Olivia Chin's just-married friends (of whom she suddenly seemed to have a lot) had a litany of bad stories about unwanted gifts purchased off a registry. Some ended up going back to the store; others ended up piled up in their parents' basements.
"I have a friend who had them stacked in a stairwell in her condo and the fire alarm went off," she says. "Everything got soaked."
A biomedical engineer by training, Ms. Chin had spent a career in the healthcare sector. But with her own wedding approaching, she decided to leap into startup life with a company that aimed to give wedding planners another option. Her startup, Better Ever After, wants to connect newlyweds with "experiences" – that is, activities and services that range from cheese classes to having your portrait painted – instead of goods or cash.
It's simple enough in operation: A couple need only sign up with an e-mail, and pick which amongst the participating services you're interested in being a part of, and guests can take it from there. The collection of services is modest so far: In New York City, where Ms. Chin started the service late last year, it works with a collection of about 20 companies. This month, the Toronto native is bringing the service to her hometown (she herself just moved back).
Experience-based gifting is well-trodden turf. But Better Ever After pairs it with the wedding registry concept, which Ms. Chin says was a business decision. "As a startup, it's always easier to pick one target and focus in on it," she says. "I'm a solo founder, a one-woman show. For me, I feel like weddings are a hugely underserved market. We can create a product that's really specifically solving that problem."
In the business' first months of operation, Ms. Chin says her company has worked with about 100 couples so far, and has past the $50,000 mark in the value of items registered. As an operation that hasn't launched a concerted marketing drive yet, she says she's had good results by advertising on smaller, less-mainstream wedding blogs like "A Practical Wedding" – catching readers who have already decided they're looking for something that deviates from standard wedding conventions.
The fixations of the standard wedding are something that Ms. Chin wants to shake up, as a newlywed herself – she was one of the first users of her own service.
"One of the things I really didn't like about the wedding-industrial complex is that it's so focused on that one day. The wedding, the wedding, the wedding – and what the bride wants, what the bride wants, what the bride wants," she says. "That's not what we're about. We're about you as a couple going out and having fun and doing things together."