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How the Founder of Zola Grew Her Bottom Line by Giving Away Free Products To grow its business, the CEO of the wedding-registry website added new services -- and gave them away for free.

By Kate Rockwood

This story appears in the October 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Zola

Since its launch in 2013, Zola has had one way to make money: wedding registries. The company makes registries easier
and more efficient -- for example, offering the ability to curate them from dozens of brands, to delay shipping gifts until after the nuptials and to allow guests to pool funds into group gifts or honeymoon experiences. This has attracted hundreds of thousands of lovebirds to the site. Zola takes a 40 percent cut, on average, of gifts purchased directly from its marketplace and a smaller slice of items purchased through affiliates.

Related: How to Start Thinking Big

It's a straightforward business model, but last year, founder and CEO Shan-Lyn Ma was eager to expand. She knew what users wanted. "The number one request from couples was help with planning more of their wedding," Ma says. But she couldn't figure out how to do that efficiently. How does Zola build new services that complement its registry business?

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