NC IDEA announces six North Carolina startups as spring grant winners and recipients of a collective $300,000. This story is part of a series of profiles on the winners.
The wedding industry is a behemoth, and its growth isn’t slowing down. In 2016, the average wedding in the US cost $35,329. That’s $2,688 more than the year before, and $7,447 more than the national average in 2007. The venue is the top expense.
Enter The Wed Clique. Charlotte-based Lisa Ganderson and Rachael Classi (pictured above, left to right) founded the startup in July 2016. After beta testing a sort of Slack for wedding planning last fall, the company pivoted at the beginning of 2017. The current iteration focuses on a major pain point — helping venues and vendors work together to achieve a bride’s vision.
“What we started to understand and pull back the layers on was (the reality that) vendors work together a lot,” says Ganderson. “We thought we really should create a product that solely allows them to do that better.”
The idea behind The Wed Clique stems from a new way brides plan their weddings, by browsing Pinterest and creating a board of inspiration. Ganderson says a whopping 75 percent of weddings are inspired by style shoots created by vendors and posted to Pinterest.
The Wed Clique works as a B2B e-commerce site. Venues and vendors can collaborate on 10-15 different wedding styles and create a visual portfolio for brides and grooms to choose from as they plan the big day. Couples can buy packages of venue and vendor services that match their vision with the click of a button.
The Wed Clique has worked with NC IDEA since the beginning, joining its fall 2016 Groundwork Labs cohort. NC IDEA CEO and President Thom Ruhe says the women provide a textbook example for how startup founders should build their companies. They came in with an idea, tested it with potential customers and partners, took feedback and created a platform getting positive feedback from the industry.
This spring, the company participated in Techstars Austin, refining the concept even more. Soon, they’ll start raising capital with help from NC IDEA’s SoarTriangle program.
“They’ve done everything by the book, starting lean, getting validation and an MVP out there,” says Ruhe. “Plus, the market is big and growing.”
Vendors and venues can become part of The Wed Clique’s professional network for $29.99 per month or $299 per year. It notifies members about potential job opportunities. Members can also participate in forums on the site.
Ganderson’s background is in investing. She worked in public markets and venture capital, earning an MBA in finance from the Fuqua School of Business and a Master’s of Environmental Management, Energy & Environment from Nicholas School of the Environment. She met Classi during her time at Duke. Classi has an extensive background in marketing and is the former head of marketing at Counter Culture Coffee.
“We’re really excited for our opportunity in the wedding industry and its massive market,” says Ganderson. “We don’t see ourselves as a wedding company though, we’re an e-commerce company.”
The Wed Clique works with venues primarily based in North Carolina, but is expanding throughout the Southeast.