Entrepreneurs: Josh Gelb and Jake Wolff, founders of New York-based Hitchswitch, a one-stop name-changing website for newlyweds.
"Aha" moment: Attorneys Josh Gelb and Jake Wolff saw how complicated it was for their new wives to change their surnames. After talking to others who had been frustrated by the process, the two realized there was a gap in the market. "There wasn't one complete source that provides support and does the nitty-gritty work that most people find tedious and unpleasant," Gelb says. The pair conceptualized the idea late last year, and hitchswitch.com (named by their wives) opened to consumers in May 2011.
What possessed them: The average newlywed conducts 30 hours of research to locate and complete the forms for a legal name change, according to hitchswitch. After Gelb and Wolff helped a close friend with the process, word of their service spread even before they launched their website. "Our biggest goal was to get it out, get it working and make sure the success we had via word-of-mouth offline translated over to the internet," Wolff says. An investment of $10,000 included hiring a web developer. Gelb and Wolff, who initially interacted with all clients on a personal level, are now working on fully automating the site.
Why? "You just finished your wedding, just got back from your honeymoon, so why have to worry about something that is inevitably and unfortunately way too stressful?" Wolff says, explaining that hitchswitch prefills all forms, then mails clients a customized packet with prestamped envelopes addressed to the appropriate agencies. "From the time they get the packet, it takes them about two minutes to sign, enter their Social Security number and go from there."
Customers: Most are in their mid-20s. The goal is to help married couples in all 50 states.
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Marketing: Hitchswitch has started an SEO campaign and has active Facebook and Twitter feeds that have generated new clients. The founders also plan print advertising and direct marketing at wedding shows. The site's business increased tenfold during the wedding-heavy month of July, Wolff says.
Cost: $39.99; a portion of proceeds from each transaction goes to breast and ovarian cancer research.
Up next: The company, which is raising a round of equity, has helped about 1,000 couples and anticipates facilitating at least 15,000 name changes by summer 2012.