XO Group: Turning wedding woes into a business idea

(MoneyWatch) Carley Roney says the process of planning her own wedding in 1993 was excruciating. At the time, there were few resources for DIY wedding planning, nowhere on the web where people could look at vendor reviews and advice from those who'd already been there, done that. The whole ordeal gave Roney and her new husband, David Liu, the idea for TheKnot.com, a website dedicated to helping couples plan their weddings.

Since then, The Knot's grown into the most trafficked wedding website with 3.4 million unique visitors a month and Roney and Liu have expanded the business to include additional life stages like parenting, pregnancy, and buying your first home with TheBump.com and TheNest.com. Plus, they've rebranded and gone public. Today their company is known as XO Group. Roney and Liu join The Startup to talk about building a life and a company together and the smartest career move they ever made.

Rebecca Jarvis: What were you doing before you started your company?

David Liu: During the nine years before starting up the The Knot, I was involved in the production and management of digitized industry. In 1993, I had set up RunTime, a company which specialized on the development and production of CD-ROM. The Smithsonian Institution, Intel, AT&T and many other well known institutions were among the clients.

Carley Roney: Before starting The Knot, I served as president of RunTime Co., Ltd., and before that, I was a creative director and editor. My clients included the National Museum of American History, The McGraw-Hill Companies, and Simon & Schuster.

RJ: How long did it take to turn your idea into a business?

DL & CR: It took 5 months to launch the initial AOL content area, a year to launch the website and 7 years to get to cash flow positive.

RJ: What's your number one piece of advice to entrepreneurs?

DL: Keep your focus and determination. And, hire other entrepreneurs. We had the benefit of having the entire executive team -- my head of sales, head of technology and my creative director -- all come in from running their own business. Purely by chance were they at points in their careers where the opportunity to roll their business into our company was the perfect opportunity. Literally, my CTO was running a technology consulting practice and we were consuming so much of their time and workload that we finally suggested he move into our office and that he become head of technology. The character of someone who has run their own business is fundamentally different. They know they have to do everything and that makes them different.

CR: Be willing to make sacrifices. It will come in the form of free time, money, your social life and friends. Once you have your feet on solid ground, you can regain some. Also, make sure to enjoy what you do. It's challenging but also a pleasure to work for yourself, not everyone is so fortunate. Take pride in it.

RJ: If you could ask one person for advice, who would it be and what would you ask?

DL: Warren Buffet. Where should we invest our company's cash right now?

CR: The founder of Nike. How have you sustained such a passionate relationship with your brand for so long around the world...even though you are so big?

RJ: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and what makes you tick!

DL: Born and raised in New York, immigrant parents from rural China. Brought up with the belief that if you set your mind to it just about anything is possible.

CR: Two hard working entrepreneurial parents. Raised in Providence, Rhode Island. Had a job since I was 13. My talent is sticktuitiveness... And a deep desire to create solutions for the women on our sites (who are going through the challenges that I've personally faced!)

RJ: Tell me about The Knot Dream Wedding - that sounds fun.

CR: It is! We are so excited about this...it's the first EVER live-streamed wedding, all happening straight from Citi Pond at Bryant Park on Valentine's Day. It doesn't get much more digitally romantic than that. You know, these days everything is going digital -- we're seeing couples hashtag their wedding, have live updates via FB and Twitter, and this just takes it to the next level. If you go to TheKnot.com at noon on Valentine's Day you can see not only the first-ever live-streamed wedding, but also a wedding COMPLETELY crowd-sourced by America. So everything from her gown to the flowers to the cake has been voted on by viewers across the country and the response has been phenomenal. Well, who doesn't like to play wedding planner right? Especially when it's not YOUR wedding! We can't wait to see it all come together.

RJ: Are you hiring? How do you get hired by a start-up?

DL & CR: Yes -- we love fresh talent! How do you get hired by us? We look for innovative thinkers with a great ATTITUDE. I don't care if you're an expert in your field or if you've been in the business for two minutes -- if you have bright ideas and you're willing to work hard, you have definitely caught my attention and have a future in the start-up world.

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