The wedding industry is probably one of the most old-fashioned, but one young woman entrepreneur intends to modernize the industry through technological innovation. Taryn Westberg is the founder and CEO of online wedding management site Glö (www.glosite.com), which offers online wedding invitations and streamlined guest communications tools for the modern wedding.
Boulder, Colorado-based Glö allows couples to create and send beautiful email wedding invitations and save-the-dates, paired with a matching wedding website, or “Glösite”, with unlimited pages of information, events and RSVP questions. Its RSVP system lets couples customize which guests are invited to which event, and their Glösite will only display the relevant events and RSVP questions to each guest. Guests can also view and edit RSVP responses for everyone in their household or party, thus making managing wedding invitations a breeze.
Planning The Modern Wedding
“What we’re looking to achieve with Glö in the industry is to offer a modern service that today’s couples want and need without sacrificing any of the sophistication and ‘personality’ that couples desire for a wedding,” says Westberg, who previously worked as a business consultant before entering startup life. “I also want to provide a new distribution method for talented designers who are already creating paper wedding invitations.”
Westberg believes that today’s couples have moved beyond the antiquated traditions that many in the wedding industry still cling to. She says the wedding industry needs to innovate to keep up with today’s couples, rather than the current approach of trying to convince couples to adhere to outdated traditions.
“Today’s modern couple sees their wedding as a great celebration, rather than a “dream wedding” they’ve been planning since they were five years old,” explains Westberg. “They view their wedding celebration as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have all of their favorite people in one place at one time.” She says that already over 80-percent of couples today use the Internet in some capacity to help them plan their weddings. This was the basis for Glö.
Idea That Came Out Of A Personal Need
In fact, the initial idea for the company was planted in 2007, out of the need Westberg and her husband Enrico had while planning their own wedding. The couple wanted to send online wedding invitations and collect RSVPs online, but couldn’t find a service that offered what they were looking for – a combination of beautiful online invitations, a flexible wedding website and a customizable RSVP functionality. “By the summer of 2008, I had quit my full-time job to start writing the business plan, wire-framing the software and setting up the operations,” says Westberg.
During that period, she was also freelancing on and off to make a living, so progress at times was slower than she would have liked. She finally hired a development team in early 2009, launched in closed beta later that year and then officially launched it early 2010. “We made our first sale one day after launching and have been enjoying the roller coaster ride ever since,” she says.
The biggest challenge facing Westberg in her business is actually one that is common to non-technical founders – that of starting a technology company without being a technology person herself. The learning curve on the technology front, she reveals, was enormous. She says she’s had to overcome that by forcing herself to be comfortable with the fact she can’t ‘know everything about everything’. “Once I did that, it was easy to start asking a lot of questions, learning from as many people as possible and then working with partners who are amazingly talented,” she explains.
Another ongoing challenge is letting engaged couples know that Glö exists. “So many times, we hear things like ‘I didn’t know something like this existed, I am so glad we found you via …..’. I love that. So many people are anchored in the idea of e-vites, but our product is very different, so once they’ve seen it, they think online wedding invitations and RSVPs are a fantastic idea.”
Learn, Learn And Learn
Westberg didn’t grow up wanting to be an entrepreneur. “Now, I’m not sure I can see myself doing anything else,” she says, adding that the experience was somewhat of a journey for her, and not something she would have wanted to do or been as good at doing right out of college. She says she’s learned a great deal from working in her previous companies as well as her experience in London Business School. “Some of the learnings were tangible, like how to evaluate customer wants and needs, and how to read a P&L, but many of the things I learned are intangible,” she explains. For example, the fact that she’s worked in different cultures and countries also meant that she could call upon her vast network of friends, classmates and business colleagues who ‘collectively have amazing expertise and experiences that they love to share’.
The best advice Westberg says she can give any aspiring entrepreneur is to learn, learn and learn. “I firmly believe that you can learn something from everyone you work with and every business situation that you’re in – even if it’s learning about what not to do, that’s still invaluable experience.”
She also advises wannabe entrepreneurs to think through the need their product or service is solving. “I’ve seen so many ideas for cool technologies, products and services without a clear idea of why an individual or business would want to use them.”
“Unless a product or service solves an unmet need, it will never really be a business.”