How This New Platform Supports Diverse Event Vendors

While planning their wedding in 2019, Lola and Richard McClaney had hoped to hire a diverse team of vendors. But “at that time, the ability to search for diverse professionals within the event industry was a painful process,” Lola says. “What we imagined should have been a relatively easy search proved to be much more difficult.”

That dissatisfaction and frustration inspired the Chicago-based couple to create a new online platform—ourBLOC. Launched Feb. 1, ourBLOC seeks to support diverse event vendors via a platform that’s designed for those specifically seeking minority-owned businesses within the event industry. Even though other event directories and platforms exist, “the challenge with a lot of these platforms is the lack of diversity in comparison to the volume of non-diverse talent highlighted,” Lola explains.

ourBLOC currently hosts 70 vendors in markets including California, New York, Florida, Arizona and Texas, with plans to expand in the future. Right now, listed vendors include photographers, videographers, bartenders, DJs, event planners, venues, officiants, florists, rental companies, stationers and caterers.

In addition to their own personal wedding planning know-how, the couple also leaned on their combined talents and work backgrounds to bring the platform to life. With more than 13 years of experience in the event industry, Lola has founded her own event planning company as well as worked as a sales manager at a venue. Her husband boasts 11-plus years of retail and operations experience with notable companies including Target, Red Bull and Amazon.

As we began developing, we saw an increased focus on minority businesses from other vendor list platforms following the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020,” Lola says. “While we support any effort to promote diversity within the events industry, we did think it was important to create a platform built by minority entrepreneurs for minority entrepreneurs.”

This also meant creating an accessible, affordable online space. “The price tag associated with becoming a member or creating a profile can be a barrier to entry for some. We understand vendors are in different phases of their entrepreneurship journey so our platform offers two options to vendors,” Lola explains.

The platform offers both free and paid subscription options for vendors.Photo: Courtesy of ourBLOC.comThe free basic subscription option allows vendors to create a profile and upload two videos and five photos. Vendors also have the ability to message clients. The premium subscription includes the same offerings as the basic package, but starts at $60 per month.

This paid model allows vendors to upload up to five videos and unlimited photos, include links to social media channels and an external website and have the benefit of priority listing within search. In addition, the subscription model offers weekly website analytics so vendors can monitor traffic and track performance. All completed profiles include photos of the vendor's work, a brief summary of services offered, location, if they travel and price range.