Live Eventfully showcases unique highlights of GR
New business hopes to expand events and tours by second year.
A Grand Rapids startup is giving the grand tour of the city for visitors and residents alike.
Live Eventfully, a full-service tour and event-planning company, officially launched in 2013 with the purpose of assisting corporations and nonprofit organizations with special events and providing guided tours for all clients.
With more than 10 years of experience in corporate and nonprofit event planning, founder Carol Distel, a New York native, moved to Grand Rapids and began creating educational and engaging tours of the city for visitors.
“I started doing some work, actually, through Grand Rapids Trolley. They brought me in to do some events,” said Distel.
“I went out on my own, officially, last year so I could actually do the tours for multiple different companies,” she said. “I also help as sort of an ‘on-call’ type of event person that you would bring in — so, for example, (I might) be hired to be an event coordinator for one particular event for an organization or nonprofit. … So there were two sides of the business I was trying to encompass at the same time.”
Some of the types of events include: corporate and fundraising galas, awards and recognition dinners, business or board meetings, client or employee outings, and grand openings or ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
The guided tours of Grand Rapids range from a tour of significant landmarks and sculptures, to a craft beer tour of area microbreweries or a tour of ArtPrize venues located beyond the heart of downtown.
According to Distel, Live Eventfully works closely with Grand Rapids Trolley Co. and receives client referrals from the business when customers are interested in tours. In return, Live Eventfully uses the trolley services for groups larger than eight people.
“We are going to try to do a lot of cross marketing,” said Distel.
Live Eventfully targets both convention clients arriving in Grand Rapids for an event and various local businesses interested in events or tours.
Doug Small, president of Experience GR, said Grand Rapids has had a pretty substantial increase in tourism recently, thanks to both the convention market, which brings large numbers in for short periods of time, and the leisure market.
“Both those markets have led to record numbers for the last three years in a row when it comes to hotel performance,” said Small. “We have seen our restaurant scene grow. We’ve seen the Downtown Market come onto the scene — which is certainly a tourist attraction and our convention clients love it, too.”
According to Small, in response to the tourism growth, small businesses like Live Eventfully are starting up and existing businesses also benefit from visitor expenditures.
“That’s exciting for them to see, and we’re happy for them,” said Small. “It’s fun to see that Grand Rapids is starting to become a destination. We are even seeing increased traffic from the Chicago area.”
Experience GR is an organization that markets Grand Rapids and the lakeshore as a premier convention and visitor destination.
“Being a partner with Experience GR, I know when the conventions are coming into town, so I can market to those people, as well as businesses,” said Distel. “Because a lot of businesses just want to have an outing; they either want to do a beer hop, bar hop, or they are just looking to give something back to their employees. We have a client who every year brings in their client and does a three-hour ArtPrize type of tour — a thank you to their customers.”
As the sole investor of Live Eventfully, Distel said the goal of the first year is to break even and hopefully invest back into the business. Looking toward the second year, Distel said there are aspects she would like to expand.
“The event side I would like to expand, and maybe do tours up to Spring Lake and Holland, so it is not specific to Grand Rapids,” said Distel. She said Live Eventfully is planning to expand its ArtPrize outdoor venue tour for 2014 in conjunction with Grand Rapids Trolley, and also add a walking tour.
Another aspect Distel wants to expand is the tours that feature small businesses in West Michigan, such as the food tour. In bringing clients to local small businesses, Live Eventfully showcases Grand Rapids products and shops in the hope of expanding the client base of that business.
“I enjoy finding new businesses and look for ways to collaborate,” said Distel.
As someone interested in local history, Distel said the most enjoyable aspect of Live Eventfully is hearing clients share their personal history and connection to the city.
“The best is when I have clients who have lived in the area and moved away, and they grew up, say, in the ’40s, ’50s, ‘60s, and they tell me stories of what Grand Rapids was like when they were growing up,” said Distel. “For example, I had a woman on one tour who went to high school and the University of Michigan with President Ford. … I put the microphone in front of her and just slowly started interviewing her.”