CHICAGO (MainStreet) -- Getting access to a luxury suite at a sports event such as the Super Bowl usually means signing a multiyear lease, often tying up millions of dollars of capital. But just as NetJets has done with private jets and HomeAway (AWAY) has done with vacation rentals, Suite Experience Group is matching unused skyboxes with renters, lowering barriers to suite access and opening the door for well-heeled executives and individuals to entertain in style without long-term commitments.
The man behind the business is Scott Spencer, whose path to luxury entrepreneurship was literally circuitous: after graduating from Cornell University, Spencer deferred a job at a prestigious consulting firm to follow his dream on the professional tennis circuit.
Scott Spencer is the entrepreneur behind the Suite Experience Group.
"It was really humbling to fly halfway around the world to places like India, China and Venezuela to play in tournaments and more often than not end up getting my butt kicked by someone I'd never heard of before," Spencer says.
Topping out with a world doubles ranking of 1,688, Spencer said the experience only made him more hungry to do great things in other facets of life, particularly in business. Having since worked in strategy consulting at
and private equity at
The Lessing Companies
, Spencer started an indoor advertising company, got an MBA from Harvard Business School and found himself ultimately thinking outside the box about being inside the skybox.
What motivates you?
From a professional perspective, the opportunity to help people create a really great, maybe even a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We're uniquely positioned to do that at Suite Experience Group, and it's something we don't take lightly. From a personal perspective, I'm inspired by people who work really hard to overcome meaningful obstacles and achieve great things, people like
father and son athletes Dick and Rick Hoyt.
How did you come to start Suite Experience Group?
When I was in my second year at HBS, I was considering launching a search fund. In the process of networking with prospective investors, I ended up crossing paths with the leadership team at
-backed ticketing company. They pitched me on launching a first-of-its-kind ticketing venture focused entirely on providing access to luxury suites on a game-by-game basis, as opposed to signing multiyear leases with venues. We made really great progress with the business, but the parent company soon found itself in trouble, and building a suite business was all of a sudden pretty far down their priority list. So I ventured out on my own and launched Suite Experience Group.
There's no greater motivator than waking up in the morning and realizing you won't make a single penny that day unless you put yourself out there and start selling ... but that's a skill I've been practicing from a young age. So on day one it was just me and my cellphone ... and in the first week of business I made a few great sales and started to put a foundation in place to build on. My fiance Lindsey even chipped in to help get the business off the ground. We still run a lean operation, but I'm fortunate to have some great salespeople that have taken on the majority of the day-to-day communication with our clients and prospects and do a great job taking care of our clients. We're going to continue to grow in 2012.
What advice would you give an entrepreneur?
I'm someone who has had a fair amount of classical training from a few fancy Ivy League schools and a big consulting firm. But those places didn't necessarily teach me the scrappiness and action-oriented thinking required to run a business. I had to learn to not build PowerPoint decks and Excel models to analyze every decision. As an entrepreneur, you have to err toward action -- pick up the phone and make it happen.
What's the best part of the job?
Back when I was a tennis player, you either won or you lost the match. It's the same in the suite business -- unlike a lot of other businesses, there's immediate feedback. You either make the sale or you don't. It's still a great feeling making a sale. I carry a gratitude rock in my pocket as a reminder to appreciate the success we've had so far ... but the truth is we're just getting started and I'm really excited for the ride that's ahead.
Describe your business model.
Picture yourself as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You've heard rumors that your competitors are pulling out all the stops to steal your biggest client. You wake up in a cold sweat realizing you've never actually taken the time to build a truly meaningful relationship with this client. What do you do and who do you call? CEOs, celebrities and event planners call Suite Experience Group, perhaps the world's most high-end ticket broker. We bring access to entertainment and experiences you just can't find anywhere else.
What if you want a luxury box at the Super Bowl?
No problem. A suite at the NCAA Final Four? Just a phone call away. A five-game suite package for your favorite baseball team? That's an easy one.
So just how do they provide this level of access?
It has taken years to build relationships with a network of suite owners at venues throughout the country who turn to Suite Experience Group to help resell their suites for events where they don't plan to use it themselves. In nearly every venue across the country, suites are sitting empty on a nightly basis. When you own a luxury suite at a baseball stadium, 81 home games a year is a lot of dates for you or your company to spend at the ballpark. We're here to help when suite owners decide they want to gain value from their underutilized asset that would otherwise sit empty.
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