• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

A Designer’s Perspective: 3 Tips to Navigating Your Startup Journey with a Clear Vision

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Visualize your startup first and then make it happen.

By Lizzy Ellingson (Chief Creative Officer, Blueprint Registry)

I graduated with a Masters degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York with the desire to start my own company. I launched my own non-profit to help fund after school sports for inner city kids. I started my own design firm to manage all the freelance work for various clients. I was busier than ever. Then, my boyfriend at the time, Eric, asked for my hand in marriage – it was the best day of my life.

Everything related to wedding planning was relatively seamless except for one part, creating our registry. I tried out a few different wedding registry sites, but felt uninspired and frustrated by how time consuming and tedious the process was. I had no idea what would fit in our new house and our new life together, how much to register for, and how to find gifts that matched our style. To top it off, we were living in New York City at the time, but would be moving to a new home in Seattle after our wedding, leaving us even more clueless as to what what we would need to for our new home.

I felt like I was checking items off a list rather than creating our new life together. As a designer, I have always found myself drawn to sites that have a clean design style, are visually appealing, and are easy-to-use. As a bride looking for inspiration for my wedding and home, I found these elements more important than ever. I kept thinking to myself… there has to be a better way!

Tip #1: When You Find Yourself Frustrated With the Status Quo and are Unable to Find a Solution to a problem at Hand, The Odds Are, You Are Not The Only One!

It turns out, I wasn’t the only person who felt frustrated by the user experience of wedding registry sites (and I wasn’t the only one thinking there had to be a better way). A friend of mine and I went to grab lunch to catch up. He asked how the wedding planning was going and as I lamented about the registry process, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He felt the exact same way as a wedding guest! He had attended numerous weddings, and found buying a gift for lifelong friends from a traditional registry felt very impersonal. He wanted to be more involved in the process and as a result found himself oftentimes looking outside of the registries for the perfect gift.

After chatting about the void in the marketplace we both saw, the answer, we decided was to create the solution ourselves. He approached me with an idea to change not only the design but the functionality of wedding registries. Instead of a list format, have the registry be based on the blueprint of the home. Instead of choosing gifts from only one store, have the ability to source highly rated products from national retailers as well as boutiques. Lastly make the experience more convenient through pivotal features like group gifting, ‘thank you’ card summary, and easy return guide. And just like that, the concept for Blueprint Registry was born.

Tip #2: Opposites Attract!

When it comes to finding your ideal co-founder, don’t look for a mirror image of yourself. Instead, try to find someone who brings something different to the table.

We spent three months on the business plan – my co-founder brought the guests perspective and the business background, I brought the brides perspective and the creative insight – and three months searching for the right development team. We then spent six months building and designing the site.  The countless cups of coffee, sleepless nights, and midnight Thai food were all worth it in the end. We launched in February of 2014 and the response has been incredible. From couples to bloggers to major publications, we are hearing very positive feedback and we are incredibly excited about the future.

Tip #3: Stay Focused and Expect The Unexpected

Although I have gone through the startup process with three separate businesses, I have come to realize it is always a long road to launch and an even longer one to success. Every idea, every venture has its own trials and tribulations. You are going to spend more money than you budgeted. You are going to spend more time than you anticipated. That all said, the joy of seeing a product you believe in come to market is the most rewarding work achievement.

For all the entreprepreneurs out there, if you’re like me, you may never quite reach your destination but remember it is about the journey. So be sure to stop and look around to celebrate the meaningful mile markers along the way.

What other tips do you want to share?

Lizzy Ellingson

About the guest blogger: Lizzy is co-founder and CCO of Blueprint Registry. Lizzy holds a Masters in Design from the School of Visual Arts and is the Founder of her own design firm, Showman Design. Lizzy was also recently award Print Magazine’s New Visuals Artists Award: Top 20 Designer Under 30. Her energy and devoted work ethic are the core building blocks to her personal success. It is her unique design vision that frames Blueprint Registry.