Steve Denker earned a B.B.A. in marketing at Hofstra, where he was involved with the Hofstra chapter of the American Marketing Association and was a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. Today, Denker, a Pennsylvania native, lives in Atlanta, GA, and is co-founder and COO of Beach.com, a website launched in November 2011.Do you have a favorite Hofstra memory?
I had a great experience at Hofstra and met many of my lifelong friends there. Spring weekend at Hofstra my senior year was a great memory. I remember perfect weather, live music, a ton of people out having a good time, and knowing that it was all ending soon so I really took it in. The Hofstra alums from back then who I’ve remained close to include David Wolfson [’93], Mark Pinocci [’91], Howard Brill [’91], Mitch Weinstein [’92] and John Mikes [’91], to name a few. We were all ZBT brothers.
How did you come to relocate to Atlanta?
I had an offer from the Aramark Corporation prior to graduation. There were opportunities with the company in Atlanta, Denver and San Jose. With the 1996 Olympics coming to Atlanta, I thought it would be a strategic career move to head down south and not only work as hard as I could to learn their business, but also align myself with as many large brands as possible. As it turns out, my next career move was to The Coca-Cola Company, directly related to relationships made during my time with Aramark.
How did the idea for Beach.com come about?
With the global interest in beach-related travel, as well as the millions of people living in beach destinations, there was a need for a complete beach portal providing local content, innovative products and expert technology.
What differentiates your website from other similarly themed sites? Who do you see as your audience?
Beach.com’s unique local content is derived from both local destination experts and consumer-generated opinions. There are social applications to solicit friends’ opinions as well. Consumers can weigh all this information to make informed decisions as to the vacation destination, hotel or vacation rental, restaurants, and activities. Beach.com manages all plans on a proprietary platform that can be shared with friends and family, with updates and reminders sent through a choice of preferred communication options.
The content is managed through our global distribution network. We have partnered with the top sites in many destinations to write original content, provide local recommendations, and answer questions through our destination forums. While some of these distributors, like St. Barth Properties and HiltonHead.com, do have a strong local presence, it’s in all of our best interests to provide the most objective content available.
Beach.com is a lifestyle site, not just a vacation booking engine. The compelling value to users is the ability to search global destinations, research accommodations and things to do, select and book hotels or vacation rentals, ask questions and seek expert local advice, receive customized local deals and offers, and share the experience. Beach.com offers its business partners the opportunity to increase traffic, revenue and branding from a targeted and loyal consumer base.
What are the challenges of starting a new business in this economy? Also, why do you see this as a good time to take a chance on offering this new travel/lifestyle service?
I believe the challenge in any economy is not just coming up with a strong idea that fills a void in the current marketplace, but having the ability to execute that business plan. Today’s largest challenge for start-ups is capital raising. Surrounding yourself with an experienced management team with a track record of success is the key to meeting this challenge. While some may say that the existing competition in the online travel market would make any positive disruption nearly impossible, we look at it as a tremendous opportunity. Beach.com has the ability to become a destination site independent of major search engines, deliver the best value proposition to users from beach destinations around the world, and create sustaining value to its shareholders.
What advice would you offer current Hofstra students or recent graduates who are hoping to succeed in business and possibly start their own companies?
My advice would be to seek experience in the core functional areas of business before immediately going out on your own. I worked at different companies prior to co-founding Beach.com, including positions in operations and management, marketing and planning, sales and advertising, and most recently business development and finance. All of the experience, including exposure to great managers and poor ones, helped shape my approach to how Beach.com will become a global travel and media company.
Be accountable in everything you do, always negotiate, never compromise your integrity, and return all calls and emails – you’ll be amazed how appreciated it is and how few people do it.