On this site we have written about fashion and baby product startups that are founded by women being labeled as ‘pink ghetto’ companies. Now with so many wedding and bridal companies launched by women popping up, we can’t help but think that these are also being put in this criticized group. But based on our talks with entrepreneurs, both entrenched in this pink-soaked ghetto and looking at it from the outside, the ‘pink ghetto’ is actually a fine place for women to be.
Kelle Khalil, the founder of Lover.ly, the first discovery engine to launch in the wedding space, said she doesn’t believe that there is a pink ghetto, just women creating new, unique companies that fill niches. She told The Grindstone:
“Women starting companies that appeal to women isn’t indicative of the existence of a pink ghetto. It’s more indicative of women entrepreneurs seeing a real need, void or pain point out there in the world, and the savvy enough to bring a company to market that satiates these needs, and being able to understand and directly speak to their respective buying audience, be it women, brides or mothers. Women heavily influence, if not dominate these purchasing decisions; it’s only natural that women bring to market the tools/websites to facilitate these decisions.”
Kelle got her big idea when she working at her sister’s small public relations firm that served the bridal industry and planning her sister’s wedding at the same time. “I was overwhelmed by all of the information and ideas on the Web and that there wasn’t one place online to gather all of the amazing ideas we were finding. That was the start of the “Aha!” moment that led to Lover.ly.”
At it’s core, Lover.ly is a tech startup. It just happens to be focusing on a very feminine industry. The company is part of a growing group called “wed tech.” But Khalil feels that the fact that her company is serving the bridal industry has been a pro, not a con. She told The Grindstone:
“The wedding industry is a $99 billion dollar per year business (including registry purchases and honeymoons) with approximately 2.3 weddings taking place a year just in the US alone. Whether you are a man or woman, you know those industry numbers are huge and any man who has been through the wedding planning process with a wife, daughter, or partner knows first hand how much time, emotion and of course, money, goes into the “big day.” As the first truly niche discovery engine to launch in the wedding space, we have seen a great interest by male investors.
Most businesses tend to start in just a couple of ways – they’re either created by someone who through personal experience sees a void in the market for something they need and goes on to fill that void or they’re stared by someone who may not have a personal need per se, but is savvy and wise enough to realize there is a need and puts together a business to fill it. Assuming the former is true in many instances, its natural that female entrepreneurs are going to create something that fills a need for them or their friends and men will naturally do the same. I can think of hundreds of amazing, women-lead businesses and start ups aimed at women—Kass Lazerow from Buddy Media, Divya Gugnani from Send the Trend, and Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss of Rent the Runway for instance—who’ve recognized something missing in their respective industries, something that they really wanted/needed, and hit the ground running with their companies. Perhaps there isn’t so much of criticism for building companies aimed at women (I have not personally experienced this) but more of a lack of celebration/awareness of women who are building successful companies.
Shouldn’t women be able to form companies around products or events they are passionate about? And since women tend to know what women want more than men, why shouldn’t they work for an audience that they understand better?
But sometimes people are just clueless and biased against so-called feminine industries. Amanda Hollowell said she was basically laughed out of billing when she was looking at startup capital for her wedding business. The man she spoke with suggested she borrow money from her parents.
“The whole time he was gruff and very sarcastic about the whole idea. I think what the most frustrating part was he had no clue how competitive the bridal/wedding business is. He had no clue Savannah, GA is ranked in the top ten in the country for destination weddings.”
Patricia Ann told us she had to change her company’s name from The Bridal Studio to The Wedding Co. because she felt like investors were reacting badly to the former.
Kim Taylor, one of the stars of the new Bravo reality show Start-Ups: Silicon Valley, former employee at startup Ampush Media and founder of the new fashion tech company, Shonova.com, told The Grindstone:
“People start things they are passionate about. For all the guys starting gaming companies, they did it because they grew up being obsessed with playing video games. But they don’t say they’re in a ‘guy ghetto.’
The pink ghetto is just a label made to make women feel less than some sort of made up standard, but there is nothing wrong with women putting their passion towards creating tech companies for female customers.
Meghan Muntean, Co-Founder of ChickRX, an interactive health community for women, told us.
“If women are passionate about babies and fashion and can identify voids in those markets, then I’d be disappointed to think that they aren’t creating businesses in those industries. Women are the drivers of revenue in these industries, so it’s about damn time they run them.”