Sramana Mitra: How do you assess the TAM? How big is the bridesmaid dress category?
Ilana Stern: The bridesmaid dresses itself is about a $2 billion category housed within the $14 billion wedding fashion industry. Overall, the wedding industry is $100 billion.
Sramana Mitra: Your growth strategy is wedding industry merchandise or collaborative e-commerce?
Ilana Stern: I would say both. The long term vision is collaborative e-commerce at a broader scale. Our focus over the next three to five years will be on the wedding industry and solving the pain with our collaborative solution.
Sramana Mitra: What beyond the bridesmaid dresses do you want to work on in the wedding industry in terms of the categories that lend themselves to your style of shopping?
Ilana Stern: It’s around other fashion purchases. While a lot of the aesthetics decision starts with the bridesmaid dresses, there’s a whole look across the wedding party that the bride is hoping to create including flower girls and ring bearers, and outfitting the groomsmen. So there’s a lot in the wedding fashion space itself that has yet to be solved. Beyond fashion, there are a number of interesting opportunities. Everything from an aesthetics perspective, we have all this data that coordinates back to this palette that the bride is building.
Sramana Mitra: The flowers, runners, and everything, right?
Ilana Stern: Exactly. There are also other elements in the experience that are challenging with regards to collaboration. That’s thinking about their bachelorette parties and bridal showers, and a lot of events leading up to the wedding that requires coordination across groups.
Sramana Mitra: What percentage of this industry has moved online at this point?
Ilana Stern: That’s a great question. It’s probably around 15% to 20%. Everything’s pretty much private in the industry. That’s based on triangulating data, but there’s a lot of room for movement. We think that this is an industry that’s actually really well-served by the Internet, given that you basically have a group of people who are often not living in the same place and who are trying to make a lot of purchases together leading up to this event.
Sramana Mitra: The trends are in your favor. The demographics are younger and younger and more native Internet users. What else do you want to share in the story?
Ilana Stern: Something that I think has been really important for me throughout this company building has been humility and just being really clear about what I know and what I don’t know, and what I’m excellent at and what I’m not. I acknowledge what I don’t know or what I’m not excellent at, and bringing people on who can complement me or seek mentors for advice. That piece has been really critical to me and it’s reflected not just in my team but in the angel investors that I brought on into Weddington Way as well.
One of our investors is the Chairman of Jet Blue. He has managed thousands of people and dealt with all sorts of challenging situations and negotiations. For me, it’s been really looking at what are the challenges I’m going to face, where are the areas that I need advice, and finding experts who can help me and complement my skill set and knowledge base.