It didn’t take too many late night bus rides between Orlando and Miami before Brett Reizen realized his business model wasn’t working.
It was 2001 and Reizen, who’d attended Miami Country Day School and graduated with a business degree from the University of Miami, had just launched his own company, Entertainment Benefits Group (EBG), a corporate benefits program that provided travel and entertainment deals for companies and their employees.
While the idea was good, and the service valuable, his execution — shepherding busloads of workers to Disney for daylong trips — wasn’t scalable.
“We realized how much work it was, waking up at 4 a.m. and coming back at 2 a.m.,” he said.
Then it occurred to him. What doesn’t sleep? The Internet. So he turned to the Web, where the online ticket brokerage industry was starting to explode, and crafted a new business model, using technology that would allow employees to log on to purchase their own tickets. He also established local, round-the-clock call centers to ensure customer service.
Over the years, EBG built strong relationships with Disney World, Universal Studios, Cirque du Soleil and hundreds of other zoos, parks and attractions nationwide by providing solid sales through high-profile clients like IBM and Bank of America. For example, through its TicketsAtWork.com, EBG clients might save up to $17 on a trip to Legoland or purchase a ticket to Jungle Island that normally cost $34.95 for $27.
As his corporate business grew, Reizen found it hard to ignore the dramatic changes in the online, secondary ticketing business. In 2009, Forrester Research predicted that online secondary ticket sales would reach $4.5 billion by 2012. So, in 2005 and 2006, he leveraged the relationships he’d built with attractions and began providing the same kind of deals for the general public in Orlando, New York and Las Vegas.
Sales, as he predicted, took off. Just last February, the company sold more than 13,000 tickets to Cirque’s TOTEM show in Miami, Reizen said, selling tickets for as low as $38 that normally cost about $68.
Today, the Aventura-based company has a roster of 10,000 companies representing 40 million employees nationwide, Reizen said. Annual revenues, he said, are projected to top a half billion dollars in under two years.
With its 250 employees in Aventura, Orlando and Las Vegas, Reizen said EBG helped consumers save over $18 million last year and is on track to up savings to between $25 and $30 million this year.
In college, Reizen studied business, unsure of what he wanted to do. He interned at a local Internet marketing company and became their first employee, overseeing unique email campaigns that featured live performances by groups like Blue Man Group, he said.
“So I got Interscope Records and reached out to movie studios,” he said. “Me, as a 20-year-old kid trying to make something out of nothing.”
After about a year and a half, he moved to Boston, just to try out another part of the country, and continued working for the company. But he also began thinking about starting his own business. That’s when he came up with the idea for the “closed loop program for big companies.” Companies offered insurance benefits. So why not entertainment? The plan provided not only a benefit to companies, but provided venues with a target market of employed, often family-oriented customers. It seemed like a win-win on both sides of the equation.