I had the pleasure of interviewing Benjamin Roshia of Billfold. Billfold was built in 2016 by a dynamic trio consisting of two event operators, and a software developer. Stas Chijik and Benjamin Roshia managed l sales and licensing for some of the most attended warehouse parties in Brooklyn back in 2011. That’s when they came across a realization of what seemed like a never-ending problem- long lines and slow transaction speeds. That’s when the idea of a universal form of payment sparked. They teamed up with Albert Akbashev, whose background is in design & technology, and began testing in up-and-coming venues. The three created Billfold in a tiny apartment in Ridgewood, Queens, and since have acquired hundreds of clients including MoMa PS1, Brooklyn Mirage/ Avant Gardner, Knockdown Center, Anheuser Busch, Matte Projects, and more.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When we opened our first bar, One Stop Beer Shop, we shortly began licensing and managing sales for BangOn NYC- a warehouse party that catered to over 3,000+ attendees. Eventually, the word spread amongst the industry and we began to cater more warehouse parties and fashion events. Some notable clients were Ladyfag, Matte Projects, Cityfox, All Day I Dream, Jeffrey New York, The Brooklyn Mirage and Elements festival. After spending years catering large volume events and festivals we realized that there was no point of sale system that offered all the system features we needed. In 2016 we partnered up with Albert who has an extensive background in the tech industry and some very established clients. The three of us decided that with Stas and my extensive experience in operating large events and Albert’s experience in tech we would make a great team. Stas and I worked endlessly with Albert and our development team explaining how the system needs to operate and eventually beta testing it at our events. We beta tested it at many of our small 300–500 person events and eventually after a year of making improvements and changes to the system we fully rolled it out for 2017 summer season at The Brooklyn Mirage/Avant Gardner which has a 6,000+ capacity. There we saw a 45.2% increase in beverage sales by implementing Billfold. We created the system to make our operations more efficient and we expected to see an increase in our sales revenue however, 45.2% was far beyond what we expected. We have seen as much as a 67% increase to date and as we roll our more features we are excited to see that number grow.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes our company stand out is the fact that we are operators and the system we created was for our venue and for other operators. It is common to come across tech intended for the hospitality industry but does not embody everything our industry needs. Most systems are created by tech folks that do not fully understand all the needs of high volume events whereas the premise of our system is that it was designed for event operators by event operators.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We were doing a 4,000 person event at a new venue we have never worked with and the building IT person assured us that their network was sufficient and accessible all over the venue. The day we were setting up the system we quickly learned that was not at all true and that most bars did not pick up a wifi signal. I had to run out and drive all over to buy enough MiFi devices to run over 30 POS tablets at multiple bars. This was a great learning experience for us because now when we do deployment and our own team makes sure the IT requirements onsite are sufficient for our needs and we have developed a WiFi partner festifi.co whose company supplies WiFi for festivals and events nationwide.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self what would you tell him and why?
I would tell him that all things seems simpler at first glance than when you actually get to work on them. But I guess it’s that foolishness that keeps the entrepreneurial spirit alive. If I knew of all the roadblocks before I got started then I probably would have been far more hesitant on creating Billfold and embarking on what was a lot of trial and errors and time involved in creating what now is Billfold. This was a lot harder and more time consuming than we as operators thought it would be however, in the end it was worth it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Our success is a collaborative effort of all people in our lives and more often than not, just luck. A particular story goes back to our catering days when a friend reached out to us to get a catering license for a new event promoter in town. He passed on the opportunity because his business partners were not ready to take on such a large client, so he came to us since we had the experience and the team. Little did we know this was the start of our road into the Brooklyn Mirage together with the promoter Cityfox.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Social responsibility has always been at the top of mind for us. Within our business we have always believed in taking care of our staff and treating them as family. No position was to high or too low for us, everyone has always been equal. For that reason we would always, as gratitude, plan staff vacations and outings where all things were on us. This was always great for team building and has always driven good results back at work. Besides always being socially responsible with our employees, we have supported initiatives that are important to us. In our bar and venues we have done many fundraisers to help support those in need, most recently we did a large initiative to help with the Amazon forest fire relief. Now we are working on a solution within Billfold that will allow event organizers to do fundraisers for their own causes by allowing customers to donate leftover change on each transaction. I believe in partnership with Billfold event organizers across the country will be able to help contribute to many noble causes, and we are very excited to release this feature!
You are people of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
BILLFOLD GIVE: Billfold Give provides a convenient way for customers to donate their change and round up to the whole dollar while spending money at events. We give event operators and venues the seamless capability to incorporate philanthropic outreach in their daily business operations. Billfold Give offers event attendees the opportunity of partying with a purpose and feeling good while doing good. Billfold Give also enables attendees to donate full dollar amounts at the bar checkouts to specific charities associated with the event.
“Billfold has used our technology for the last three years to make it easier for event goers to purchase food and beverages at large festivals and venues. As we spoke to friends involved with nonprofits we realized that our team could build a system within Billfold that could directly help, leveraging the same efficiencies used for buying drinks, but helping people donate to important causes, that’s why we came up with Billfold Give.
Billfold Give now provides customers the choice to round up change or give a small donation with just the tap of their wrist. Philanthropy is an important principle at our company and for that reason we are happy to consider any charitable partner.”
What are your “3 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You will be handling shipping logistic issues often such as working with customs in different countries and problem solving for mistakes made by shipping companies. This is important to know because you will have to dedicate more bandwidth to deal with this. We just solved an issue with customs in Costa Rica while we had almost 200 POS terminals in transit heading to BPM Festival.
- Every client has a different approach and that needs to be taken into consideration when working with them because some clients will require more time to work with than others. In short, you do not want to work with every potential client that comes to the table. We can generally accommodate specific requests to tailor the system to certain events but some require too many development hours and do not make financial sense for us as a company to focus on. It is important to stay on track and follow your road map.
- Always reach out to your network and let people know what your needs are because you never know who can help your company grow. Whenever we are looking to expand our team or gain more clients we reach out to our networks and ask. Recently, Ben put a message on Facebook asking his network who can connect him to the owner of BPM and after a few hours he had a friend reach out and make the connection with another friend who was involved with the festival.
If you could meet anyone either living or no longer with us for breakfast or lunch who would it be and why?
We would like to meet Stevie Nicks for breakfast and hear first hand about all their trials and tribulations as a band that has been touring since the 60s. Fleetwood Mac is by far one of the greatest rock bands and Stevie is arguably their most important band member. We just recently saw them on tour when they played at MSG.
How can our readers follow you on social media and what is your website?
Our website is: www.BillfoldPOS.com