Releasing a beta product after months of iteration and work behind the scenes is just the beginning of the road for startup founders. Renee Bledsoe, founder of what was then called Wiithyu, quickly found this out following the release of her wedding planning platform.
“When we launched beta in 2016, I was really proud of what we created, but I knew it wasn’t the final version of the product or our brand,” Bledsoe says.
After receiving feedback and reviews from customers and collecting behavioral data, Bledsoe’s gut feeling was validated. As of March 2017, she stopped work on Wiithyu and stepped back to examine the data she had collected from the beta.
Bledsoe had a startup’s unique problem — she had found her core audience and a viable product — but had no true customer retention due to a confusing barrier of entry. Instead of throwing it all away and moving on, she broke the problem down to digestible pieces and tackled the collected data.
“Users, design trends, industry and social influencers all had an impact on the direction we were going in which is why I didn’t invest heavily in our branding upfront. We had to wait and see what would come back to us,” says Bledsoe. “Once we collected enough data to start seeing trends, we were able to pinpoint the changes we could make that would have the greatest impact on our users’ experience. Making the app free and having a stronger brand voice and presence were at the top.”
Her ‘spaghetti moments,’ as she calls those moments where you wait to see what sticks, led her to the conclusion that it wasn’t the product that wasn’t viable, but her revenue model and branding.
“We didn’t change the feature and functionality of the app — we just made it more accessible for our users,” says Bledsoe. “We updated the revenue model to ensure that couples weren’t blocked by having to pay for our service. They pay for everything else in a wedding — the planning should be free.”
That’s how collaborative planning platform EverlyWed was born.
Bledsoe approached a design firm to tackle her big branding problem, leading to a name change that’s both clear and easy to pronounce. “If you have to explain it, it’s not a good name,” says Bledsoe. “It made more sense to start fresh with a name that brides, or anyone, could understand, relate to and get an idea of experience they were about to have with us.”
EverlyWed’s platform and new, focused branding, helps brides-to-be tackle the details and tasks of their upcoming wedding celebrations with an easy-to-use collaborative dashboard — from engagement parties, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, to the wedding and honeymoon. The platform allows them to task out certain details to friends and family members and keep track of their progress, all in one place.
With a new plan in place for EverlyWed, Bledsoe tackled the revenue issue from every perspective. “I needed to hone in on what my audience was willing to pay, or not pay, for the app’s services,” says Bledsoe. “Before pulling the plug on the existing revenue model it was important to identify opportunities for additional revenue streams that would support the business.”
While the app remains free for brides, couples, and their entourage, EverlyWed has a platinum account upgrade that provides a bundle of designed, planning resources for a fee.
Currently EverlyWed remains self-funded and bootstrapped, but she’s open to funding down the road to scale. “The door is always open for discussing funding whether we decide to do it now, later or never. It’s always good to gather as much information and meet as many people as possible to make the best decision for the company,” says Bledsoe.
After undergoing this intensive branding and revenue pivot, Bledsoe shares that the lessons were many, but remembering the big picture throughout the process was the biggest one.
“Walls don’t have just one side. It’s really important to remember that there’s always another route, solution or direction to go in,” says Bledsoe. “It can also be challenging to see the big picture when you have a big wall in front of you. I had to remind myself that it was okay to walk away and give my brain a timeout. If you can’t see an obvious solution to a problem, come back to it later. It’ll be hanging out when you return.”
Up next, Bledsoe plans to jump into marketing and customer acquisition, following their launch earlier in January. “We have some exciting partnerships with jewelry and lifestyle brands coming up and events we’re participating in so it’s very exciting to finally show people we’re live so they can log on, get in the app and start planning for themselves,” says Bledsoe.