After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, postponements, and downsizings, weddings are back and bigger than ever due to pent-up demand. And DIY wedding planning platform Loverly is more than ready to meet the moment.
I spoke with CEO and Founder of Loverly Kellee Khalil about her past careers, launching and growing a business, navigating through the pandemic, and creative business partnerships, including with Shark Tank Angel Investor, Daymond John. Oh, and do read all the way to the end – there’s a loverly twist.
Shelley Zalis: You previously worked at Engage Media Group. How did you decide to make a career switch and launch your own company at Loverly? What was your eureka moment?
Kelly Khalil: In 2010 I started helping my sister, Leila, plan her wedding day and thought it would be a piece of cake. But after spending hours on my laptop, searching for wedding inspiration, coming up with bachelorette ideas, identifying the who’s-who of wedding vendors in a flooded market, and strategizing the reality factor of how much to spend on her budget, I reached a verdict that wedding planning was no easy feat. That’s when I conceived Loverly, the DIY wedding planning platform for modern couples.
I made it my mission to bring fun back into wedding planning and poured my heart into building a brand that resonated with today’s nearlyweds and their modern #relationshipgoals. Since then, Loverly has grown into a digital destination where couples come for the well-rounded wedding support they can’t find anywhere else with access to free wedding planning tools, inspiration, and a guided wedding planning masterclass. We’ve partnered with two industry giants, Bed Bath & Beyond for wedding registry and Minted for invitations and stationery, to round out our wedding planning offering.
SZ: Earlier on in your career, you left a job in finance to join your sister at her company, Be Inspired PR. How did that experience empower you to launch your own business?
CC: Working in finance was a wonderful way to learn how capital can accelerate a company’s growth or be the reason it fails. After spending four years helping other companies acquire capital for their businesses, I was ready to venture out on my own, but I didn’t quite know what kind of business I wanted to start. Working with my sister at her company was a great stepping stone as it gave me a taste for what it’s like to work at an early stage company as well as insight into a completely new industry: the world of weddings.
SZ: How much prior experience did you have in tech or the startup industry before launching Loverly?
CC: Before starting Loverly, I had limited technology experience outside of my college computer coding courses. Now, as an industry leader focused on digital innovation, I’ve made sure our platform provides our audience with real wedding inspiration, expert wedding planning advice, and free wedding planning tools including a personalized wedding planning checklist, wedding guest list manager, and vision boards.
The pandemic also gave our team time to research and build a better platform for our audience and in 2022, Loverly introduced our Wedding Planning Masterclass, which is a guided video series designed to be a couple’s day one wedding planner and first step on their planning journey . The Masterclass is a self-serve, on-demand platform available to all Loverly users.
SZ: What are the advantages and disadvantages that come with a career transition and branching out on your own to launch a business?
CC: With my previous experience at Engaged Media I was able to help one of my companies raise $4M via crowdfunding and saw it as a tool to create an army of brand ambassadors who not only believed in your product but wanted it to see it succeed. Because of this learning, I made the decision to launch a crowdfund with my current company Loverly and received our first investment from Shark Tank Angel Investor, Daymond John.
SZ: What practical advice do you have for women on how to navigate setbacks?
CC: Learn from challenges and turn them into a success story. Since I started Loverly, we’re now a brand that has a monthly reach of more than 20M+ across all of our touch points and we’ve signed major partnership deals with national retail partners to help pilot a new consumer model.
SZ: In the last few years, there has been an increasing trend of women leaving their jobs to start their own businesses during the Great Resignation. Based on your experience, is there a “right” time or are there ideal circumstances for a career change? Is it ever too late to make a change and start your own business?
CC: Every industry is different but they are always changing–use that to your advantage. Loverly is the perfect example of how the wedding industry has evolved but so has our business model. Change hasn’t stopped us but rather inspired us to continue to create a trusted new wedding planning product, authentic content, and innovative technology.
SZ: What advice would you give to women looking to change their careers but who feel discouraged or like they have wasted their time/career thus far?
CC: Find something you have a passion for. A perfect example is that I was a seven-time bridesmaid when I started Loverly and fast forward to now where I’m recently engaged, planning my wedding, and just happen to be the CEO of a brand that designed the first-of-its – kind wedding planning platform. Does that sound like a coincidence or serendipity? Either way, I love what I do – making wedding planning easier and more fun for all couples.