Pamela Mirels, CultureHorde, Woman Entrepreneur

PMirels headshotI am always looking for fellow angel investors.  In the last few months I have stumbled upon more than a few that I have known but years but didn’t realize that they were making angel investments.  I do believe that I will see more of this and what makes me extremely happy is that these people were women who want to support other women.  I sat down with one of them the other day which was truly a treat and she introduced me to Pamela, a long time friend.  Pamela built Culturehorde, a private arts club that provides access to compelling, unique events in and around NYC.   She has done it without raising a dime.  That is extremely compelling and I am a huge fan of life style entrepreneurs.

Pamela grew up in Johannesburg and immigrated to Seattle, WA when she was six years old.  Her parents had gone to university in Seattle so it was a place where they felt comfortable. It was a time when 50% of the Jewish population in South Africa left.  I remember that.  I had a friend who’s father was a lawyer who represented a bunch of jews in South Africa at that time.  They began with sending over their art, valuables and eventually cash before departing to the states.  Pamela’s family ended up all over the world based on the visa’s they were able to get.  She now has family in Toronto, Buenos Aires and Sydney.

After a year in Seattle the family moved east to Westchester.  Pamela’s father is an orthopedic surgeon.  Her mom worked at a radio station in South Africa that reported on social issues.  Her mom is a social worker.  Harrison was their first stop in Westchester until a huge fire burnt down their home.  Then they moved to White Plains while building a house in Purchase.  Her memories of that time are traveling from relative to relative for the holidays, Passover in London, Rosh Hashanah in Toronto.

Pamela went to high school at the Yeshiva in NYC.  She commuted and through that experience spent a lot of time in the city.  After graduating she went to Cornell where she majored in a program called the college scholar.  The only requirement was she had to do a thesis.  She was able to take classes in literature, Spanish and government in any of the seven schools at Cornell.  As she puts it she was able to be dorky in everything.  She spent one semester her junior year in Seville becoming fluent in Spanish.

After graduating Pamela did not want to go back to NYC.  She was very idealistic.  She moved to DC without a job but did land an internship at the EPA.  She was passionate about the environment and thought this was a good first step.  She found the internship utterly depressing and didn’t see anything getting done.

She took a job with the Corporate Executive Board, a consulting agency that felt very much like a start-up.  Their motto was no consultant can solve your problems that you have to understand how to do your job.  They would connect CFO’s, CEO’s, CMO’s from large companies with their peers from others companies to have them teach other their best practices from KPI’s to management skills.  That created a unique venue because they were not competitively threatening.  Pamela stayed 5 years starting as an analyst and working her way up to Chief of Staff.  She even worked in India for a few months, opened up their Singapore office and worked in Sydney.  The company has 2000 people now.

Her Chief of Staff roll really opened her eyes to the general management of business.  She felt that she had something in her to do something entrepreneurial.  Instead of embarking on a business Pamela decided to go to the London Business School for two years to give her some time to think.  It was an amazing experience.  People from 65 different countries are there getting their MBA’s.  She actually went their with her boyfriend and that is the seed of the idea Culturehorde began.

She was in school, 28 years old and had an idea for an alternative wedding registry. People didn’t really want stuff as gifts but experiences.  She built a wedding registry for just that.  She really liked the service side of this business.  Her thought was you are about to embark on one of the biggest events of your life and you want to make sure your life is filled.  The experiences were anything from art memberships to wine tastings to opera tickets and even finding someone to clean your house.

The summer between her first year and second year she found out that this concept was really difficult to monetize. She graduated in 2012, went home and felt stuck.  She goes to see the movie Searching for Sugarman and it was during that film she had her aha moment.  Here is this South African story that she wants to bring to NYC.  Through six degrees she connects with his management.  She sets a date for April, putting everything on her credit card, to create this unique event.

Through this event the model became clearer.  She could do these elevated cultural experiences.  She built a team, did a soft launch for the event in January and started to sell tickets for April.  She realized a membership made the most sense because she could get the money up front to provide cash flow for events.  It was a total success.

Two years later Pamela has put on unique events that happen after hours in museum, around music and other things in the arts.  She calls herself a cultural generalist.  In many ways Culturehorde is just the evolution of what she began with the wedding registry concept – bringing people a more rich and fulfilling life.  The Rodriguez event (Sugarman) was such a success that they are now doing about 25-30 events a year.  Members like the diversity of the product.

The opportunities here are endless from large artists who want to do smaller events so they can go back to connecting with their audience to producing small shows.  The model is essentially a business to business model that really creates the business to consumer model.

Pamela is thinking big about where this goes next.  What I like is the intimacy around each event.  People are looking for more events where smaller like-minded communities exist.  It is the knee jerk reaction to the constant media connection vs human connection that is needed now more than ever.