Who knows if perpetual bridesmaid duty prevents a woman from walking down her own aisle-but who cares, if it means becoming an entrepreneur. Liana Carlson, the unhitched 28-year-old founder of After I Do LLC (AfterIDo.com) came up with the concept for an online honeymoon registry while road-tripping with a fellow bridesmaid to a wedding in 1996. Since the site went live in 1998, she's been blessing gift-givers with more memorable options than the breadbox and towels she gave.
Since many people now marry at an age when they're already established, with probably two toasters to spare, Carlson wanted to devise a way for guests to contribute to honeymoon bliss-be it with money toward tickets or a pre-paid breakfast upon arriving at their destination.
While pursuing her MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Carlson, who'd worked in public relations and marketing, took 1997 to apply lessons in controlling cash flow and concept development toward her business plan, but it wasn't easy. "Everything was new," she says. "All the business processes, the pricing-there wasn't a model for me to base a business plan on." Somehow, confidence got Carlson through her first trade show, where she passed out brochures and fielded questions about After I Do.
But the days of running an 800 number into her home line and acting as a quasi-travel agent are over. Now fully e-commerce-enabled (with only one other employee, things like Web design are outsourced), the Denver company extends beyond the honeymoon marketing packages that travel agencies offer, allowing guests to purchase and pay in a few clicks. The focus now is on growth (customer count has already grown from 277 in 1998 to an expected 2,090 this year), with a large ad campaign and partnering with reputable wedding sites as goals for next year.