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Jason Kapica on targeting the best market for expansion

On the surface, the business model behind Park n Party almost seems too easy. Let people reserve parking spots online for University of Michigan football games to save them some hassle on game day. Sit back and collect a profit.

The reality is not so easy. The Ann Arbor-based web startup is essentially creating a new market here (online event parking reservations) which requires promotion, getting independent parking lot owners onboard, and finding the right venue. Solving the football Saturday parking dilemma for fans is an obvious pain point at U-M. Finding the next market to move into isn’t as logical as moving onto the Division 1 football team the next town over.

Jason Kapica, co-founder of Park n Party, looks for a number of different things before seriously considering a new market. He looks into the strength of the fan following of that team. Who owns the parking lots near the stadium? Michigan State University owns most of the lots around its field so getting a toe hold there requires navigating a big bureaucracy. Also, how much of a pain is it to park at the game?

"In Madison (University of Wisconsin) parking is right downtown and it’s a nightmare," Kapica says. "Parking needs to be a pain for an event. That's where we can get a hold on the market."

Notre Dame is one of those types of places. Park n Party started to open that up as its second market last year but stumbled when the local partner didn’t pan out. The company started over again this year and has been enjoying better results.

"I work it from a grass roots level," Kapica says. "We have had a lot of success with that."

Which means speaking to local parking lot owners, fans, and other stakeholders. It also means keeping a close eye on the team’s online presence. SEO is the No. 1 way fans find Park n Party’s services. Enhancing that often means creating a presence with local online media.

"I look for blogs," Kapica says. "I found a couple of Notre Dame sports blogs. Not the big ones owned by CBS but the ones that are owned by some regular guys. I buy some advertising on those."

Right now Park n Party is focusing on Ann Arbor (its home) and South Bend (Notre Dame's home) for its business. It's also looking at other Midwestern college town venues with an eye for expansion.

"This year is going very well so far," Kapica says. "I have had my sights set on Madison."

- Written by Jon Zemke

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