Katherine Frost is the founder and CEO of ORO, an all-in-one planning software designed to help event planners efficiently manage their events. She began her career in sales for a destination management company and later ventured into the wedding industry, where she had her own company. Through her own experience and conversations she had with other planners, she realized the need for a platform that would help with the organization and streamlining aspect of event planning. From there, she created ORO.
What is ORO all about?
ORO is an all-in-one planning platform designed for planners that value efficiency. Planners are able to tailor what their client has access to on their very own app. The features include a vendor and contract management system, tagging timeline feature, comprehensive budget with a payment schedule, and a dynamic floor plan. With all these features combined, planners are able to access each event’s details at their fingertips. We designed this for planners because we are planners.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
I grew up in a family that liked to host parties. We had engagement parties, nonprofit events, tea parties, and school functions. I was able to start organizing the buffet flows and participating in the parties when I was about 7. Rarely were there any children at these events. I would start making myself useful by picking up plates and glasses that were around. When I went off to college, I became social chair for my sorority for two years and realized there was a whole career path for planning parties! I quickly dove into the deep end and started working for a Destination Management Company (or DMC) and worked with the convention traffic into the Denver area and also the surrounding mountain towns. I loved working with conventions but I always had a drive to start my own company.
In 2015 I made this dream a reality and focused on luxury weddings in Vail and Beaver Creek, local corporate events, and nonprofits. I would talk to others in the industry seeing what they used for tools to help streamline their processes and we were all stuck in excel and using a few platforms here and there. I started to think that there had to be a better way! As a planner, I was wondering why there seems to be an app for everything but not an app to help me plan my events more efficiently? The lightbulb went off and I started to interview different developers and found one that I grew up with at the end of the day. It took us two years to come up with the design and all the functionality to create ORO but it truly is an all-in-one planning platform for planners.
In my wildest dreams, I never would have guessed I would go from planning events to supporting planners, but I love this transition and look forward to evolving as the industry evolves.
What was the biggest problem you encountered with your business and how did you overcome it?
I don’t think I am alone in thinking covid has been the greatest challenge thus far. Not knowing the full-time frame of the pandemic before events could be in person again has been hard to plan ahead and get where we need to go. We started to focus on the tech side more and add more tools on our end that we were originally going to wait on. So it was good that we were able to refocus our efforts and move in a positive direction.
What were the top mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?
Mistakes are made daily but it’s a sliding scale of how big the mistake is. No one could have predicted a pandemic that would kill hospitality and lucky or unluckily technology takes much longer to build than even we expect.
We started beta testing about the time the pandemic had started, so about a year ago now, and while people were at home, they had events that were being moved at a rapid pace. I have planner friends that moved back 6 months, a year, or even two years. Planners had their hands full and we had to learn how to adapt to these changes on our end. We also had to adapt to the gross reality that people wanted to wait out the pandemic when conferences were canceled through 2021 by the summer of 2020. So this put events in a holding pattern. While people want to get married or have their nonprofit events and others, it was impossible to pull the trigger to sign any vendors because the world has been closed. But instead of hitting pause on our own efforts, we redirected our efforts and chose to be optimistic that events would come roaring back and people would need help keeping up with the demand.
What is one thing that you do daily to grow as an entrepreneur?
I always like a challenge, whether it’s training for a marathon and planning out the runs in my calendar or closing a certain number of deals in a week. It varies for me if it’s big or small but I am an entrepreneur because I enjoy challenges. My calendar has my entire day planned out with meetings or important to-do list items so that I don’t forget anything. I try to meet with several new people a week and learn from them. It could be completely unrelated to business but everyone has a story and I love to learn from these people. I learned a long time ago that no one likes the pushy salesman, my product isn’t right for everyone, but for those that it is, is enough for me.
What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
My first business idea was to start an event planning company that focused on luxury weddings, local corporate and nonprofit events. I was, of course, terrified as I had already left my job working for a major planning firm and didn’t know what I was doing. But I took one day at a time and met with people that I knew and respected in the industry to get their insights and listen to their advice. I slowly started to grow my company and got to the point that I could not handle it alone with planning 2-6 events a month. I had personal relationships with my clients and was referred to others because I was able to make all of my clients feel like they were my only client. So when it came to this point the lightbulb went off for ORO and I knew there had to be a better way for me to communicate with my clients and vendors while having all the details for the events right at my fingertips.
