It’s wedding season and we’re up to our eyeballs in gift registries. But how can we celebrate our friends who are hitting milestones in their professional lives, not just their romantic ones? A new website has the answer…
When one of your mates is getting married, you more or less know what to expect. You’ll drink champagne at the engagement party, make a few bad choices on the hen do, and do some ugly-crying at the wedding. Basically, you’ll show up for her. But what about when a friend reaches a different kind of life milestone?
Emily Wazlak, 28, was having drinks with a bunch of her friends in a bar a couple of years ago, when the conversation turned to weddings. One of the group was getting married that summer, and everyone knew exactly where, when and how they were going to celebrate.
Around the same time though, another friend was quitting her job to start a business. “She was also going to be going through some pretty major changes, but we felt like there wasn’t anything obvious we could do to support or celebrate that,” Wazlak tells Stylist. “We weren’t sure what kind of help she needed, and I think she was also unsure of how to ask for that help.”
It was this experience that inspired Wazlak to launch Shine Registry, essentially a wedding-style registry list for female entrepreneurs. You know that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie registers for Manolo Blahniks? This is like that, except if Carrie had done something other than just lost her shoes at a party.
“If you can buy your friend a gravy boat when she’s getting married, you can buy her office supplies or volunteer your time when she’s starting a business, too,” Wazlak states. The idea is to “repurpose a tradition that a lot of people are familiar with, and that makes it easier for folks to seek out support when they’re going through a big milestone that isn’t something in their personal life”.
And women business owners need all the help they can get right now: less than 1% of venture capital funds in the UK goes to startups run by women.
Shine works by letting you make a free profile for your business, where you can list the stuff you need, both monetary and non-monetary. It could be anything from social follows or subscribing to a newsletter, through to bigger asks like legal help or mentoring. For instance, one entrepreneur is asking for SEO help for her podcast production company, while another needs models for her jewellery shop.
Creative consultant and designer Ro Jackson, 29, uses Shine for SLOWE, her website and radio show for women’s sport. She says the platform has been a massive help when it comes to making connections, especially with people who might not be involved in sport but are still really interested in what she’s doing.
“Shine almost reframes it for people that don’t quite get the hustle aspect of a side hustle, and maybe have quite normal jobs,” says Jackson. “It’s like: ‘I’m asking for these really practical things for this business you can see me pouring all my time and energy into. That’s something really tangible you could do for me, in the same way that I might, if you were getting married, buy you a toaster.’ I think it’s quite a nice comparison for people that maybe wouldn’t get it otherwise.”
“Whilst a lot of my friends are getting married, a lot of them are not,” she adds. “It’s quite a lot of pressure to feel that if you don’t do that major milestone, you’ll miss out on that celebration of you. Having a website that enables us to big up our friends in ways that aren’t to do with their romantic lives – that are really just about them and what they’re trying to achieve – is totally modern and not something we’ve done before. It’s a much more practical and appropriate registry for our time.”
Wazlak is keen to point out that she’s not saying wedding registries can’t exist, too – but instead that we need to create more ways to be there for our friends, no matter what they’re doing in their lives. “I love celebrations,” she says. “I love being able to show up for friends in those ways. But I think that the ways women measure success have changed a lot, and I want to be able to celebrate these new milestones too.”
Maura Sheedy, 21, spent a year not wearing makeup in high school, and what she learned inspired her to launch Make Muse, a feminist platform exploring how ‘women can smash societal standards’.
“When I started Make Muse people almost didn’t understand what it was or what they could do to support,” she tells Stylist. “Having a place [on Shine] to list it out and share was really instrumental.”
While the initial support for Shine users tends to come from their friends and family, more than 20% of the people who fulfil asks on the site are doing so for more than one business. “I think that’s reflective of both people being excited about our concept and also feeling more of a sense of urgency around supporting women in leadership,” says Wazlak. “A lot of women are starting companies and exploring entrepreneurship because they’re not as fulfilled in traditional career paths.”
Illustrator Jeni Slattery, 29, uses Shine for Slatteroo Doodles, an outlet for her unique love of both animals and swearing. Her asks include paying for software and commissioning her to illustrate wedding stationery.
“Shine gives you a chance to be involved with a wonderful community of women who are generally as bloody-minded and determined as you are, and that is worth more encouragement than people would think,” she says. “What better time to support a woman in your life than when she does something as brave and as wonderful as starting a business?”
Images: Getty, Unsplash