We recently wrote a blog post entitled “20 Companies Making a Difference in the Pittsburgh Tri-State Area,” where we featured RoomLeopard, a local company that helps you find places to rent for hosting events and much more. Keep reading to find out what Michael Sobkowiak, COO of RoomLeopard, had to say about the company and what role it has played in the community.
- Tell me a little about your company. What inspired you to start a business in venue searching and booking?
In our previous positions at two local not-for-profits, we had to arrange hundreds of events from small receptions and workshops to large-scale events and fundraisers. We were constantly looking for and coordinating with venues across the region.
The tedious process followed a similar pattern, first searching for places that had spaces to rent, then trying to find the right contact just to learn the price and availability of a venue. After seeing other models in the marketplace work for other types of products (think Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb), we decided to create an online marketplace for short-term event rental spaces.
- Are there specific groups or businesses in Pittsburgh you cater to, or can anyone use RoomLeopard?
We have a very open-ended platform that allows for a wide range of rental spaces to connect with the various needs of the community. The venues that we currently offer include typical office conference rooms, 300 seat ballrooms, church common rooms, boats, athletic fields, theaters, yoga studios, and anywhere else you can rent a space for a few hours to a full day.
The usage of those spaces is equally wide ranging and includes simple board meetings, large fundraisers, baby showers, family reunions, workshops, poetry readings, and any other event where people need to get together.
- Do you foresee expanding your venue services outside the Pittsburgh area? If so, where else?
We are looking to roll the service out to a wider market but first we are going to focus on the Pittsburgh region so we can fully understand the market and connect with the widest range of venues and guests possible. This way we have a complete picture of the short-term rental community.
- Does your business have any local connections or ties to Pittsburgh? Why did you decide to start here?
All three of the founders, Mike Schiller, Michael Sobkowiak, and Kevyn Reinholt, have lived and worked in the community for many years. It is with these community connections that we decided to create RoomLeopard, which in turn, will better help connect the community.
- What are your thoughts on the future of event planning? Do you see it continuing to take an easier, online approach like your business has initiated?
Nowadays, people are busy and they like to work on projects at any time of the day. Think of all the things you can do or purchase online 24/7. That flexibility allows an individual to work on what they want, when they want.
For event space rental, that was not the case. With RoomLeopard, we make it easy to find information on a wide range of venues, and to see the available dates, amenities, and pricing. This transparency and ease of requesting a rental time should help to bring more people to the market.
- What are some of your favorite venues in Pittsburgh? Any secret spots or diamonds in the rough people don’t really know about?
Each venue has its own characteristics and makes a good fit for the right event. The 300-seat Syrian Shriner Ballroom wouldn’t be an ideal location for having a baby shower with 20 people but would be a perfect fit for hosting a band and their 300 fans.
I would venture all of the listings that we have are largely unknown by the general community. Too often these venues have no marketing funds to communicate to the public that they have venue rentals. Each of the spaces I have visited has its own unique component like old historic elements, beautiful views, helpful staff, great pricing, etc.
I think once the community starts to explore what venues are available for rental they will start to create new types of events because the spaces exist. Want to start a book club? There is a perfect space in Wilkinsburg, Mallenwood Manor (the old Singer Mansion) which was built in the 1800s and still has all of its original features. Maybe your theater troop is looking for a small theater for a series of weekend performances. Winchester Thurston in Oakland has two different theaters that are available to the community.
Every month we are adding new and different venues to RoomLeopard, so come back frequently to see what new options are available for your next event.
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