Steve Edwards / CEO & Founder of Premier Virtual
Growing up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, Steve knew he wanted to join the Army after he graduated from high school. “I wanted to jump out of airplanes, so I was in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg.” he says. He got out after three years. “I realized the military was great, but financially, it just wasn’t what I was looking for in life.”
In 1999, he and some buddies from the 82nd Airborne headed down to Boca Raton to attend Florida Atlantic University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology
After stints in the mortgage industry and B2B sales, he got into the job fair industry, traveling across the Southeast and Southwest to conduct events. Within a few years, though, Edwards noticed a slowdown in business. “Everybody was working, they couldn’t come to job fairs and turnout was low.” He recalls, or they were opting to apply for jobs online instead. “It was affecting my pocketbook”.
Looking for a better way to connect employers to job candidates, Edwards seized on the concept of virtual job fairs. “People don’t have to travel”, I said, ‘This is going to be the future.’ he recalls.
Not sure where to start, he turned to his alma mater, FAU, and their renowned business entrepreneurship programs. Steve was able to qualify for a grant program funded by the Florida Veterans Entrepreneurship program because he was an Army Veteran. This program, and the early pitch competitions he won, really helped to get the company off the ground and prove that he had an idea he could monetize.
Based out of Boynton Beach, FL., In 2019, his startup began building a software platform for virtual job fairs. It launched last March, just as COVID-19 arrived – a bit of serendipity that catapulted Premier Virtual to almost instant success. “We went from nobody knowing who we were to being ranked as one of the top virtual platforms out there.’ says Steve.
During its first six to seven months, Premier Virtual has hosted 100,000 job candidates and over 10,000 employers on its platform, who participated in nearly 1,000 virtual hiring events. The company has grown from 3 employees to more than 20 and earned nearly $2 million in revenue. Approximately 100 workforce development boards across the country, including CareerSource Florida, which oversees 24 regional partners statewide, have chosen their platform for virtual hiring events. Premier Virtual also has licensing agreements with The Air Force, Army, and several National Guard units.
Steve says individual companies, colleges, and other organizations are quickly coming on board and that they would have never participated in job fairs if it weren’t for virtual. And he’s bullish on the company’s future. “Covid-19 got our name out there, but now people have embraced the technology and how much more efficient it is. We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what virtual hiring events will do for employers and job-seekers alike.”
Jason Hill / Client Focused Advisors
Kevin Cox / Adams Center for Entrepreneurship at FAU
Steve Edwards / Premier Virtual