Coupled: Linda Cheung and Mark Bower

The female founder on receiving instant market validation and how they convinced businesses who had no interest tech to join their wedding app

Name: Coupled
Company name: Linda Cheung and Mark Bower
Location: Basingstoke
Date launched: 27/05/2015
Website: coupledhq.com

Tell us what your business does:

We offer a new way to plan your wedding day by acting as a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique wedding products and services through beautiful imagery. Users are given a straightforward swipe interface and images can be shared; interacted with or moved to a mood board for later use.

In short, Coupled makes it easy for engaged couples to find inspiration, save and share ideas, and connect with quality wedding suppliers!

Where did the idea for your business come from?

We saw consumers using Pinterest for inspiration – but getting frustrated that photos aren’t often linked to suppliers. We also saw them using WhatsApp to share ideas with their family, friends and partner; but then finding it virtually impossible to find the item they loved from a bunch of conversations six months ago.

On the supplier side, we saw how frustrated they were with Facebook algorithm changes, and the sheer volume of content on Pinterest and Instagram. Wedding suppliers are increasingly seeing reduced returns on Facebook, and limited value from their efforts on Pinterest and Instagram.

We figured there had to be a better way for both.

How did you know there was a market for it?

After we came up with the idea we put together a mock-up of how we thought the Coupled app would look. We showed it to some wedding suppliers and to our delight they immediately asked how much it would cost for them to get involved. Once wedding suppliers started committing to annual subscriptions and handing over their hard-earned cash, we knew we were on to something!

And, one week on from launch, consumers had already taken to social media to tell us how much they love Coupled and how they’re already sharing mood boards with family and friends.

What were you doing before starting up?

We were doing social media consulting work for CubeSocial. It was through this that we realised the need for our wedding service.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

If I’m honest the change had been coming for a while. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy corporate life, but as much as I had loved the buzz of London and working in a large company, I’d always had a yearning to run my own business one day.

More personally, I received a massive jolt when my father passed away. The last thing I wanted to feel was that I was treading water when life was so short.

How did you raise the money?

We have self-funded the development and launch of Coupled.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We charge wedding suppliers an annual fee to be listed in the app.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Geeks that we are, it’s been interesting to meet a handful of wedding suppliers who don’t embrace technology. It makes for a fun conversation when the business you’re speaking to doesn’t see the need for social media or a website!

The vast majority have been really excited though and told us that something like Coupled is long overdue.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Being offered money! When we just had an idea and the beginnings of a concept but wedding suppliers still wanted to know how they could get involved and how much it would cost them.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

The goal of a start-up is to figure out the right thing to build, and how to do so as quickly as possible. You need to confirm that your potential customers want, and are willing to pay for, what you’re planning to build.

Start with a mock-up, then get out and talk to your target audience. In Coupled’s case, our network’s wish to hand over money to us certainly suggested that we might be onto something!

Then just stay focused on finding what customers want and if you listen, engage and relentlessly evolve you’ll get there.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

The goal is to be run a successful business but not be tied to any one geographic location. So perhaps on a beach in Italy!

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