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Jenny Lefcourt: Online Wedding Business Pioneer

Updated:2010-06-03 17:46:45

The Web has revolutionized the wedding industry, allowing couples to create their dream weddings online. From choosing a wedding gown to selecting a photographer to deciding a wedding registry, brides can plan their weddings right from their own computers.


Jenny Lefcourt is one of the first visionaries who saw the potential of the Web for the wedding business. As a young graduate student at Stanford University in the late 1990s, Jenny started the first, online aggregated wedding registry site Della & James (now called WeddingChannel.com). WeddingChannel.com has succeeded in radically simplifying the wedding planning process as it brings together the registries of the best retailers Williams-Sonoma, Crate&Barrel, Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, etc. Jenny's vision for the WeddingChannel.com has allowed it to become one of the most successful companies on the Web today.


Now at 36, Jenny co-founded another venture that focuses on another aspect of the $139.7 billion U.S. wedding market wedding photography. Her new company, Bella Pictures http://www.bellapictures.com , is poised to change the way wedding photography is done with unique offerings that set them apart from their competitors.

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The Road to E-Business


Jenny has the right mix of creativity and business acumen that has served her well in her career. She has a solid business background, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in business from the Wharton School in 1991. She attended Stanford's Graduate School of Business in 1997. It was at Stanford when Jenny got the idea for what would become the biggest success story in the online wedding market --WeddingChannel.com


WeddingChannel.com was born out of a business plan competition at Stanford University. Jenny, with her classmate Jessica Herrin, began working on a business plan for a school wide competition. Lucky for them, an associate at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers heard their presentation. While they continued to work on the plan while at school, they got funding from Kleiner Perkins for the business in May 1998. Seeing her chance to pursue her artistic passion with her business expertise, Jenny left business school to focus full-time on the startup WeddingChannel.com.


Her decision to leave business school paid off. WeddingChannel.com became one of the most successful e-businesses; even after many of its startup contemporaries have bit the dust in the late 90s. WeddingChannel.com became the #1 online wedding registry and wedding website that is frequented by almost every online bride. More registry wedding gifts are purchased via WeddingChannel.com than any other site.

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Changing the Face of Wedding Photography


Family and marriage changed the course of Jenny's career. Four years ago, she gave birth to her baby and decided to slow down her career. She left WeddingChannel.com and made motherhood her main priority. As Jenny said, she has ready to focus on him and not work for a while.


But not for long. Jenny couldn't resist the entrepreneurial call when she realized another opportunity in the lucrative online wedding market this time turning her sights on the wedding photography business.


She knew from her WeddingChannel.com days that brides often did not have great choices when it came to wedding photography. Finding a photographer that could document weddings with a fresh, creative and insightful eye ensuring beautiful and personal photographs at an affordable price who was available and trust-worthy was not an easy feat. Add to that all the nightmare stories that exist about the photographer not showing up or not delivering the negatives or album after the wedding. The idea of creating a company that could deliver beautiful and personal pictures for couples with almost any budget was too compelling for her to pass up. She found herself jumping in as an entrepreneur again and once again, in the wedding space!


According to Jenny, she enjoys being a part of the biggest day of so many people's lives?and that her customers are so happy and appreciative. On the business side, Jenny likes the size of the wedding market and how ripe it has been for opportunities because it has been underserved for many years. The biggest reason the sector translates to the web is because of the age group of people getting married. The average bride is 28 and has grown up on the web, using it to do her research and transactions. For both of Jenny's wedding businesses, it does not require a change of behavior but simply enhances the customer experience.


Jenny teamed up with Bob Davis, a very well known celebrity photojournalist, Tom Kramer and George White, a successful businessman and photojournalist to create Bella Pictures.


Jenny's business goal is to make Bella Pictures the #1 choice for couples who are choosing wedding photography. Bella Pictures is an innovative wedding photography service that makes beautiful and personal wedding photography accessible to all couples. It is revolutionizing wedding photography and offers options that set it apart from all others in our field:


Jenny's business goal is to make Bella Pictures the #1 choice for couples who are choosing wedding photography. Bella Pictures is an innovative wedding photography service that makes beautiful and personal wedding photography accessible to all couples. It is revolutionizing wedding photography and offers options that set it apart from all others in our field:


Jenny is currently heading the business development efforts at Bella Pictures. Her responsibility includes educating the wedding industry about Bella Pictures and what an incredible service it is for couples; as well as creating partnerships with the best providers in the wedding industry.

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Success on the Web


For Jenny, the formula for success on the Web is simple: create true value for the customer. Or as Jenny puts it, offer something that will elicit customer amazement.?Web customers are very educated and savvy, and you need to be very focused on the customer you are serving and have a service or product that will blow them away.


With various successful online ventures under her belt, Jenny finds that the most difficult part in starting a new business is simply starting -- having an idea and moving it forward when the smartest way to move forward is not yet completely clear. Where are a lot of people with great ideas out there that don't make them happen because they don't know where to begin, Jenny said.


She overcomes the startup anxieties by working on the business and following many paths even if she does not believe they will all become fruitful. In fact, Jenny believes that she has been successful because she is not afraid to make mistakes and because she is customer obsessed. She talks to as many people as she can, based on their input and her gut feelings she makes decisions to keep moving forward. This usually gets the business to a place where a real plan can be developed.


Finding the right business partner is another important factor that contributed to Jenny's success. In fact, Jenny believes that finding the right business partners is just about as important as finding the right spouse! She is very careful when choosing partners and looks for rational, smart, hard-working, dedicated partners. The less ego a partner has,Jenny believes, the better as sometimes ego can keep very bright people from doing what is right for the business.


In marketing a web business, Jenny feels that it is important to think about who your customer is and where they are going for their informationchat is where you want to be. If customers are searching for your type of product on search engines, focus your energy on search engine optimization and/or buying keywords on Google. Secondly, make sure you track where your customers are coming from to know what is working and what is not so that you can refine your marketing plan and make it most effective. Lastly, referrals are gold. Treat your customers like gold and they will market for you (having a referral plan for your customers is also a good idea.) It Bella Pictures,Jenny said, We get a lot of business from referrals and we do everything we can to foster it.


Advice to Women Entrepreneurs


While pushing to make Bella Pictures a household name, she works very hard on balancing her work, family and personal interests. She carves out time for each and tries to make the most of whatever she is doing. If she is spending time with her two kids, she tries to not think about work, answer her cell phone or check her email. When at work, she is very focused and efficient, as she no longer has the luxury to do it any other way. She feels her personal interests have to get the short stick for now but if something is important to her, she puts it on the calendar and makes it happen.


Jenny advises other women entrepreneurs to focus on a short-term milestone for your idea and make that happen instead of trying to figure out every milestone at once. Getting bogged down in all the unknowns will intimidate you and cause you not to move forward. Also, talk with people. Most people will give their time to help others and advice from someone with your industry's knowledge can go a long way.


Jenny encourages people to take one step, and another and another (even if one may be wrong!) because that is the only chance you have to make your dream happen. She also knows that there are always hard decisions that get made in business but if you stay focused on the customer, your decisions will be easier and the right ones for your business.

 

Source:http://www.womenhomebusiness.com

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