Columbia startup combines charity with online ticket sales

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 | 3:59 p.m. CDT; updated 4:12 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 14, 2014

COLUMBIA — In an era of startups and entrepreneurs, Sean Spence decided to take a different approach.

Spence recently started EveryTicketGives, a company that hosts ticket sales online. It follows the same model as Eventbrite and StubHub, but with one big difference: It donates 50 cents of the company's service fees to a charity of the event host's choice.

The company charges the same service fees as comparable companies, and each event is given its own web page for ticket sales.

"It may take the world by storm, or like startups, it may cease to exist in 90 days," Spence said with a laugh.

He first had the idea for the company in 2011, when Spence owned an events company in Columbia called Community Events. He was continuously using online ticketing services and got to thinking that maybe he should just make his own.

When Spence had a significant relapse from multiple sclerosis, he had to stop his events business. However, he said he also started to put a greater emphasis on connecting a charitable mission to everything he does.

He held onto the idea for the company over the next few years and decided to pursue it in December after running the idea past his friend and EveryTicketGives' chief financial officer, Greg Wolff.

"I'd like to see it be an industry leader," Wolff said. "We'll have to continue to have unique features, a great website and add innovative people to the team."

Wolff and Spence spent several hours a week working on the business and after a few months, brought on the chief operating officer of the company, Michael Nichols.

The main component the trio have focused on is conscience-driven capitalism, meaning that every sale through the business triggers a donation.

If the entire online ticketing industry had the same business plan as EveryTicketGives, it would have donated hundreds of millions of dollars each year, Spence said.

"What if engaged in conscience-driven capitalism?" he said. "There would be single days that they would give $30 to $40 million to charity."

EveryTicketGives has already completed two events, both of which Spence planned and donated to a food bank. There are 21 future events scheduled, ranging in size from 10 people to 1,000 people. Some of these include events held by King's Daughters and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri.

Besides growing in the community, Spence, Wolff and Nichols would also like to expand the company nationally. The next stage for the next six to 12 months would include creating online box offices for places like The Blue Note and Ragtag Cinema.

"I wouldn't be an investor or an owner if I didn't think it was really going to take off," Nichols said.

Hardly a week goes by without someone in the community hosting a benefit, Nichols said. Now with the right mission and the right people, he said, he hopes this new company ends up with a large share of the market.

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