On creating a new kind of tradition

Times have changed. The ways we celebrate should too.

Two years ago a friend of mine was getting married and another was starting a business at the same time. We had so many obvious ways of celebrating our friend who was getting married — an engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette, wedding and post-wedding brunch. Meanwhile, without traditions to fall back on it was unclear how we could support and celebrate our friend that was starting a company.

At our friend Emily B’s wedding. Joy (far right) was starting her company that summer.

Starting a company is as much a big milestone as a marriage, but how do we celebrate? How do we do it in a way that also offers substantive support?

I had these questions in mind when I talked to dozens of entrepreneurs the following year. Those conversations turned into the lists used to build the first profiles on Shine Registry, a platform for women to ask for startup needs in the style of a wedding registry.

If you can buy your friend a gravy boat when she’s getting married, you can buy her office supplies or volunteer your time when she’s starting a business too.

Immediately after we set up a basic version of Shine Registry, users began to see support from friends, family, and well wishers. When Caroline Caselli created a profile on our site to support her platform for affordable housing applications, she listed that she was seeking developers and marketing professionals to volunteer their time. A friend that has worked in digital marketing for a major NYC firm reached out to say she was excited about her new company and offered pro-bono consultation services. A developer she didn’t know found her profile and was enthusiastic about her business concept so she volunteered work on her website free of charge.

Notes from a meeting with Mei Lum of Wing on Wo and Co., one of the first registries that went up on www.shineregistry.com

We’re building Shine Registry at a time when there is a clear gap between the number of women exploring entrepreneurship and the support they are receiving to get businesses off the ground.

Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men but receive less than 3% of venture capital and less than 5% of SBA backed bank loans. Startups founded by black women in 2018 increased by more than 250% since 2016 but the average investment in black-women-led startups is $42,000 and the majority of black women-led startups do not raise any money. This is in sharp contrast with the $2.1 million average investment for male-founded startups. This lack of investment runs counter to the fact that women-run companies are returning 78 cents per dollar compared to 31 cents for men.

Ultimately, it’s not just about funding — it’s about creating the conditions where anyone who has an idea can feel supported when working towards bringing that idea into reality. When Shine Registry hosted an event for Pittsburgh based female founders and women interested in entrepreneurship, a participant wrote us this note:

“Seeing women taking control of money, taking financial risks, and being confident about how their product or service is going to hit the market was incredibly moving. I always thought I had the skills to be a business owner but to actually see and hear female business owners and entrepreneurs made me feel like I could actually do it.”

How we show our support and the ways that we do it send a strong message. The ways women measure success have changed, we have degrees and ambitions to prove that. By reimagining the ways our communities celebrate personal and professional milestones, we can increase their capacity to support new pathways to success.

This isn’t a new idea. It’s already gone viral more than once.

I’m excited to keep growing this idea into a meaningful reality. In the meantime, go to www.shineregistry.com and fulfill asks on someone’s profile. To get you started, Georgiya is looking for people to model her knitwear and Kare is asking for help finding interns. Follow @shineregistry on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, then subscribe to our newsletter so you can get updates on what we’re building. And if you’re interested in creating your own profile, e-mail us at info@shineregistry.com.

Be a part of this new tradition. It’s a fun one. 🎉