May 19, 2024

Thrive Insider

Exclusive stories of successful entrepreneurs

Maya Holihan Founder & CEO ~ EWedded

Who are you and what business did you start?

I’ve spent most of my 26-year career in luxury retail, pivoting to bridal in 2001 when I joined Vera Wang in NYC. After Vera and prior to my most recent company, EWedded, I spent 13 years as owner-operator of a multi-million-dollar wedding retail company. EWedded provides ecommerce and distribution systems for independent bridal retailers and brands to easily recommerce excess inventory on a global scale. Our mission is to inspire blissful memories and a prettier planet while furthering the economic empowerment of our sellers.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

In 2017 the company I spent 13 years building was in financial crisis. After multiple acquisitions put me in an over-leveraged position the bank required a full inventory of my goods. It was the completion of this task that shed the light on how much overproduction of products there were in the industry and how it adversely impacted the retailer and the environment. The inventory revealed that my company possessed nearly $250K of “dead inventory” that I was being swallowed by. After doing some research and chatting with other retailers and brands I quickly learned that this wasn’t just an isolated problem, but an industry-wide problem. It was then that I came up with the idea for EWedded.

Describe the process of launching the business.

It took time. The idea for EWedded came to me five years ago, during a time of intense strife I was going through with my previous business. I ended up having to shut down that company. It took a year to recover from that loss and then another year venturing into other industries like real estate before I realized I missed the wedding industry and was called to bring EWedded to market. The detour ended up being beneficial because it’s where I met the people that would become the development team for EWedded. We began building out the platform in May 2020 and launched our MVP in the first quarter of 2021.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

In short, leveraging long-term relationships. The wedding industry is a big, little one. It produces hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, yet everyone seems to know one another. My almost 20 years in bridal retail and industry influence has paved the way to acquire sellers. We’re a bootstrapped startup so we’ve had to be really creative attracting end-users to build demand on a zero-budget marketing initiative. We have a growing email contact list that we market to regularly, have partnered with other companies to offer product giveaways, and we just launched a Facebook group to foster community. We’re also getting ready to deploy affiliate and influencer marketing programs.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

For a bootstrapped business we’ve made so much progress in a short period of time. We have our product in market, some early revenue and a consistent growing number of suppliers as we shift our focus to building up demand. My goal for the company is to be acquired or go public within 7-8 years. Over that time I plan to create the most prominent, profitable and desirable company that changes the face of the industry, strengthens the economic staying power of independent retailers and brands, is a champion for sustainability and ripe for acquisition. Our company leaders will create an inclusive culture that promotes unity and opportunity with a spirit of community involvement and standing up for what’s right; to not just be a leading company in the wedding industry, but one that sets the standard for success and is admired by other verticals.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Bootstrapping ignites creativity and innovation. There are benefits to being cash-strapped and one of them is resourcefulness. If you truly believe in what you’re building you’ll do the work to tap into your creative and innovative mind, or leverage that strength in team members, to build traction. You’re constantly on your toes and there’s no room for making lazy or barely thought through decisions, because you simply can’t afford to.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

PaperStreet, OnePager, Slack, Trello, Google Business Suite, Stripe, Quickbooks, Gust, LinkedIn

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
Female Founder Collective
Women Founder’s Network
ICAP (Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program)
Ad Astra Ventures – Get to Even Bootcamp

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Get thick skin, quickly and don’t take rejection personally. Most importantly, don’t give up on your dreams!

Where can we go to learn more? and