Scott Edwads knows how someone makes a living with what he really likes. More and more students decide to study abroad and he was one of the first persons in Madrid who discovered this phenomenon. With what he likes most, the britain self made business man conquered the Madrid Party scene, focussing on international students. He built the company „European Vibe“, organizing today events in the hottest clubs of the spanish capital, bringing celebrities from all over the world to the city, having an own radioshow, a high gloss magazine and a hand on the market of foreign students. While preparing the welcome packages for the next generation of Erasmus-students, he received Planet BPM, explaining the „Erasmus“- market and how to make in a foreign country a living of the activities you love.
When did you come up with the idea of “European Vibe”?
In 2001 I moved to Madrid. Initially I played Rugby for Madrid in the European competitions. During that time I got to know Madrid as a fun place. As a good place to go out and I saw more and more young people and international people arriving. People from all over the world.
I studied Spanish myself in the „Universidad Complutense de Madrid“ during the time I was playing. I met lots of other Europeans, Asians and North Americans. We became good friends. We would go out regularly and I noticed that the Madrid night life was quite generic. […]
There were many clubs, many discos and many bars. But they were all quite similar. There seemed to be two markets. A market for what we call the spanish „pijo“, the spanish posh student type. There were lots of bars and clubs where exclusively those people went to and then there was the kind of more heavy, house-techno type of clubs, where the other people went to.
Obviously there was a gap. There were lots of international students but no parties for them. So you started with your first own event, „Party Vibe“, in 2003 as a starting point for what is now „European Vibe“?
I used to go out and enjoyed to go to these places but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the experience. I thought it could be done so much better. I studied in the USA and in the UK and I thought that I knew what people wanted. In 2003 I had a meeting with some friends who had a magazine here for Spanish people wanting to learn English.
They were ready to launch a magazine for foreigners who wanted to learn Spanish. As a part of that launch they wanted to have a Party to go along the magazine. So they approached me, knowing that I had a background of organizing parties in the university and they knew I was a very social person, with an idea, which we launched in October 2003. We launched that party and very quickly it was full of foreign students and some Spanish people. It grew fast that year and we realized that there was a real market for this. So we started to launch other parties in different nights. Over the following years we launched a website which was interactive. It was before myspace and facebook came to spain. It became very popular in the Madrid community. People could put them on guest lists, get to parties and had profiles. Then we started with a radio show in 2006.
At the same time we experimented with different nights and locations. Two years before we started in the „Joy Eslava“ with a party called „Fever!, which was even more succesful. An average of 1500 students go now every thursday there. The difference was: We made it more as a kind of university style Party from America or Britain where people dress up and where you find different themes and games. We started that kind of thing, which they didn’t do anywhere else in Madrid.
In 2008 in Joy followed a special called „fabulous“. It is very glamorous with big groups like „ministry of sound“ from England. A very big project with people which are slightly older, drinking champaign. That type of Environment. Its very dressy. Very nice.
Did You notice in the last years the growing interest in exchange programs?
Yes. The Erasmus program and the other European and North american exchange programs seem to grow every year. This is expensive for many people. Especially because we’re in the economical crisis at the moment. But it seems to be an experience that people want to do. So we’ve noticed that there are more people and clients available.
When we started in 2003 there weren’t many student style parties, because most of the clubs weren’t interested. The clubs were doing very well with the spanish clientèle. So the club owners were not interested in the Erasmus niche market, that was less economically interesting. Because the Erasmus students were always looking for deals like free entrances or drinks.
As the economic climate changed over the last two or three years, the students who always want to go out became very interesting.
Lots of different organisations saw what we were doing and tried to copy it. So at the moment there is lots of competition. Not very successful competition thankfully for us and it doesn’t tend to survive very long. I think because we established ourselves before everybody else and because we have a good reputation, working in the best clubs of the city and so we have a big advantage. It enabled us to be the market leaders and makes it very difficult to anybody else. Realistically there is only a certain amount of european students here and You can’t start dividing them.
So the market You discovered is used successful by You. When You started: What were the main problems You were facing?
In the beginning? The biggest problem we had was a lack of knowledge. I had organized parties or events in the university but it was for fun, but turning that into a business, without having contacts and being a new person was difficult. I was organizing from a blind position and very quickly I had to learn the tricks of trade. I had problems with people from different clubs, which were basically cheating.
So I was having a success at the beginning with the amount of people from a marketing point of view but I had a lack of knowledge. Over the first 6 months it was a steep learning curve for me and still 6 or 7 years later I’m learning. But at least now I have got a reputation, I’ve the necessary knowledge and hopefully we can keep growing and moving.
How long did it take for You as a foreigner in Spain to build up a business with which you can gain a daily living?
I was able to survive almost from the day one. It was an instant success. As with many things in business, timing is essential and the time was perfect for me to do this. Many people try now but the time isn’t right. I found something that did not really exist or that wasn’t done really well. I think if you can identify something like that and than go for it you’ll have more success.
You have a radio show, you have parties and are organizing travels for students. Do you think the full potential of the „Erasmus“-market is already tapped out?
There’s more potential because it’s a market that requires certain services. As far as the parties we concerned I think it has reached it’s maximum, because so many are now doing an inverted commerce Erasmus Party. You can find Flyers all over the cities with the words „Erasmus“ or „students parties“. Everybody is trying. So from that point of view there isn’t really room on the event side. But perhaps on other services. We’re now doing travel, which complements what we’re doing with parties because we’ve already access to the students with our parties and the magazine we have with 50 000 or 60 000 readers. So we’re able to tap the market because we have our hands on it. In the moment it’s mainly travel. We tried housing but it’s become more limited, because people prefer doing research online instead of paying 80 or a hundred Euros for an agency to find them a house. So that’s a market which we realized isn’t so big. But certainly people love to travel and to travel in groups. So we organize trips for people and give them entertainment where they go. They get the cultural side of things but also fun. It seems to work.
So which hints would you give to people in other european capitals interested in the „Erasmus“-market?
There are so many cities now that are becoming popular for exchange programs. Madrid wasn’t really catering for that people and I’m sure in many other places it isn’t really done as well. So if You’re going to do it You should get knowledge of the city and get a feeling for the place. Make sure You have a network of contacts. There are different social tools now like mypace and facebook. It’s just finding the right people, finding what people want and trying to offer them something that You really believe their going to enjoy. What it comes to is You really have a love for what You’re doing. I really believe that and that’s what is business for me now. When I first started it was a love for me. I was very social. I loved going out. I loved providing people a good party and seeing the smile on their faces. You have to have a genuine love for what You’re doing in order to make a success. That would be my advice. Find something that You love doing yourself.
And You consider the „Erasmus“-market as one of the things that aren’t oversaturated?
In Madrid it is to a certain extend but I’m sure there are many cities where it’s not even close to reaching it’s full potential. So I’m sure it’s possible.