A Q&A with The Wedding Mile founder and COO Lee Stein. The –based company was founded in 2011 and had its official public launch in early February.
SUB: Please describe The Wedding Mile and your value proposition.
Stein: The Wedding Mile is an online marketplace devoted exclusively to buyers and sellers of handmade, vintage and DIY wedding goods and gifts. We also offer a wedding registry and wedding inspiration blog that keeps brides informed of the latest wedding fashions and trends.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Stein: Artisans of handmade goods who want to promote and sell their items to the wedding and bridal market, as well as brides, couples and all parties who make purchases for that special day.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Stein: We compete with other handmade marketplaces that have wedding categories, including Etsy, Artfire and Zibbet.
SUB: What differentiates The Wedding Mile from the competition?
Stein: We are exclusively wedding and bridal—not a general handmade marketplace. In this way, our artisans do not have to compete with other sellers of general items, and our buyers are able to quickly find wedding-relevant categories and items.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Stein: The Wedding Mile was founded in June 2011 and launched in October 2012. Our platform is extremely technical in nature and we couldn’t find an existing platform that accommodated for all the modules and functionality that we wanted, so we basically had to build the site from scratch. While the site was being built, I communicated with as many people related to our space as possible, including handmade wedding sellers, soon-to-be-brides, wedding officiants, wedding vendors, wedding bloggers—anyone with the word ‘wedding’ included in their title.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for The Wedding Mile? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Stein: I love all things arts and crafts, and I would spend a good amount of time browsing through online marketplaces, clicking on whatever images caught my eye. I found myself orienting mostly toward wedding images—even though I’m not wedding planning—because these artisans are just so innovative and creative. They have to be, as trends and fashions in weddings continuously change and evolve from year to year. I realized at some point that handmade and wedding are perfect partners. Weddings are very personal and brides want their special day to be a reflection of their style and taste. Handmade artisans are better able to cater to these unique wants and needs than commercial manufacturers of wedding goods. I couldn’t find a handmade or bespoke marketplace that catered exclusively to the wedding market, so I decided to cater to that special niche.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Stein: Like every entrepreneur I know, I racked my brain for a long time to find the right name. The most obvious ones—that included the words wedding and marketplace—were already taken. When I conceived of the name ‘Wedding Mile,’ I queried quite a lot of people, asking them what it signified to them, and I loved every answer I got. For me, it’s reminiscent of that arts and crafts fair you go to where artisans are lined up in their booths, selling their wares, all the way up and down the street or in the marketplace. For others, it’s that figurative ‘mile’ between the engagement and the wedding—the time when couples rally to get everything they need for their special day and beyond. For yet others, it’s the notion that handmade sellers will go the extra mile to cater to custom requests so that brides or couples can feel that their wedding was unique and personally inspired.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Stein: It saddens me to say it, but because we’re the new kid on the wedding block, a number of wedding sites and bloggers have rebuffed our efforts to develop relationships with them, even though they were startups themselves not too long ago. They seem to feel that ‘high end’ and ‘handmade’ are at such opposite ends of the spectrum that we have entirely different audiences. I think that’s an unfortunate and misguided notion.
We’ve also had to spend a lot of time educating sellers about the advantages of our pricing structure, which is a flat monthly fee. Sellers of the Ebay and Etsy mindset feel like they’re risking a lot less by only paying a transaction fee if they sell an item. In truth, they are spending hundreds—often thousands—more dollars on uploading fees and final transaction fees. We try to break down the math as clearly and as simplistically as possible so that they understand how much more goes toward their bottom line with our fee structure.
SUB: You just launched to the public. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Stein: We needed a few months to subscribe sellers so that we had enough items listed on the site to attract our buyers. We did this from October 2012 through January 2013—and obviously continue to welcome sellers to the site. We launched to the public a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, which hails the onset of busy season for wedding vendors. Summer is the most popular wedding season of the year, so a lot of shopping takes place in the six months preceding that season.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point? If so, how much?
Stein: I have personally funded the business up to this point. I wanted to prove our concept and develop as much traction as possible before seeking outside investment. In the near future I will probably begin meeting with investors in order to discuss our needs with respect to the scaling and development of our technology, as well as our promotional efforts.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Stein: We charge a flat monthly rate to our subscribers, or sellers, plus fees for featured listings on the site. We are currently working on an add-on that will allow wedding vendors such as photographers, DJs, officiants, etc., to list themselves in a special ‘service provider’ section of the site.
SUB: What are your goals for The Wedding Mile over the next year or so?
Stein: To see all of our categories well populated with items and to reach a respectable critical mass of both sellers and buyers. To develop a more interactive community of sellers and buyers, where advice and inspiration is both sought and received. And to carve out space for wedding service providers so that The Wedding Mile becomes a true destination site that caters to all facets of wedding planning.
The Wedding Mile – www.theweddingmile.com