First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Katie Cunningham: We are well. Thank you for asking. I’m having online classes with the kids, like everyone else. So many people have suffered a tremendous loss this year, so I’m just thankful for what we have.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded LYFETYMES.
Katie Cunningham: I spent 20 years in the corporate banking and lending industry in customer acquisition, growth, and revenue strategies. The last few years of it was focused on automation and digitalization of the end to end mortgage process and how to innovate one of the most complex processes with many people involved. I traveled nonstop for work, and because I was always gone, every milestone or celebration I would overdo it, fueled with mom guilt. I had zero time but wanted to DIY it myself, so one day, I was planning something and looking for a party planning tool – I looked online and realized there was not an end to end platform to help coordinate and streamline celebrations, which is a bifurcated process, and many people involved – There were solutions to Weddings or Ticketed Events but not for all the others milestones we have to manage. So we built LYFETYMES to help people plan their celebrations easily in one place like, Birthdays, Baby Showers, Graduations, Holidays, etc.
How does LYFETYMES innovate?
Katie Cunningham: We are building solutions and technology for the modern mom or young women whose friends are starting to experience life events. Streamlining, automating, and digitalizing the process from several roles, like Guest Of Honor, Host, Co-Hosts, or our Business Partners. The way people celebrate, from sending an invitation to planning a virtual or small party in the backyard, has changed, and we will be the platform to help with everything from small to large. We are focused on supporting Small and Local Businesses – it’s the mom and pop shops who are the backbone to the event industry.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Katie Cunningham: In the beginning, it was like the sky was falling. You are in a Celebration Startup where the nonstop ticker on CNN was “do throw any parties or get together to celebrate.” But then I started to see our user growth increase dramatically- people’s behavior was changing. Everyone was having to adapt to the situation with new technology and becoming more creative – like having virtual parties, drive-by baby showers, birthday parades. Vendors that offered contactless deliveries for cakes, balloons, decor in a box skyrocketed. They were using LYFETYMES as their digital party planner and hiring vendors to fill in the gaps.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Katie Cunningham: Yes, like a lot of people, you are faced with pivoting for survival- I was launching ideas every other day, pivoting services, pivoting again, etc. My biggest lesson learned was it was awesome to test and see how some ideas worked or failed in rapid succession. I think that was the biggest gift of allowing us to test out “great ideas” that we found out quickly didn’t belong or see that it did. It also gave me clarity quickly – I really started focusing the team building and executing on initiatives that can be used in both scenarios- from “normal operations” to “extreme continuity of business” – so we launched our first App. We are about to launch our Marketplace. We will live in this hybrid world for a while that can flex in either direction, at any moment, and we have to be ready for anything.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and LYFETYMES in the future?
Katie Cunningham: I’ve been wired like that from my career supporting large organizations, high stakes, and hitting big numbers. I don’t want to b.s. You with mediation, or yoga, or whatever- All great ways of dealing with stress – being a startup founder is tough; you have to have the stomach to roll with it. As far as projecting our company – we are making it easier for people to stress less and celebrate more, moving down the 20+ hours it takes to plan one party – make Celebrating every milestone enjoyable by using LYFETYMES as the go-to platform for all things being celebrated from ideation to memories. We have to be the Co-Hostess & Advisor to every mom out there that is usually deciding all the details of a celebration.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Katie Cunningham: There are so many verticals within the $400b event industry that you could see a ton of competition if you looked at it at face value, but the truth is there businesses doing one or maybe two verticals very well. I keep my eye on the new functionality and innovation being released across all industries and think about how we can apply that to what we are doing to be the best. If I went looking for AI or ML inspiration, I wouldn’t find it in events, so I need to broaden my horizon to find companies that do that the best and let them serve as our North Star.
Your final thoughts?
Katie Cunningham: They put a man on the moon; anything is possible.
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