Unique Venues Turns 30!


Three decades later, membership has seen exponential growth and Unique Venues remains an industry leader

EDWARDS, COLORADO (January 25, 2016) – Thirty years ago, before startups were fashionable and before the Internet made everything more accessible, Michele Nichols had an idea to create a company that would connect non-traditional meeting and event venues with planners looking to break out of the norm. At the time, Nichols was working for Westin Hotels & Resorts and had started dabbling in private consulting for hospitality clients when she got a call from the University of Denver asking how to expose the campus to more planners.

“We didn’t know college and universities could have groups on campus. We were in the industry and knew nothing about it,” recalls Nichols. Realizing the underserved market, Nichols started working with the nearby Association of Conference and Event Directors—today known as ACCED-I—and founded her own company in 1986. It was originally called Collegiate Conferences and began with 100+ members that were featured in an annual “Guide to Convening on Campus” received by 20,000 meeting planners. It aimed at competing with the Official Meeting Facilities Guide and Hotel Travel Index already in the market.

A decade later, by 1997, Unique Venues was one of the first in the meetings and events industry to have their own website as the Internet started taking off, better enabling them to gain an edge on the competition. “Our clients were more or less demanding it because they were in the collegiate world, and that was who was using the Internet; they were the early users more than businesses,” says Nichols. “For a small company, that was huge, and we were able to start selling listings in both our print and online directories.”

Today, Unique Venues has continued its successful trajectory as one of the only companies that has lasted in the market that continues to wholly champion the “unique venues.” They have now trademarked the name in the US and Canada, experienced exponential growth in membership with over 700 members, and currently serve six segments beyond colleges and universities. After beginning by renting planner names from mail houses, the company also now owns and manages a database of 53,000 planners (including hard-to-reach part-timer planners). With more staff than ever—some who have stayed with the company 15+ years—Unique Venues has started expanding its services, too. In the past five years, an annual marketing conference has been launched as well as an industry magazine that exclusively covers the market, and, most recently, the introduction of a new boot camp service for members.

“We have always tried to think big. When we started, bigger companies were all that was out there, and while we didn’t have competitors in our field, the industry itself was huge. People gave us a million reasons why it wouldn’t work, so reaching 30 years is definitely a milestone,” says Nichols. “Now, the idea of ‘unique venues’ is not new anymore. We have made great strides and will continue to do so to prove we are part of this industry and are not going away.”

About Unique Venues
Unique Venues has been the go-to source for non-conventional meeting and event venues, and the planners looking for them, for 30 years. The marketing and membership company has grown to be the largest online database in the U.S. and Canada with member venues including colleges and universities, historical and cultural venues, arenas and stadiums, camps and retreat centers, conferences and business centers and other special event venues. Services include free RFP submissions, assisted searches and industry magazine distribution that help planners find the perfect fit every time.