PITCH NYC 2012 finalist Amanda Allen, founder of NewlyWish, shares the story of quitting her day job with her husband to start NewlyWish. Watch her pitch live on November 14 at PITCH NYC Conference.

By Amanda Allen (Co-Founder & CEO, NewlyWish)

A few years ago, my fiancé and I were working in the financial industry and busy planning our wedding, which included the task of creating a registry. While a little reticent about registering – our guests’ presence at our destination wedding was the only thing we really wanted – we were convinced to create a gift registry (primarily by our mothers) as a convenience for friends and family. They convinced us that they were ‘going to get us something’ and not to burden everyone with the task of guessing what we’d like to have.

So, with that info and quasi-pressure, we moseyed on down to our favorite New York City shops which were full of beautiful items perfect for our small Manhattan duplex – but we quickly stumbled on a problem: no registries existed to make shopping these small, local stores convenient for our guests. Unable to find a solution, and unwilling to make our guests lives more hectic (90% of our guests lived outside of NYC), we turned to the registries of a few big-box retailers that dominate the registry market.

That spring, my husband and I had an incredible wedding. But like most Gen-Yers – an audience raised on choice, convenience, and personalization – we couldn’t shake the two trade-offs we’d made by registering with the big guys:

  1. Our wishlist looked pretty uninspiring, losing the uniqueness and personality that made it a reflection of our preferred style.
  2. Small businesses lost business.

So we asked ourselves two questions, “How can we help independent shops and brands participate in the registry market, optimizing their sales and exposing their business to a national audience?” and “How can we help couples create a registry that is both unique and personal to them?”

With the number of Gen-Yers reaching marrying age projected to increase by 20% over the next 10 years, and no full-service online registry that directly supports small businesses, meets modern desires for creative gifting options, and solves common problems like double-gifting with the automated management of just one list (coupled with killer customer service), we knew this $19 billion dollar industry was ready for disruption.

Feeling passionate about our concept and eager to venture out on our own, we quit our full-time finance jobs at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, partnered with Mark Bartlett of technology company Intersect, and two years later, NewlyWish came out of beta.

NewlyWish is a national online wedding gift registry service. With our one-stop digital storefront for boutiques, artisans and brands, we help modern couples create unique registries that truly reflect their styles, and provide a seamless platform from registry through purchase to make shopping easier for their guests.

NewlyWish works like this –

  1. With the help of our retail partners, we integrate a curated selection of the products from shops, brands and artisans into our platform.
  2. Couples browse NewlyWish either by shop, style or category to create their registry, then share their unique URL with Friends & Family who shop the site.
  3. NewlyWish captures payment and provides a single point of contact for customer service, while our technology automatically updates the registry and alerts both the couple and the retailer of the item’s purchase.

Each shop has its own backend admin portal with inventory mangement, shipping and personal graphic tools to update inventories as often as they like. A cool piece of feedback from shops is that our backend is so intuitive and seamless, they’d like to leverage and license it for their own internal purposes.

Since our beta launch in May of 2010, we’ve grown to represent over 6,000 SKUs from more that 50 small businesses and national brands, offering unique, beautiful and unusual items for the modern couple. In addition to registry staples like fine china and kitchen tools, we host unique categories like eco-friendly and experience gifts – things like cooking classes, interior design services and tickets to sporting events.

In the future, we’re planning to extend our digital registry service into other popular registry categories like baby registry. For now, we’re focused on making sure couples have access to the most creative and elegant gifting options available to them, no matter where they live in the country.

Advice to entrepreneurs –

I’m often asked what advice I would give to a woman who wants to start her own business. And for any entrepreneur, the best advice I can give is take the time to develop the most comprehensive business plan that you can – there’s no substitute for planning.

Two more crucial pieces of advice are to seek out as much unbiased feedback as possible – embracing critical feedback early can save you from major problems down the road – and to build and nurture networks. Businesses thrive best when you create a community that works together.

Women 2.0 readers: How is your business doing this week? Let us know in the comments.

About the guest blogger: Amanda Allen is Co-Founder and CEO of NewlyWish. Amanda has worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for seven years as a commissioned bank examiner and project manager. She holds a BS in Finance from Fordham University and is an MBA candidate in the Graduate School of Business at Fordham University. Follow her on Twitter at @NewlyWish.