Industry Innovators 2022: Lola and Richard McClaney
How they got their start
Lola has worked in the event industry for over 13 years, ranging from owning her own event-planning company to working on the venue side as an event sales manager. Most recently, she's held a role in the tech sector, and has worked with brands like Amazon Studios, Amazon Web Services, Neuehouse, ABC Studios, Tesla, Sephora, Red Bull, W Hotels, Netflix, and Block (formerly known as Square).
"The recession of 2008 is oddly enough when I first step foot within the events industry," she recalls. "I was having trouble finding a full-time job within the industry, so I started my own events company—which ultimately led to many future opportunities within the events space."
Richard's background, meanwhile, "has largely been within the corporate retail space, specifically merchandising and marketing," he says. "I’ve held a variety of roles within that space over the past 12 years, which includes stops at some really exciting companies such as Target, Red Bull, and Amazon."
The two decided to join their various expertise in 2019, when planning their own wedding. "Richard and I had a personal desire to hire a diverse team of vendors to bring our wedding day to life—but we were finding it more difficult than we thought it should be," Lola remembers. "At that time, the ability to search for diverse professionals within events was a painful process. We struggled to find diverse businesses when utilizing other vendor list platforms, and ultimately, the dissatisfaction we felt on our journey inspired us to find a solution for others seeking diverse, quality talent within the event vendor landscape."
Ultimately, ourBLOC launched in early 2022. The site allows vendors to create a profile and upload photos and videos; they can also message clients directly through the service and study weekly website analytics so they can monitor traffic and track performance. In turn, clients can search the lists of diverse photographers, videographers, bartenders, DJs, event planners, venues, officiants, florists, rental companies, stationers, and caterers.
"Even though other event directories and platforms exist, there remains a huge disparity in the volume of diverse and non-diverse talent highlighted," Lola explains.
What innovation means to them
"Innovation is everything," Richard says. "Reflecting on our reason for launching ourBLOC, we understood there was a need to innovate within the existing space of vendor search. ... We have a lofty objective to become the No. 1 vendor list platform of choice for diverse professionals."
The duo frequently discusses how their business can become just 1% better every day, Richard adds. "We listen to our vendors. We listen to prospective clients using our site. Both groups are the users of our platform, and we want to ensure any feature, update, or product we roll out is authentic to what ourBLOC represents and improves the overall experience for our users."
The McClaneys cite ourBLOC's Feb. 2022 launched as their biggest accomplishment to date. "Another point that we’re extremely proud about is our cost structure," Lola adds. "Competitor platforms can require a substantial month-to-month expense for someone just getting started, which ultimately becomes a barrier to joining a vendor listing."
ourBLOC, though, offers a free, standard profile option. There's also a premium subscription model for $60 per month, which allows for unlimited photo albums of a vendor's work, prioritized vendor search results, hyperlinks to their own webpages and social media, and more. "We think our structure allows us to meet the needs of our vendors—whether they’ve just begun their entrepreneurial journey and are hesitant to subscribe to a monthly fee, or they're an events industry veteran looking to maximize their exposure and reach an extended audience.
Vision for the future
"Our hope is that technology will continue to open doors for underrepresented groups within the events industry," the duo says. "As technology improves and evolves over time, we hope that it inspires other creatives and tech professionals to take a leap, and create additional avenues for their voices and abilities to be seen and heard."