What is the one thing you wish you knew before starting your business?
Before starting ORO, I had no idea how long it actually took to build a productivity tool let alone a great productivity tool. I have an amazing team and we all work together extremely well with our diversity of talents. I think our product has evolved so much, for the better, while we started building and where we are now that none of us really knew how long of a project this took to get to beta testing. I think people forget the most basic phrase sometimes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” could never be truer words when it comes to tech. To make a product that looks nice, runs well, and does what you need it to do takes much longer than I originally thought so I wish someone would have told me it takes less time to build a house than a great tech platform.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
ORO has done very well networking. We are a social company and like getting to know people and what their specific business is and to share information about the ORO platform. Having another company that ORO grew from made talking about ORO a natural conversation starter.
If you only had $1000 dollars to start a new startup, knowing everything you know now, how would you spend it?
Well, first I would have business cards designed and printed. Since I love to talk to people and am happy to meet people for coffee all day, this would be a way for people to remember me and contact me after we meet.
Next, I would buy a domain name and design a website. With the rest, I would file for an LLC and open up a bank account. I would also buy a new outfit or at the very least some comfortable professional shoes and a hot blazer. When we look good we feel good and when we feel good, it means it’s a great day for a sale.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
If you haven’t left your current job then you should because you won’t be hungry enough for the first sale as long as you’re collecting a paycheck. I think the best entrepreneurs just dive right into the deep end and never look back. They could pivot or tweak what is going on but at the core, entrepreneurs have to have a lot of drive to keep going because the “hustle” is real. I would also invest in technology, it is constantly changing but technology is a big part of why people do business together
What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
I love checklists. I even make a grocery list so I have the satisfaction of checking off the item that I purchase. So every day I have a checklist of what I need to accomplish for the day and enjoy checking off each item as they get completed.
What is your favorite quote?
“Go big or go home”
The slogan for my home state of Texas but has really become a life motto of mine. In 2015 I quit my planning job with no prospects of another job and wasn’t even thinking of starting my own company, I just wanted a change. My mom and my favorite florist saw me a few days after this and I was thinking I really messed up and just quit my dream job. My mom and Kam, the florist, say, no you got this! You plan great events, start your own company! It really didn’t take too much more convincing after that and the next day I was printing business cards and doing research on how to make a great website. I knew failure wasn’t an option so I was going big! I feel like I did the same thing diving into the tech space, in an unknown, uncharted area but I have no regrets and plan on continuing to go big.
Besides the obvious social media tools available, what are the top 3 most useful tools or resources you’re currently using to grow your business?
Networking, while it might be digital at the moment, once live events can happen everywhere again, then talking to people in person will be the greatest way to sell our product.
Another is advertising and marketing and this takes some time to get right. We are constantly fine-tuning our messaging and ad campaigns to appeal to different demographics.
Attending events seems silly but with a tech platform that makes event planning more efficient, the best way to talk to planners about how they planned this specific event and how ORO can help them with the next one.
How is running a company different than what you thought it would be?
I was once told, it’s lonely at the top. Every win is a personal victory and even if someone on my team closes a deal, or has a breakthrough with how to build our efficiency tool, it’s such a great day! But this doesn’t happen every day, the grind is constant, I might step away from my phone but even on vacation, I am still working. I am always selling my platform and for me, that is what I live for but it’s a different mindset from working for someone else and completely turning off when you take vacation days. When you’re in charge you know that if you sell what you do while on vacation then it was well worth it and more income for you at the end of the day.
How can readers get in touch with you?
I’d like to think I am a very approachable person. I am that friendly person at a bar that is happy for new faces to sit in the empty chair next to me or happy to talk to people after a yoga class. My parents used to say I could talk to a stop sign, so I very much like to converse with people in a variety of forms. In-person, via email, or everyone’s new favorite, digitally. My information is on oroplanner.com and I am happy to learn about new people or give one on one platform walk-throughs.
ORO’s website also features blog posts that feature advice for brides and newly engaged couples looking for help while planning their big day. These blogs are great because they are tips I would give any friend or client that is preparing for their event.
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