U.S. Army and Florida National Guard veteran Steve Edwards worked in the job fair industry for eight years, but he soon realized the days of in-person events were numbered.
“The market was changing and candidates stopped coming to the events,” Edwards recalled. “I found out about virtual job fairs and instantly knew it was the future.”
Software for virtual job fair platforms lacked several key features, with most vendors simply trying to replicate their traditional brick-and-mortar experience. Frustrated with the limited online options available, Edwards did what any savvy entrepreneur would do: He built his own.
Founded in 2018, Premier Virtual is the first virtual hiring event platform created by recruiters, for recruiters and aims to bridge the gap between technology and human experience.
And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t take long to clear that hurdle and get noticed. Premier Virtual won the contract to power CareerSource Florida’s hiring events, including Paychecks for Patriots — Florida’s statewide job fairs for veterans and military families, taking place from Nov. 4 – 21, 2020.
Edwards, the CEO of the South Florida tech startup, said his platform separates itself from the competition by providing employers with in-depth analytics and seamless integration with their existing hiring software. Additionally, employers can track candidates’ actions and communicate with them directly through the dashboard.
Physical and expensive venue space is replaced by customizable virtual meeting rooms, lobbies, and booths that allow employers to hold events across multiple markets — or even countries for military hiring events — without the need for travel.
Today, Edwards’ company has assembled a team of 12 employees who’ve hosted over 400 virtual hiring events across the country, registered 75,000 job candidates, and filled thousands of vacant positions.
The company’s success also landed numerous contracts outside the Sunshine State. In November and the coming months, Premier Virtual is set to host hiring events from the Texas Workforce Commission, NC4ME (North Carolina for Military Employment), U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Soldier For Life, MassHire, Veterans Advantage, The American Legion, Maryland Department of Labor for Veterans, and the Virginia Employment Commission.
When COVID-19 hit and companies rushed to move all of their events online, Edwards’ foresight positioned Premier Virtual as a go-to virtual job fair company. The company’s growth has since exploded and Brazen Recruiting & Hiring ranks Premier Virtual No. 6 in the “17 Best Virtual Career Fair Platforms & Software” of June 2020.
“Six months ago, no one knew who we were,” Edwards said. “Now we are ranked among the top virtual platforms out there.”
As Premier Virtual grew to keep up with new demand, Edwards participated in the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program, gaining valuable insights while networking with other veteran entrepreneurs.
“The program gave me different ways to look at my business,” he said. “If you are a veteran that is thinking about starting a business or has a new business, this is a must-attend class.”
To cap off his Veterans Florida experience, Edwards competed against other veteran entrepreneurs and took first place in the 2020 Virtual Expo Battle of the Pitches, winning funding which he spent on Premier Virtual’s marketing to fuel their growth.
“We use Steve’s software at the Paychecks for Patriots virtual job fairs that we attend. It’s incredible to see how the platform’s use has grown.” said Joe Marino, Executive Director of Veterans Florida. “In addition to attending our entrepreneurship training and winning our Virtual Expo pitch competition, Steve directly supports our ability to reach veterans with our services.”
When asked what advice he would give other veteran entrepreneurs, Edwards recommends developing a strategy and then remaining committed if you believe in the product.
“Put your plan together of what you want to accomplish and go for it,” he said. “Do not listen to the noise around you that says ‘it won’t work’ — if you believe it will work and put in the hard work, it will pay off.”
For the latest on Premier Virtual, check out their Facebook page and be on the lookout for an upcoming veterans job fair in partnership with the US Veterans Chamber of Commerce.