WeddingBids: The oDesk of the wedding industry
A new player has entered the wedding service marketplace, determined to take the hassle away from couples planning to tie the knot. In a similar structure to oDesk, the user posts a “job” they need done and WeddingBids instantly notifies relevant wedding businesses that are equipped to deliver the service. The businesses then get in touch with the couple for further discussion on the job, costs, and other relevant information.
Rather than spending weeks or months finding the right vendors through manual search, on WeddingBids, couples can post a job and allow the businesses to come to them.
For wedding businesses, the platform functions as a marketing platform, allowing them to score business leads with minimal costs and effort. Founder of the startup, Michael Costin, says “it’s a lot more proactive than just setting up static listings on wedding directories”.
The idea for WeddingBids struck Mr Costin’s creative chord after his brother got married last year. During a conversation with his brother and sister-in-law, Mr Costin became baffled with how inefficient the process of finding vendors was.
“This got my business mind racing and I came up with the idea for Weddingbids. I quickly validated the idea by speaking with the vendors that worked at my brother’s wedding, who agreed it was a good idea, and then with engaged couples I knew who all said they would use it,” says Mr Costin.
“We’re seeking to disrupt the way people source wedding vendors online. Instead of listing businesses in the format of a wedding directory, which are a dime a dozen, we focus on the actual wedding jobs themselves. By doing it this way we save time for the end user and make the lead generation much more attractive for businesses.”
The wedding industry is worth a approximately $4.3 billion annually in Australia alone, and an industry ripe for disruption. While a few players have emerged in the market recently that similarly aim to take the inconveniences away from couples planning their weddings, none implements a business model that has worked successfully in other industries such as software development and freelance writing.
“At a conservative 10 percent marketing spend we’re talking a potential market of $400 million a year. There are plenty of competitors out there, so we’re just looking to keep onboarding businesses as quickly as possible and to constantly refine the site so that it becomes invaluable for both businesses and users,” says Mr Costin.
The startup as gone the old-fashioned way to fund the development. Mr Costin says bootstrapping is the best avenue for him as he can be agile and accountable only to himself. Running other commercial websites has made the self-funding feasible.
Mr Costin admits that he tried to launch another online business in the near past, but as a result “bad timing, poor offshore developers and no obvious monetisation method from the start, it failed”. But that didn’t discourage him to try again.
“I took lessons onboard and this time chose to work with well established, agile, start-up focused developers based in Romania. I worked with a local designer to bring my many pages of notes to life. All in all the design and development process took about three months,” says Mr Costin.
WeddingBids is currently charging vendors an annual subscription fee of $60 (a 73 percent saving on the usual $228 per year price) to use the site. Businesses can also open a free account, however in this offering, they cannot communicate with job leads.
The startup has been very social media-savvy in their approach to marketing. Mr Costin says they build a nice email database prior to launching the site through the use of Facebook ads. They’re also active online presence on social media platforms including Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, through which they build relationships with targeted businesses.
In addition, they’re doing paid advertising on Google, Facebook and StumbleUpon, while regularly publishing content on their blog to target the long tail SEO traffic.
In the upcoming months, they’ll be stepping up their offline marketing by exhibiting at wedding festivals and expos.
The greatest achievement for Mr Costin has been launching the business in just three months since conceiving the idea, and acquiring paid customers before the site launched two weeks ago.
“We’ve now started seeing the end users posting on the site, with their jobs being bid on. The site is up and running, and the early signs are promising,” says Mr Costin.
The biggest challenge, on the other hand, has been balancing a full-time job with starting a business – a challenge many startup founders face. Mr Costin says that while WeddingBids is a passion project, “there’s not much time to do ‘normal stuff'”.
At the moment, Mr Costin will be focusing on acquiring users at both ends of the spectrum – businesses and engaged couples. As well, he will keep iterating and improving the site with no deadline in sight.
“There is a feature list as long as my arm ready to be integrated into the site, so it’s going to be all about marketing and development in 2014,” says Mr Costin.
Take a tour of WeddingBids via www.weddingbids.com.au.