Well well well! This is an interview we have been looking forward to sharing with you ever since Mel and Amy got in touch with us a couple of months ago. Today we chat to the founders of WedShed, an online platform that brings together a collection of unique Australian venues to hire for weddings. Not your traditional venues but spaces with a little bit of a difference and blank canvases that allow you to customise and create celebrations that reflect you as a couple. From warehouses to wineries, sheds and seaside gems, we're loving what the girls are doing and are excited to be chatting a little bit about what they've learnt through launching their small business and a little behind the scenes.
Tell us a little bit about how WedShed came about and why you decided to start your own business.
We were living in London a few years ago and one of our girlfriends back home asked for help finding a unique wedding venue, as she was struggling. So we jumped online (naively thinking this can’t be too hard) - and were quickly stumped. Unless you stumbled upon a very lucky search term, the same old traditional venues kept cropping up.
We knew there had to be more amazing spaces out there, and that there must be plenty of venue owners who wanted an easier way to connect with couples. At the time, Airbnb was well and truly mainstream and the concept of renting out privately owned spaces for holidays was pretty common. Yet, there was no Australian platform offering a similar service for events, particularly weddings.
It was very much a lightbulb moment - we realised after about an hour of searching for venues that there was a serious gap that needed to be filled and that we could be the people to fill it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Mel: My priority is finding WedShed’s amazing venues and our fave vendors. I hate calling it sales, but it’s part of the process and the first step is to tell them about WedShed and how it works. If they’re keen to get involved, I work with them to share their amazing space or service. When I have time, I try and get through some invoicing and reconciling our account with pesky receipts. I’ll also have a bit of customer service when we get enquiries or questions direct from couples.
Amy: Every day turns out to be different but mine usually includes a mix of all things marketing, branding, content, value creation for our stakeholders (venues, vendors and couples), social media and PR.
What is the process of choosing venues to feature on WedShed?
First and foremost, all of our venues have to be places that we ourselves would get married at. That’s the main way we filter which venues we approach to join WedShed.
We’ve nutted out a variety of ways to find unique spaces around Australia. We’ve actually shared our tips on finding venues for those who are keen to give it a crack, which you can read here. But in a nutshell, we use a combo of word-of-mouth, Google image searching and trawling through different industry and vendor blogs to find our venues. We also have a good number of spaces that approach us directly, which we love too.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Probably trying to figure out how to manage our time. And also run a business for the first time. There’s this level of overwhelm when you start a small business and if it wasn’t for the matching level of excitement and hope, it might overtake you. There have been some pretty sleepless nights and a fair few new wrinkles created over the last year.
We’ve got lofty ambitions for WedShed and at times the amount of stuff we hope to achieve in our business can feel just so unattainable for how teeny a team we are. It can be hard to stop and reflect on the progress you’ve made so far but it’s important to do that from time-to-time.
What advice would you give couples planning their wedding?
Heaps! We’ve published a couple of articles that we hope help couples with the planning process:
- Our biggest lessons from our own wedding
- Your wedding planning questions: our answers
Favourite and least favourite thing about working in the wedding industry?
We’ve got two fave things:
1 / How supportive this industry is. Before starting up WedShed, neither of us had worked in the wedding space and had no idea what to expect – if it was going to be full of all the stereotypes perpetuated by reality TV (think: catty, clique-y professionals and overbearing bridezillas) or if it would just be a whole bunch of lovely normal people making happy celebrations happen. Thankfully it’s been the later. We’ve been overwhelmed by how warm and generous and supportive everyone we’ve encountered has been. It’s such a beautiful industry and we feel so lucky.
2 / The fact that a portion of our job is sticky-beaking at amazing spaces around Australia and sharing them with other like-minded people. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit all in the name of WedShed and there have been some real pinch-ourselves moments along the way.
Least favourite: this is tough. Probably wanting to have a wedding at all the amazing venues we come across. Such a real struggle.
Most memorable moment to date?
We were privileged enough last year to be invited to the launch of one of our venues, Sandridge Estate in northern Tasmania. It’s this incredibly massive shed set on 500 acres of private bushland, just minutes away from a white-sand beach. We brought our husbands with us, who have been such amazing support pillars throughout our business journey. And it ended up being the best weekend – we met warm, lovely people and discovered one of the most gorgeous pockets of Australia that we would’ve probably never visited if it weren’t for WedShed.
Most significant lesson you've learn so far?
Outsource the things you’re not a pro at to people who are pros. It might cost you money that you’re tentative to part with but it will probably save you down the track when you realise that whatever it is could’ve been done better, faster. The phrase ‘time is money’ feels so daggy but it’s sometimes so true – it might mean you get to launch your product or business quicker and begin learning and earning sooner.
We spent six months trying to design our own website with our developers when we first began working on WedShed, despite the fact that we had no web design experience. After what felt like hundreds of iterations on the original website, we relented and hired a web designer. It felt like a big expense at the time but when we saw her vision for our site we realised how crazy we were for not taking the leap to outsource this super important job from the get-go.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a small business?
Be authentic and don’t be afraid to show the fact you’re human. In fact, do make sure you show this.
Authenticity sometimes feels like a buzzword in business but it’s probably the most important thing, especially for small businesses. Gone are the days (we believe) when brands needed to sound automated to seem professional. Consumers are humans and they recognise that behind all brands are other humans too, which means they’re run by people with real feelings, passions, knowledge and gaps in knowledge. You should draw upon these shared things to make real connections with people, and not be afraid to show vulnerability. Vulnerability is relatable. Communicate in a way that you would want to be communicated with and you’ll reach the people you’re hoping to reach and earn trust in the process.
Where do you hope WedShed will be in a year from now?
In the next year we hope to be in your hands (literally) – we’re in the very early stages of producing a beautiful wedding planning journal to make this journey easier. We’d like to have hundreds more amazing venues and vendors to share with people and we hope to be expanding our reach to NZ. We also hope to be paying ourselves a wage, that would be quite nice.