How PartySlate’s CEO Julie Roth Novack Created a New Way for People to Plan Any Type of Event

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series” comprises stories, Q&As and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.

Julie Roth Novack is the CEO and co-founder of PartySlate, a photo-rich website where leading event professionals share their work and build their brand. From weddings and holiday parties to birthday parties and galas, event planners — can visit PartySlate to find new and unique party ideas, discover the best local vendors and venues, and build their event teams.

Julie was inspired and set out to create a Houzz-like website to address the $143 billion events industry. Since its founding in 2015, over 15,000 of the country’s top event professionals and venues have uploaded over 1 million event photos to their beautiful profile pages.  

In this Q&A, Julie shares the problems she’s solving in the event industry, how to make the connections you need to succeed, and advice for other entrepreneurs trying to scale their own company. 

Julie Roth Novack, CEO & Co-Founder of PartySlate headshot
Julie Roth Novack, CEO & Co-Founder of PartySlate

Q: Why did you choose to enter the events industry?

I have always believed that events are one of the best ways to inspire people and connect them to important causes. I hosted over 50+ large-scale corporate events and fundraisers while rising the ranks of the digital agency world. 

I became increasingly frustrated while planning a high-profile cancer research gala after spending hours online looking for ideas and venues, only to find wedding blogs, uninspiring vendor listing sites, and Pinterest dead-ends. After talking to long-time colleague John Haro for years about the need for an elegant solution to this problem, we put a business plan together for PartySlate. 


Q: What issues did you see in planning events before you started your company?

Planning a large-scale event is overwhelming, stressful, and time-consuming. One of the biggest challenges is finding a great venue that meets all of your requirements. I also found it difficult to envision how my event would look in the venue. Most venue directories are targeting engaged couples and they show only five or 10 photos, often of poor quality. I was planning corporate events and fundraisers so these websites weren’t helpful.

I also wanted to see which planners, photographers, and decor companies had worked in the venue before. This information was not available anywhere. Finally, when I went to look for new ideas, I could not find the names of the venues and vendors. I wanted a curated platform where I could get inspired — and find the best local event professionals and venues.    


Q: What problems were you trying to solve with your company?

As a two-sided marketplace, we are solving pain points for both the party host and the event company.  

For consumers, we know that it is stressful finding the perfect venue and lining up the right team to bring their vision to life. PartySlate is a beautifully curated platform where they can find new ideas, the perfect venue, and the best local event professionals — they can do everything all in one place. We are making it easier to find new ideas and that perfect venue for your next big event.      

On the other side of our marketplace, event professionals and venues have very little time for digital marketing and lack expertise in this area. Updating their website is time-consuming and expensive, and existing directory sites commoditize their services. These small businesses don’t have a system to organize, archive, and publish their photos.

With PartySlate, venues and vendors can build a free profile to share their professional photos, build their brands, and be discovered by people planning events within minutes. For those companies that want to grow their businesses, unlock SEO-friendly profile features, and have a dedicated customer success rep, they can buy a premium membership.   


Q: In 2019, only 3% of venture capital was invested in female-only founded companies. Did/do you feel welcome and accepted as an underrepresented group in the VC space?

I am very fortunate to have incredible male and female investors who have been supportive and believed in our vision since day one. That said, it is hard to pitch a room of all-male VCs when the topic of events comes up. I often would hear: “Let me ask my wife what she thinks because she loves parties” or “I’m not sure I can get excited about the events industry.” After explaining that this is an $800 billion global industry, those same rooms of VCs did start listening. I am happy to see more and more women VCs at the table. This will make a difference.    


Q: How did you network, find communities, and make the connections you needed to succeed?

I have been a big networker since my early days as a party promoter in Chicago on the weekends, while I rose to the ranks of the digital agency world during the week. I joined 1871, the leading Chicago startup incubator, to become more immersed in the tech community. We were also recruited to join TechStars, which increased our exposure to top VCs. I also joined high-profile event industry associations and worked hard to get speaking engagements.      


Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a founder and do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs trying to scale their own company?

Founding a company can be stressful. But if you love what you do and you believe in your vision from the bottom of your heart, no one can stop you. You must feel so much passion for the problems you are trying to solve that a tough day or a tough week cannot bring you down. 

You need to surround yourself with people who complement your skillset and are equally passionate about your mission and vision. Hire people that are smarter than you and recruit for core values.     


Q: What challenge are you most proud of overcoming in your career?

I’m incredibly proud of how our team stayed strong during the pandemic and helped our industry full of small businesses when they needed it most. Since the first week of the shutdown, PartySlate hosted digital marketing webinars to help our industry refocus on their brands. The brand lift we saw from giving back to our community has been incredible.  


Q: How did you connect with VCs?

Having over 15 years of enterprise sales experience has really helped me with fundraising. I have always leveraged my network to get introductions, and I’m not afraid to make a very personal direct outreach. I mentor many female founders. I always tell them not to give up until they have tried at least 10 times to get a meeting. And if the meeting is important, my advice is to “be in town” so you can meet in person, instead of having a call. I know Zoom is the mass market now, but nothing compares to an in-person meeting.  


Q: What qualities do you possess that you think have contributed most to your success?

There are three qualities that have helped me in my startup journey:   

  1. Perseverance: You must stay focused on your vision and not let obstacles get in your way. Enjoy the journey even when it is hard and keep going.
  2. Passion: Startups are hard and can be a bumpy journey. You must love what you do and inspire your team to share your passion for the problems you are solving.  
  3. Customer obsession: Even after 5 years, I still meet with at least three customers a week to learn about their pain points first hand, uncover opportunities, and actively listen. At every networking event or industry conference, I always make time to ask questions and peel the onion to uncover new ways we can add value. Everyone on your executive team should talk regularly to customers — it isn’t just the job of the sales team.
  • Originally published October 25, 2021, updated April 26, 2023