Wedding Dresses and Web Development: One Couple's Balancing Act
Starting a business with your significant other is challenging enough, but Brett Buchanan and Anne Kiel Buchanan did it while planning their wedding.
As a jewelry-maker, Anne has sold custom rings and other items through online marketplaces like Etsy. Brett, a photojournalist, has experience photographing weddings. While on a road trip, they started brainstorming ways to improve the existing models for selling handmade goods online and tap into the wedding niche.
The result was Wedzu.com, a curated online marketplace of handmade wedding items. Wedzu launched in October 2010, and the pair married exactly a month later, using paper flowers and rings purchased through the site.
Fresh from a nine-week honeymoon across Asia, these Texas newlyweds shared with us their tips on marketing a niche website, working together, and more.
ISSB: Weddings are an event that people hope to experience only once, so how do you build customer loyalty?
Anne: We looked into the average engagement time, and it’s surprisingly 17 months. Couples look at Wedzu and assemble their favorites and purchase over a period of months. We have ideas for the future like anniversary gifts and wedding gifts for people who have a friend who is getting married.
Brett: In the last few years, there have been a plethora of wedding blogs, so we’ve been relying on organic marketing. We’re hoping the fact that we are curated will differentiate us. Our customers hopefully aren’t feeling overwhelmed because items are handpicked. Sellers also promote their own store on Wedzu, which helps cross-promote the whole marketplace.
ISSB: Was it tough to launch a business and plan a wedding at the same time? Or did it bring you closer together?
Brett: Well, we’re still married! We were hoping to have Wedzu launch months ahead of our own wedding so we’d have plenty of time to shop, but as website development goes, it took longer than expected.
Anne: Working on the website really brought us together and pushed our boundaries as a couple in terms of communicating. It worked out well in our situation because Brett is really tech-savvy and he deals with a lot of the website tech issues. That’s an area that I’m not strong in. I’m more into communicating with the designers and marketing.
ISSB: Any other tips for other couples who start businesses together?
Anne: It helps if you start a business that you’re already involved in. We were both involved in the wedding industry, so it wasn’t a completely new endeavor. I highly recommend doing that. If it’s a new field and you’re relying on it as your main source of income, I’d imagine it could be extremely stressful in your relationship.
Brett: Follow your bliss. If you want to launch a business with your partner, make sure it’s something you want to be doing. We enjoy talking about it over dinner. And make sure you have good communication from the start. We found that some of the communication problems that we had in the relationship spilled over into the business relationship, but we finally figured out how to work well together.
Photo credit: Katie Hayes Luke
Susan Johnston is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.