Amy Parfett and Melany McBride of WedShed
It's no secret that I'm a wedding addict. I have more than one Pinterest board devoted to 'the big day'. A friend of mine and I even joke that we just need a date, and we're good to go with everything else already planned! 😝
I know a couple of things for sure: I don't want a 'traditional' wedding and I want a venue that is completely remarkable (and no, I am not even engaged, just a dreamer/mad planner!!).
So, when I came across a platform that brings together wholly unique Australian and New Zealand venues to book for weddings, I needed to explore further!
Meet WedShed - the creation by friends Amy Parfett and Melany McBride and designed for 'bridechillas'.
These two friends were searching fervently through Google to help a girlfriend find a unique wedding location: something that wasn't your typical function room or wedding package venue.
With no 'go-to' online hub for couples looking for something out of the ordinary when it came to a wedding location, Amy and Melany decided to build their own.
So let's get stuck into how WedShed's business works and the marketing that has got this incredible platform to where it is today. Over to co-founder Amy...
What are your backgrounds and what led you to starting WedShed?
My background is in PR and communications with a bit of digital marketing and copywriting thrown in, and Mel’s in customer and web management as well as events planning. The concept for WedShed was one of those lucky moments where we stumbled upon a gap in the market that got us both really excited; it was really just good timing.
A girlfriend of ours got engaged a few years back and asked us to help her find a unique wedding venue. We were living overseas at the time and we jumped on Google thinking it’d be a cinch. We quickly realised we were so wrong – the same old traditional venues kept cropping up. We’d been using share economy sites like Airbnb and Stayz for years to book vacations and were mind blown that there wasn’t a platform out there bringing together private and special properties for couples to book for big days. The idea clicked. And I’m pretty sure we cracked a bottle of wine shortly after.
Can you explain what the ‘first version’ of WedShed looked like - was it very different from what it is today?
Oh my gosh. We designed the first iteration of WedShed’s website. And we’re not designers. That might give you a clue as to what happened next.
After going back and forth with our web developers for months with design changes, we did what we should’ve done from the beginning and hired a web designer to completely redo the platform with user experience at the forefront of what’s important.
"We learnt an important lesson – that sometimes taking the budget (in this case, DIY design) option ends up being much more expensive than outsourcing things you aren’t pro at to a pro."
What's it like working alongside someone who is as fully invested in your business as you are each day?
It’s amazing - we can’t imagine it any other way. It means having someone to celebrate the wins with and to lean on when things are overwhelming. We are both really fortunate that we have the same vision for this business and had a solid foundation of friendship to begin with (we’ve been mates since we were six years old) and so everyday just feels like a day spent with your bestie (just with a laptop and a few hundred stakeholders).
What has been a 'pinch me' moment for your business?
We were recently announced as finalists for the 2017 Veuve Clicquot New Generation award, which celebrates young women in business. As part of the process, we were interviewed by a panel of Australian business women whose brands are household names that we’ve long loved. It was surreal sitting in front of these ladies who we so admired, chatting to them about our little biz. Very pinch me.
What are some of your tactics for getting your audience from social media to actually using your site and sending enquiries through it?
I guess our social media is a teaser for the kinds of venues and vendors they can find on our site. We put the best feet of our venues and vendors forward across our social channels and hope that they give couples a good feel for the calibre of wedding businesses we represent. We also love sharing honest, no-BS wedding planning advice via our blog, which we’ll promote via social to drive traffic back to the website as well.
It’s all pretty standard stuff but if you’re consistent, open and speak from the heart on behalf of your brand, your social media will resonate with the right people and they’ll probably take the action you want them to.
Could you tell us about a business ‘fail’?!
Urgh, this will sound disgustingly clichéd but we’ve found business to be a series of lots of little wins and fails that make up every day. In an ideal world, the wins outnumber the fails. And just to add the cringe-cherry on top, the fails could be considered ‘learnings’. Feel free to slap us now.
But seriously, we feel like we’re winning and failing everyday, it just depends on the time of day/what email we’re writing/if we’ve had coffee yet. I think you just get used to it.
From what you have tried, what have been the best types of marketing for your business?
We’ve been very proactive in drumming up media interest for WedShed as way of spreading the word. With a background in PR, this has been a free exercise (if you don’t count time as money) and it’s led to some amazing opportunities, like breakfast TV slots and articles in key outlets that our target couples read. This said, we recognise we’re super lucky to have had a past life working in that industry which helps immensely. But there are definitely some pretty good articles to be found online about the best way to pitch your business to media if you Google around.
"Social media is the biggest Godsend to small business and we rely on Facebook and Instagram hugely to reach our market. You don’t need to invest much money in Facebook (whether it be advertising or promoting posts) to see the results, and the fact you can target people so accurately now is amazing (/creepy as hell… but ultimately awesome for business)."
And what types of marketing have you tried and found didn’t work so well?
So far, we’ve been able see results from everything. It’s not always numerically measurable - for example, we’ve done a couple of radio interviews, which is hard to see traffic or Google Analytics results from, but we’ll realise it worked when someone emails us weeks later and says they heard us on air. Given we’re still such a young business, we’re willing to give most things a go.
If you could give one marketing tip from your experience, what would it be?
Figure out what your point of difference is and use that as the driving force behind any campaign you do. For example, we’ve big-upped the fact that WedShed is the first platform bringing together unique, non-traditional wedding venues in Australia and New Zealand, and that it’s a bit like the Airbnb of weddings. It’s helped people more quickly understand what we do, and decide whether they’re excited by it.
What are some of the challenges you've experienced, or continue to, in running your own business?
"Like most small business owners, we’re time-challenged, under-resourced, full of big ideas and impatient to see them turn into a reality."
We struggle with all of the above everyday, but we know it’s all normal and we try and use these challenges as fodder to get better so that we can get bigger and do more for this industry.
And what are your greatest rewards?
Hands-down, human feedback. Whether it’s couples sharing with us how much we were able to help make their wedding planning a breeze, or a venue sharing the success they’ve had since joining WedShed, it’s the personal stuff that makes us feel so fulfilled.
What is in the works for WedShed in the near future?
We expanded to New Zealand last year so we’ll be focusing on getting that market up and running, and will look for more international opportunities too. We’re also in the process of creating a beautiful hard-copy wedding planner for couples, plus a digital version as well. And there’s plenty of other ideas bouncing around which we’ll hopefully have a chance to flesh out too… time will tell!
A BIG thank you to Amy and Melany for sharing their business story about one of my favourite start ups (and I'm sure it's now one of yours too!) and insights on marketing.
Keep up to date with WedShed on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and at wedshed.com.au and explore some of their gorgeous member venues below.
Image credits of venues: Mitch Pohl, Dan O'Day, Ben Yew, Photography by Lauretta, Alex Marks Photography, Jonathan Wherett.