When she was a teenager, Jessica Gaffney loved sports and live rock concerts, and she dreamed of a career in those worlds.
Gaffney grew up in Franklin Lakes, a mere 25 minutes from the Meadowlands, and thus from her favorite professional teams: the Giants, Jets, Devils and the Nets — and from Springsteen, U2 and Aerosmith, when they were on tour.
Later, when she attended the University of Maryland, and joined the student entertainment staff there, she helped coordinate events for the legendary rap group Sugarhill Gang and for comedians Chris Rock and Margaret Cho. She also scored an internship with SFX Sports Marketing her senior year.
But it wasn’t until after graduation that she realized she was on the right career path. That’s when a high-end Washington, D.C., catering company, Ridgewells, hired her as an entry-level coordinator at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins. She helped luxury-seating clients with their catering needs while she coordinated special events and planned menus.
Today, Gaffney is the founder and CEO of Wavework , a B2B2C management platform that enables teams and organizations to deliver personalized concierge service for big business sports fans who have luxury suites or other premium seating.
The business was incorporated in 2015. Gaffney’s target audience includes major league teams in the National Hockey League (NHL), National Football League (NFL), National Basketball League (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and Major League Soccer (MLS), with plans to expand to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), minor leagues and European leagues.
Unnamed angel investors provided Wavework with $1.5 million, which Gaffney spent on product development. She plans to raise additional funds by the end of the year to scale her company, she said.
Wavework is based in Totowa, but also has a development team in London. Gaffney is married, with a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, and lives in Wayne, where she plans to stay.
Her resume includes 10 years of directing premium services to high-end clients who root for Big Blue (Giants) and Gang Green (Jets). “When you have a luxury suite with a team, it’s about more than tickets, food and parking,” she said. “It’s an experience. It’s about having a relationship with your team and developing loyalty, rewards and recognition on par with the price tag. Wavework enables convenience and efficiency to drive premium revenue and retention, while ensuring a highly personalized level of concierge service to those premium buyers.”
She added, “Many premium seating buyers don’t even know what benefits they get to access year-round. You could go down on the field. You could get a player to visit your suite. You could get a meet-and-greet with the coach. You could get autographed merchandise. There are many underutilized benefits that strengthen key relationships and drive business development for the teams and their clients.”
In addition, plenty of people in the suites and premium seats are there strictly to conduct business. Gaffney said that Wavework helps teams engage this audience, in order to establish and strengthen relationships with quality companies and organizations.
Her platform is a one-stop premium hub that automates time-consuming tasks, creating efficiency and ease of access to important tools, links and information, delivering a convenient and responsive customer service experience, she said.
In the highly competitive premium seating marketplace, Wavework streamlines the corporate hospitality experience for clients, who usually have suites and seats with every team. “Think about how many teams are here in New Jersey and New York. You have teams from every pro league, and you could have a suite with nine different teams,” said Gaffney.
Company name: Wavework.
Product: Wavework Concierge
When did you launch the company? 2015.
Founder: Jessica Gaffney, CEO.
New Jersey Location: Totowa.
Funding: $1.5 million from angel investors.
Markets you are serving: Major league sports teams with premium seating and luxury suites for clientele.
1. What is your New Jersey connection? What brought you to New Jersey, and do you plan to stay here?
I grew up in Franklin Lakes. I graduated from the University of Maryland, and later moved to Washington, D.C., for my first job in sports, working at FedExField, where the Redskins play. … They did the luxury seating at FedExField, and I traveled with them year-round to do the hospitality at the Super Bowl, the U.S. Open [golf], the Grand Prix [car racing] and Kemper Open [golf]. In 2003, I got homesick for New Jersey, and was hired by Aramark at the original Giants Stadium. I was the premium services director there, managing the Stadium Club, the Bubble and the 50 Club at the stadium.
2. What problem are you solving?
A customer-centered economy requires customer-centered technology. I am meeting the needs and expectations of today’s tech-savvy customers. Wavework is bridging the gap between the transaction of a sale and ongoing relationship management to drive loyalty, retention and new business opportunities.
3. Why can you address the problem better than anyone else?
I have walked the walk, with real-world experience in sports and entertainment hospitality. I experienced the pain points on both sides, and developed a solution to resolve the most persistent challenges in premium sales and service today.
4. How did you come up with your startup name?
Initially, I thought of the name “Wave” because this product is built around hospitality at live sporting events and the concept of waving hello to someone and being connected to them. But “Wave” also comes from doing the wave with the audience at a game. It is about engaging and connecting with others. Plus, I am making waves being a female founder in sports tech.
5. What was the biggest mistake you’ve made so far in your entrepreneurial journey, and what did you learn from it?
The biggest mistake was overdeveloping certain features without extensive user feedback. We likely spent some time and money on new features earlier than necessary, but have learned to incorporate great ideas into our product roadmap.
6. When was the last time you thought about quitting your startup and going back to corporate life, or doing something else? What got you to stay.
Never. If I thought like that, then I really shouldn’t do what I’m doing. If I’m not going to be passionate about what I’m doing, how can I expect anyone else to be.
7. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
This maybe a little idealistic, but truly I don’t like to look backward because I’m not going that way. Everything I have done has gotten me to where I am today. I like to focus on what’s ahead. I don’t think regrets are productive
8. Where’s the best place to find founders to network with?
I believe everything in life is about timing and relationships, and I have found the best connections organically through my own network, as well as through my alumni associations, WISE — Women in Sports and Events, and many industry events.
9. What does your family think about you being an entrepreneur?
They are so proud and supportive, but sometimes can’t understand why I don’t have more availability or flexibility because you work more as an entrepreneur than you do when you are working for somebody.
10. What has helped you the most to achieve your current success?
My resilience. Not spending too long on something when things go wrong or not the way you envisioned them going. I refocus and forge ahead. I have unwavering optimism. I firmly believe in the power of positive thinking, and you can’t positively manifest anything if you are constantly consumed with negative thoughts all the time.