How This Entrepreneur Is Bringing Broadway Stars Into Your Living Room The founder and president of Broadway Plus shares how theater fans can connect with their favorite talent and offers advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
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When Broadway officials announced theaters would be closed until 2021, Nathaniel Hill knew he had to do something for the hundreds of actors who would be out of work. Hill, the founder and president of the VIP Broadway experience provider Broadway Plus, decided to put his business online. The digital transition has made it easy for theater lovers to book meetings with more than 250 performers from shows like Hamilton, Mean Girls, Frozen and Six while providing actors with a steady source of income. Fans can book virtual one-on-one sessions, group meet-and-greets, voice lessons and more with some of Broadway's biggest stars.
Hill is passionate about giving back. "I'm on the Junior Board of the Make-A-Wish [Metro New York chapter], and in that role I raise $10,000 per year, plus we supply in-kind donations of Broadway Plus experiences as wishes," Hill says. "We also donate regularly to Broadway Cares and the TDF Stage Doors Fund."
In this video, Hill talks with Jessica Abo and shares how Broadway Plus has evolved since Covid hit, what's next for the company and his number one-piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Jessica Abo: What made you want to start Broadway Plus?
Nathaniel Hill: I was 26 when I actually started the company, but it started as a kernel of an idea. I was working an entry-level job on a show that Sting wrote, and it sort of fell on me in my position to handle all of the ticket requests and experiences and backstage tours for Sting and his friends when they came to see his show.
Hamilton exploded and people were really willing to pay a lot of money to get a premium Broadway experience. I went to buy a concert ticket and I noticed that there were all these VIP and meet-and-greet options that were available for concerts and also sporting events, but none of those existed for Broadway. So as I started to refine the idea, I figured out why this wasn't being done, what the challenges were that would need to be solved and whether or not I could do it. I wanted to give it a shot, and so I did.
Up until the pandemic, we were the only official provider of VIP experiences for Broadway shows, which means that when a Broadway show wanted to create something above and beyond, typically it would include an amazing seat to see the show, a backstage tour with one of the actors from the show and other perks, like a gift bag or a drink in the theater, they would engage Broadway Plus and we would create and then market and sell that experience for them.
This year we lost all theater, pretty much worldwide for what's looking like will be over a year, which was of course scary and challenging for myself and for the Broadway community. But I took a moment and I said, Well, there's still a lot of ways that people can engage with theater. And I've been doing meet-and-greets with Broadway actors and those actually translate better to Zoom than Broadway shows themselves.
This year we've worked really hard and created a platform that helps people connect with Broadway actors, whether it's for a quick meet-and-greet or a video message or something more involved like voice lessons, acting lessons. We're doing a lot of big event parties where your group might meet the whole cast of a show or do a virtual concert with them. I'm really lucky because I get to sell something that everyone likes and enjoys. I've always gotten amazing feedback. People who love Broadway tend to really love it. And they're really, really excited when they get to meet their favorite stars or go backstage.
How important has this platform been for the actors?
Hill: It's of course been a really challenging year in our community. And a lot of actors are making the majority of their income on Broadway Plus right now. And that's, for me as an entrepreneur, been really fulfilling. We've had actors saying it's making them feel connected to theater and theater fans. It's providing a really valuable and necessary income. And it's something to do in a way that connects. So it's been really fulfilling for me. And I hope for the actors we work with.
Can you tell us what's on the horizon for Broadway Plus through the holiday season and beyond?
Hill: We just launched a new program called PlusPass and it's a very affordable subscription program. The PlusPass is only $19 a month and it affords our fans access to one amazing group experience per week. Where, for example, we're starting with a Q-and-A with three actresses who all played Karen in Mean Girls on Broadway. So we're doing really fun stuff like that. Virtual concerts, coachings. That's our new exciting program that we're launching just in time for the holidays. And, of course, we have built out some really fun holiday events like Rockette dancing lessons, concerts with women who have starred as Elphaba in Wicked, doing "All I want for Christmas is You." We've tried to build out a lot of fun holiday things. Sometimes people want gift certificates and we're launching those as well this week.
And what's your number one piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Hill: Think about your unfair advantage. What is it that you uniquely can offer the world or your industry or people who might want to buy it? For me, I had a background in theater management and I met a lot of people. So that meant that Broadway Plus was more doable for me than for someone who didn't have that background. This year, on March 12, when the Broadway industry lost everything, I said, Okay, well, I've been doing something for four years and no one else has done it yet. So how can I somehow parlay that into a virtual offering?
I called up the Broadway stars that I was closest with and I'd worked with the most and said, "Hey, I'm going to try putting some things on Zoom. Would you be interested?" And they all said yes. It took off from there. Don't think about, you know, what are people going to buy or what is it that everyone wants? Think about what you uniquely can offer and how can you take your own life and your own experience and network and turn that into an unfair advantage that no one else has.