, expanded my offerings to include a range of trivia-based formats & experiences, and even relocated to Southern California to establish a West Coast & national presence.

And it all started with humble beginnings in a New York City apartment – eight years ago today!

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