“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” – Pamela Vaull Starr
In today’s society, women have a limited presence in the tech industry, making up less than 10% of the venture capitalist pool. In spite of being outnumbered, however, there are tech-savvy female entrepreneurs that are contributing great work to the technical industry. An example of such a tech-savvy female entrepreneur is Kellee Khalil, the founder of Lover.ly.
Lover.ly is an online search engine for weddings that first launched in 2011. At first glance, the New York City based company looks like a Pinterest for weddings. However, there is a great difference – on Lover.ly more than mere ideas are discovered, users can also find items to buy and people to hire. The bridal industry is a multibillion dollar industry; more than $50 billion is spent on weddings annually in the U.S alone. Furthermore, planning a wedding can become very chaotic and stressful, and wedding preparations sometimes turn brides into Bridezillas. The goal of Lover.ly is to stop this bridal insanity and to instead transform wedding planning into a more relaxing and joyful experience. Similar to Pinterest, users can search for highly specific combinations, but Lover.ly aims to be “the intersection of inspiration and transaction” by encouraging users to purchase the items they find.
The birth of Lover.ly began as a family affair. In 2010, the Khalil’s sister got engaged and named Khalil as her Maid of Honor. Answering to her brand-new responsibilities as a Maid of Honor, Khalil was occupied with the wedding planning all day and night long. During her search for the perfect items for the wedding Khalil got frustrated, as conducting basic web searches was turning out to be a challenging task. There were many sites that the sisters had to search before they could find certain items of interest, and out of these difficulties Khalil found an idea: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could search for ideas and things to buy all in one place?”
In August of 2010, shortly after her 26th birthday and one month after her sister had gotten married, Khalil decided to start up her own venture and took everything she had to invest into her dream of building a platform that connects brides with vendors, retailers and brands. Khalil made the decision to invest $75,000 of her own money into her idea. Furthermore, she found an agency that could provide her assistance with building the prototype, which was completed in June 2011. Ultimately, Khalil was able raise another $500,000 in funding and launched Lover.ly on Valentine’s Day of 2012.
Today, Lover.ly is doing more than well – the company indexes photos for 35 wedding blogs that generate 2.5 million unique visitors per month and traffic alone is up about 75% for the year to 30 million images on the website every month.
Nonetheless, Khalil had to show great determination in the pursuit of her dream to launch Lover.ly. Approximately one week from the Lover.ly launch, Khalil was approached by a top wedding site that tried to scare her. During the coffee invitation, the business strategist of the top bridal site made a not-so-subtle threat: “We have $70 million to buy competitors just so we can shut them down.” However, it did not discourage Khalil and she continued to build her wedding blog empire.