Whether you are traveling to New York City to see local sights or want to become a tour guide yourself, we know a guy. Meet Dom Gervasi, owner and event organizer of Made in Brooklyn Tours. After being laid off, he transformed his career into tour guide and found joy and community in the midst. He sets up walking tours as events to sell more tickets and boost his revenue.
Brooklyn is packed with tons of local makers and Gervasi reveals that borough’s crafts, foods and goods. His walking tours focus on the history and current movement of manufacturing around Brooklyn.
Gervasi: Like many, I got laid off. I was in high tech for many years doing sales and business development. At the start of my career I worked for manufacturers—an “outside salesman” visiting mostly financial institutions throughout the New York metro region. By the end of my career, I was inside mostly and my company was going bankrupt. After losing my job, I took time off and explored Brooklyn with fresh eyes. I wondered why manufacturing left and then discovered Brooklyn’s dynamic maker movement. How cool would it be to apply my business development experience with local makers—especially small businesses and start-ups? That’s how I got the idea about doing tours where the stars of the show are makers.
Brown Paper Tickets: What is it about Brooklyn that fascinates you?
Gervasi: I’m fascinated with all aspects of Brooklyn’s maker movement. It has many layers. For example, there are the “old school” and “new school.” The “old school” is typically a family business that began decades ago primarily serving an ethnic community. They’ve been at it for generations and are very good at what they do. The “new school” is composed of individuals and start-ups that have a unique approach. What they may lack in experience, they make up for with their creativity.
Brown Paper Tickets: There are tons of tour guides in NYC. What sets yours apart?
Gervasi: Made in Brooklyn Tours has a mission to promote Made in Brooklyn. I’m not a food tour or a shopping tour. There are no gimmicks like Segways either. Though I have one theme I do five distinct neighborhoods and even tours of the same neighborhood vary depending on who’s available.
Brown Paper Tickets: How did you find out about Brown Paper Tickets?
Gervasi: In early 2011, I considered selling tickets directly. Then I learned how that could ruin my credit. So, I started poking around the web to see what others were using—especially outside of NYC. I wanted to go with a company that thought outside the box (even if that box meant NYC) and I like that Brown Paper Tickets is fair trade. That means that the company is as concerned about customers as I am. Other Brown Paper Tickets’ competitors were more focused on price—especially how much they were going to charge me!—or had some kind of a gimmick. After a few phone calls to customer service I recognized right away that I was dealing with a company that knew my business. The people that work at Brown Paper Tickets are terrific—and experienced at running events themselves. So, they genuinely empathize with me.
Brown Paper Tickets: Biggest way Brown Paper Tickets helps you be successful? Words of wisdom to new event organizers?
Gervasi: Two things: Customer service and a versatile application. The customer service means headaches get resolved right away and the application means I can do a lot of stuff myself. You can’t do it all. Pick your partners very carefully and make customer service rather than ticket sales a high priority. If you pick a good partner you’ll have more time and energy to make your company and product better.
Brown Paper Tickets: What’s your biggest event challenge?
Gervasi: The challenge is getting more “buts in seats.” To stick with my company mission, the more people we have on the tour the better. I’d like to have an early bird special ticket pricing model that automatically escalates over time. Because pricing is done per event it’s a challenge to apply pricing like this across multiple events or even for one date in a series for an event. Bottom line: Early bird special for the first X # tickets would be great.
Want help setting up your own local tours or events? Brown Paper Tickets has a team standing by 24/7 to help.
Watch our video interview with Gervasi and other New York City food event organizers: