Solutions

Yearly convention and fan site depends on FileMaker Pro for organization and streamlined workflow

The Fest

All You Need is Love — and a great idea — and back in 1974 Mark Lapidos had both. His passion, The Beatles, his idea, an annual Beatles Fans Celebration; a two–or–three–day convention of Beatles fans, a place where they could enjoy, listen, meet other Beatles fans, and of course buy memorabilia, albums, t–shirts, and so on. "After a few months of deliberating," Mark recalls on The Fest website, "I decided to take my personal savings and book the New York Commodore Hotel for the weekend of September 7–8, 1974."

Overview

  • Website and convention for fans of The Beatles
  • Based in Westwood, NJ

Industry

  • Travel/Hospitality
  • Entertainment
  • Small Business

Solutions

  • Website and web store caters to Beatles fans worldwide

The interactive interface always allows you to see what your products look like on the website and look at orders before they're downloaded. And in FileMaker Server we've implemented ESS to sync with the web store (products, orders, customers, categories) and to post the status of the shipments. We''re using Web Viewer to verify product images and product pages on the web store, and category images and category pages on the web store, as they are updated.

— Ken d'Oronzio, Partner, Paradise Partners

Business Challenge

But Mark didn't want to do it without the blessing of the Beatles – and that spring he met with John Lennon to discuss the idea.

"I wasn't going to do the convention without the Beatles' permission; I didn't think that would be right," he says. "So, on April 28th, 1974, I met with John Lennon in a New York City hotel room, told him my whole idea of a Beatles fans convention, with films, special guests, live concerts, art museum and art contest, flea market, discussions, look–alike and sound–alike contests, auctions, and a charity raffle. John's exact response was 'I'm all for it. I'm a Beatles fan, too!' It is a moment I will never ever forget. He said he had a guitar in his attic that he would sign and donate for the charity raffle, which he did (John chose a drug rehab center in NYC as the charity). All the Beatles contributed signed items to that raffle and to our amazement, we made the cover of Rolling Stone, October 24, 1974."

From that incredible start, the Fest took off. Mark received letters from fans across the country wanting a Fest in their city and the Fest is now an annual tradition in the New York Metro area, and has been for 34 years! Not to be outdone, Chicago has held a Fest for 32 years, Los Angeles has held 24 since 1976, as well as Las Vegas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Dallas and Orlando.

If that wasn't enough, Mark then decided to start a mail order business, which from a modest beginning is now the world's largest Beatles mail order catalog offering some 2300 items, most of them licensed Beatles items, including CDs, videos, books, clothes, and much more. He boasts 155,000 customers in every state of the US and in 25 countries worldwide.

Keeping all this running smoothly with a staff that can be counted on the digits of one hand is no mean feat. And Mark soon realized he needed more than the simple filing system he was using. "We had all our contacts on filing cards," he recalls. "Everything had to be typed including making labels. It was clearly time to computerize."

Mark started with his first FileMaker database over 20 years ago – upgrading as subsequent versions appeared. But he recently decided that the website needed overhauling with a new store, integrating a FileMaker–Zen Cart shopping module, as well as shipping modules that allowed the team to determine which was the best way to ship out orders. To do all this, Mark turned to Ken d'Oronzio of Paradise Partners.

Successful Solution

Ken faced quite a challenge; upgrading the in–house database to the latest version, designing the new website, and then designing and developing the store, the FileMaker–Zen Cart module, the shipment modules and setting up a newsletter!

As the Fest site had increasingly been generating more sales, Ken's big challenge was to integrate the entire sales and fulfillment process to make it painless and error–free. "These are the considerations we had to address," he says, "we had to keep the online catalog in sync with the in–house inventory (because the product line changes frequently as items sell out and new items are added). We also had to allow the staff to manage the web store with a simple management interface including receiving orders several times a day to keep the process moving, especially during the busy holiday season; shipping items using the quickest and most economical method, and continuously notifying customers of the status of their order.

"In addition to the FileMaker database," Ken continues, "we created a new web store, based on the Zen Cart engine (zen–cart.com). Because this e–commerce system is open source and is built on a mySQL database, FileMaker works with it in several ways, so we created a tool in FileMaker to integrate the in–house inventory system with the Zen–cart database. By connecting these two technologies we can configure the products and related categories directly using a custom FileMaker interface, automatically upload the FileMaker inventory to the web store database and automatically download the orders into FileMaker."

Then Ken tackled the shipping issue — trying to find the most cost–effective way to ship items to buyers. "We also created a new shipping module that instantaneously compares USPS and UPS pricing for each order (displaying the results in a web viewer). It then creates the shipping label for whichever the warehouse chooses (using 3rd party tools: NRG package toolkit for UPS, Expedia for USPS). The tracking number for both options is returned to FileMaker, allowing the staff to track the orders, email a shipment confirmation to the customer, and post the order status to the website, so customers can see it online."

And how long did this customization take? "We started development in early September and had to be ready by the Christmas rush. We launched everything on October 31st, and they new solution handled the holiday season seamlessly."

We started development in early September and had to be ready by the Christmas rush. We launched everything on October 31st, and they new solution handled the holiday season seamlessly.

— Ken d'Oronzio, Partner, Paradise Partners

Customer Benefits

The Fest runs from 45 databases with approximately 155,00 customer records, around 2300 products, of which 1300 are live on the web, and approximately 85,000 sales records which serve as both an archive and a research tool for analysis.

The benefits of the new streamlined system are many. Now the main office hosts the database on a FileMaker server on a Mac, and a satellite warehouse accesses the database through a VPN over the Internet for shipping and receiving. Productivity for the team has increased, because there's better communication with customers, the web store is more up–to–date, orders are processed faster, there are fewer mistakes and an order is never lost. Add to those benefits the money saved on shipping, the time saved on orders allowing greater focus on building the business and customer service, and its clear that Ken has indeed fulfilled his task to the letter.

And there's more as Ken explains: "The interactive interface always allows you to see what your products look like on the website and look at orders before they're downloaded. And in FileMaker Server we've implemented ESS to sync with the web store (products, orders, customers, categories) and to post the status of the shipments. We're using Web Viewer to verify product images and product pages on the web store, and category images and category pages on the web store, as they are updated."

While Beatles fans may be Here, There and Everywhere, from Strawberry Fields to a Norwegian Wood, at http://www.thefest.com they're All Together Now!

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.
408-987-7227
kevin_mallon@filemaker.com
http://www.filemaker.com

For The Fest For Beatles Fans:

Mark Lapidos
Owner
The Fest For Beatles Fans
201-666-5450
mark@thefest.com
http://www.thefest.com

For Paradise Partners:

Ken d'Orionzio
Partner
Paradise Partners
866-700-2004
ken@paradisepartners.com
http://www.paradisepartners.com