How Ben Reid Was Able To Rethink The $20 Billion Wedding Gift Industry

by Tim Jahn on October 15, 2010

When Ben Reid and his wife got married, they knew they didn’t need another blender or toaster.  And they knew they loved to go out to eat.  So Ben and his wife thought, why not just register for a food registry?  There had to be one somewhere.

Turns out there wasn’t, so they created FoodieRegistry.com.

Watch my interview with Ben to learn how he was able to rethink the $20 billion wedding gift industry thanks to modern technology and a passion for food!

Transcript

Ben Reid:
Yeah, my name is Ben Reid, I’m the co-founder of FoodieRegistry.com, which is an online wedding and gift registry for restaurant gift certificates.  It works just like a traditional registry at a department store for house wares.  But instead of registering for towels and toasters, we let couples and anyone really register for date nights we like to say; restaurant gift certificates.

Tim Jahn:
Where did the idea come from?

Ben Reid:
It came from my wife and I’s own wedding.  We got married about two years ago and we just didn’t register.  We weren’t really — we had a lot of things on our plate, we planned our own wedding and we just didn’t get around to, we didn’t really need new house wares.

We were happy with what we had.  It seemed sort of like a waste.  Like a lot couples because couples are older these days when they get married so we just didn’t register.  But we started getting family pressure.  “No, you got to register somewhere, my coworkers need to get you something.”

So fine, so we, my wife tried to make a registry at a big department store and just thought it would all be a waste, it would just be gathering dust.  So she canned it, called me on the way home and said, “I’m going to make a restaurant registry, I’m sure it exists.”

So we Googled it, didn’t find anything so we just made it ourselves.  And we just put it in a PDF file at that point and said, “Hey you’re presence is our present.  If you’d love to get us something, we’d love gift certificates to these restaurants.”  And ended up being a hit, and our friends started saying, “Hey, I’d like to do that for my wedding.”  And eventually, the light goes off, on and we said, “Let’s try to build this.  This should exist.  Why doesn’t this exist?”

One of the things I think is so cool in the type of world these days is both my wife and I are not developers at all.  We can’t write a landing code.  But because today, and I think this is a big trend.

Today you can just, there’s API’s everywhere, and there’s services like Amazon, like EC2 and stuff that didn’t exist even like five, or ten years ago that people like us can go and can figure out how to cobble together all these services, and create something new out of it, and in ways at the cost that we can do today, and at the speed we can do it at, we would have never been able to do it ten years ago; and especially salmon without any technical background.

So I think that was a lot of fun because you got a challenge and I at least have enough of a technical background to know, there’s something that will work for us.

And I bet you its something cheap or maybe even free on the web and you just go out and find it and kind of be creative with out you do it.  And honestly, that’s what we did.  Our service is actually a amalgamation of ten different services that outputs what we do.

Tim Jahn:
When your wife came home and said, “We should do this” and you guys started doing research, at what point did you know that it was right for disruption and that you should disrupt it?  How did you know that this was going to work?

Ben Reid:
We — I guess we didn’t.  It started off with a need, right.  I mean it started off with a need that we had and so that’s probably the best place to start a business, right.  You hear about this all the time.

It’s not like we went into saying, “Hey, we want to start a business.  What can we do?  What does the world need?”  We went in saying, “Hey we need something.”  Starting a business was the farthest thing from our mind at that point.

And it wasn’t even until a couple months after we sort of did this ourselves in a ramshackle kind of way with a PDF file that we sort of realized that there was a need.  And it’s because we started getting comments from a lot of friends and family like, “Hey that’s awesome.  How do I do that for my own wedding?  I want to use that.  Like that’s way better than a traditional registry.”

And so, if you want to use a product yourself and if your friends also want to use it, I think that that’s a pretty good sign that there might be something there.  Now we still had questions about well, “What about can we really ramp this?  Is there a need for it?  Are people different in another part of the country and they’re going to think of it differently?”

Tim Jahn:
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone who was in a similar situation?  They saw a need, and they were thinking about executing.  What’s your piece of advice for executing?

Ben Reid:
I don’t know, it sounds cliché but I guess just do it.  Like I said today, its — you see this actually on a lot of like VC’s blogs and stuff like that that there’s no excuse for not having a prototype out there.  Because the things that cost $100,000.00 ten years ago to get to because you had to buy physical servers and stuff like that, it just doesn’t — those barriers aren’t there anymore so there’s almost no excuse to at least getting something up and out there and then you can test your product and stuff.

And it’s just so much easier to get something out there.  Whereas, I think maybe ten years ago, people were discouraged by, “Oh, I’ve got this idea but we’re going to have to go raise funds before we can do anything because there’s just larger barriers”, and that just doesn’t exist today.  So, no excuses get out there and do it.

Tim Jahn:
Have you started things in the past?  Have you created little businesses here and there or have you —

Ben Reid:
I’ve tried.  I’ve tried.

Tim Jahn:
You’ve tried?

Ben Reid:
And failed.  I mean, mainly a couple years ago, I tried to do a few things in real estate.  And I pretty much had the worse timing you could possibly have with the real estate market and got in right in basically at the top of the bubble; basically trying to invest in real estate and it didn’t work out.  In fact, it crashed and burned horribly, and I learned a lot from that.  As everybody says, they learn from their failures.  I certainly learned a lot from it.

Tim Jahn:
What’s been the biggest challenge in creating foodieregistry, bringing it to life?

Ben Reid:
The biggest challenge to date I think is probably so common but is moving fast enough.  You know, this has been over a year and a half of my wife and I, and a third partner, a technical cofounder working on it at night and on weekends.  Two hours here, three hours there, getting less sleep.

And while it’s great because we’ve been able to — and we launched seven months ago, and we’ve got 55 restaurants on board and people have registered for thousands, and thousands of dollars worth of gift certificates, and we make sales everyday, it’s good, we have a product, it works.

But to get us here, it took us a year and a half of working part time.  Whereas, if we were able to do this full-time, it wouldn’t have taken half that, half as long.  So its sort of frustrating in that sense, even though we know in our hearts its kind of the right way to do it, to be responsible about it, and not just dive, just walk off the cliff.

But it’s — you know, you always want to move faster.  So I think that’s been the most difficult thing.  And then now, it’s keeping that going, and keeping moving faster by finding more technical help.

Check out all our interviews with entrepreneurs!

Join our newsletter and get everything Unpluggd!