Emma Peterson Of Tikly Talks Cheap Tickets And Des Moines Startup Culture

What does a former band manager decide to do after feeling the frustration of the ticketing industry?  Launch a startup with a flat rate ticket fee of 10% per ticket or $7.50 for tickets over $75. Tikly is a Des Moines, IA based startup founded by 22 year-old CEO Emma Peterson. After managing The Nadas, Peterson decided it was time to use her managing talent towards something beneficial to artists, venues, and consumers.



High prices and hidden fees from venues and large ticketing platforms take revenue away from performers world-wide. Corporate ticketing platforms may even charge up to 50% per ticket which nowadays, doesn’t seem like the best way to go about it considering that well established comedians like Louis C.K. have taken to selling tickets to their own shows.


We spoke to Emma about getting tikly up and running, her “workcations,” and the value of support and mentorship in the startup process :



So, what were the early days of Tikly like really?

All sorts of fun! This is my first company so it was an amazing introduction to the world of business. Since day one, I have been surrounded by fantastic mentors in the Des Moines area. Everyone ranging from the Dwolla team to StartupCity Des Moines and the Greater Des Moines Partnership have had my back.


How did you come to decide about launching Tikly?

The decision to start Tikly was easy—there was a clear problem with the ticketing industry, so many ticketing companies were comfortably falling into the industry standards, and artists were in need of a way to sell tickets directly to their fans. As I mentioned, I’ve always been surrounded by really fantastic mentors and it was these individuals that helped guide me to the right resources and towards having the right conversations as I moved forward. In July of last year, I brought on my business partner, Brian Hemesath and things have been going swimmingly ever since. We’re doing something really cool. Our business is a lot of fun and our clients are incredibly talented entrepreneurs.



And did you get strong support from your family or friends?

Absolutely. I remember having a conversation over a holiday early in 2011 at a family lunch. My parents, siblings, cousins, aunt and uncle were all present and I said something to the effect of, “That guy from Dwolla thinks I should start a ticketing company.” There was no immediate negativity but instead the questions were “Why? How will it be different than Ticketmaster? How will you build it? Will you still travel with the Nadas?”


Since then, it’s just been great. My family is a pretty music-focused group so they’ve enjoyed taking up the ‘let’s change the industry’ flag by attending shows sold via Tikly.


So how did you handle the challenges early on in Tikly during the early days?

Mentors. I have a degree in Communication from the University of Northern Iowa. Also, I worked for a video game company as well as a record label out of college. My professional experiences were fantastic but more marketing focused and a lot fewer excel spreadsheets!


I learned quickly the best thing I can do for myself is to know when I don’t know something and then find someone who does know. The network of intelligent and supportive people that I have has really propelled Tikly forward in a cool way while providing me a valuable crash course in all things business.



And speaking of business, did you begin with funding or was Tikly self funded?

Brian and I have been bootstrapping this thing since day one. Our company has also been profitable since day one, so we haven’t taken on any outside funding.


So you started Tikly yourself then?

Yeah, when Tikly was launched, it was just me. I had the support of Ben Milne at Dwolla and he helped me get started on the right foot but beyond that, Tikly was a solo endeavor until July of last year when I brought on Brian as a partner. One year later, Brian and I are still just as dedicated to the company and we are happy to work closely with a couple interns and dedicated consultants.


What will Tikly be like in five years?

Awesome! We already have a strong roster of artists, venues, and event organizers. We’ve sold tickets in ten states and two countries. I hope to see that roster grow and our reach expand. My goal is to grow Tikly from Des Moines, Iowa and to rock a more ‘coastal company’ from the land of no coast.



What lessons have you learned from running Tikly?

Basically, that there is extreme value in proving a concept, you need a team to be successful, and you have to be nimble when it comes to timeline. Also, surround yourself with good people and never be afraid to say ‘I don’t know.’


What inspires you?

Simple. Good music, strong communities, and great people.


What does being successful mean to you?

‘Being successful’ means reaching goals while doing well while maintaining a sense of self and happiness. I believe there are varying levels of success and I feel that thus far, as a person I have seen a lot of success. As a company, Tikly has also reached great levels of success but there is certainly a long, awesome way to go for this company.


As for me, I’m 22—I’ve got plenty on my ‘to do’ list in the way of achieving success.



And what advice would you share with someone considering starting up their own business?

I would say, talk to people. Just because you think you have a great idea, doesn’t mean other people will care. Don’t be too caught up in your own mind and how you think things should work that you’re unable to really hear the people you work with. Define your internal company goals – what is the one motto that everyone unites under?


And of course, surround yourself with the right people.


Do you have a favorite author, artist, or musician?

Favorite author: JK Rowling – I love Harry Potter.

Favorite artist: Van Holmgren – He’s a great friend, local artist & has provided his talents more than once to tikly posters & tshirts.

Favorite musician: The Nadas – These guys are my bestfriends & family. They have inspired me for a long time. When I was five years old, I asked my dad to buy me their record. Fast-forward seventeen years and they were my original inspiration for Tikly. We work together daily and they are really amazing musicians. There isn’t another band I’ve listened to more and even after all this time, they’re still my favorite band to see jam live and in my apartment.



So how do you relax or unwind?

I listen to music, go to shows, and spend time with friends & family. If I need a real break, I shut the computer down and take a nap.


Are there any mobile apps that you find particularly useful?

I’ve become a big fan of the Facebook Pages app and of course Instagram to capture memories.


If and when you have time for a vacation, where do you like to go and with whom?

I don’t take many vacations but I’m often on what I refer to as “workcation” – this basically means I work just as much for Tikly, just from a different location that hopefully boasts better weather than home. Workcations for me range from trips to SXSW or Folk Alliance International to touring with the Nadas to Evergreen, Colorado.


What country would you like to visit that you’ve never been to and why?

Ireland, because my favorite place in the world is Edinburgh, Scotland and I am certain that Ireland would be just as beautiful, historic, and inspiring.


Do you speak any languages in addition to English?

I speak French. I took six years of French classes throughout my high school years.



What trick or “life hack” have you learned that helps you balance your work with your personal life?

Honestly, I balance my work and personal life by combining the two— my favorite hobby is managing the Nadas; touring with them and working on their future is what I do in my free time. As you can imagine, that hobby places me in a lot of great opportunities to talk tikly with artists and venue owners. I love music, live events, and community building. My jobs rock and feed directly into all three of those passions.


So perhaps my life hack is- do what makes you happy and spend time with the people that make you better.


Photo Credits

TheNadas.com / Tikly.co / Uni.edu