2016 was the year everyone went wild for minimalism. Your friends couldn’t stop talking about the KonMari method. You couldn’t look at an interior design magazine without seeing references to the sparse, but wildly hip, Scandinavian influenced design. Capsule wardrobes were all over the Internet. 2016 was a dumpster fire made out of all our old shit we were convinced to throw away because people on the Internet told us it would make us feel better / look cooler.
And they weren’t necessarily wrong. With the public’s heightened awareness of the negative affects of waste (on both factory workers and the environment), there’s been an increasing need to help us catalogue and organize all of our goddamn stuff. And Blueprint Registry aims to help you with that. Even though the co-founders are aiming to solve the much more simple problem of wedding registries by allowing users to organize the objects they’ve chosen in a blueprint, it speaks to a larger trend of organization platforms.
We called up co-founders Nevin Shetty and Lizzy Ellingson to chat about this increased interest in minimalism and organization, as well as how their users have utilized the platform for other fun things (like moving! or having a baby!). If you want to buy new stuff and want to have a blueprint of how that new stuff would look in your home, you’ve come to the right spot.
How’d you start Blueprint?
Nevin: I was in New York for about 10 years. Moving apartments and trying to find new furniture in general was a terrible process. So that was the conception of the idea, can you build an e-commerce experience based on the blueprint layout of a home. That was in 2013 and we didn’t know where to start. Luckily I met Lizzy through a friend group, and I approached Lizzy with my idea, which we thought was amazing, and we decided to launch in 2014 as a wedding registry. It’s a one time life event related to the home and you create a platform where you can visually shop room by room, and then aggregate multiple retailers into one platform, to make it a seamless experience.
What happened between coming up with the idea and actually creating the product?
Nevin: It was a long process. So Lizzy and I probably met… we actually met during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, then we met for coffee in the spring of 2013 with the idea. She decided it was amazing and she was excited as I was and during that period of time we started to figure it out. We met with five different development firms, we came up with a business plan, we did landscape analysis, did all that kind of stuff… but then we met with five different development firms to figure out how we would actually go about building it. We got proposals from four of them, then we chose one of them that spring. It took us about nine months to build the first product and we launched the website in February of 2014.
Why did you guys decide to pair it back from a more general moving e-commerce website, to one that’s geared toward wedding registries?
Lizzy: That’s a great question. There was no one else doing this in the market in terms of e-commerce, but we knew it was a really big idea, and we wanted to downsize so we could really test the concept. So, I was actually engaged at the time while I met Nevin, and I was registering in New York, but I was going to move back to Seattle eventually, and had the same problems he had when it came to outfitting his apartment. I ended up returning 50% of my gifts because a lot of the gifts I thought I wanted didn’t fit because we had too much stuff, the couch didn’t fit, etc. So we thought this idea would work really well with wedding registries and life events. Life events make up around 70% of large purchase buying. So we started it with wedding registries and are moving to other life events. That would be new babies, if you’re going away to college, a new job registry, Christmas registry, housewarming, you name it. We started with making the group a little bit smaller so we could test the concept and going on from there.
Have you guys worked in the startup world before? Or is this a first for both of you?
Lizzy: We’ve both started companies before… but I would say they’re very different from startups. I had my own design business and Nevin started an accounting firm in New York. Those two were obviously very hard, and we worked very hard for those two businesses, but by far this has been the hardest thing we’ve done and we’ve learned so much from it.
Nevin: Just to clarify with that, we both started businesses within our respective fields, Lizzy in design, myself in finance, and this idea was obviously outside our expertise, but it was something we were really passionate about, so we decided to dive in. It’s really funny to talk about how many things are similar across sectors or industries, but also different. The similarities and differences across building companies is very interesting.
Absolutely. The wedding industry is kind of a beast unto itself, what were some of the differences that came along with working in the industry?
Nevin: I think the largest difference for us was not the industry itself, weddings is large and distinct, but we got up to speed on that very quickly, I think the biggest issue we faced was development. Our company is very development focused. We are essentially a software company, we’re building a website, and at the end of the day developers and development is our biggest asset. So Lizzy and I are both non-technical founders, we both code. So that’s actually been one of the biggest stumbling blocks. Finance? I get that. Design? Lizzy’s an expert in that. There we’re great, but when it comes down to development we’re translating someone else’s work and they’re translating what we want. That’s been the biggest learning curve for us in terms of, how do you actually build a website?
Do you think Blueprint has been especially useful this year? Minimalism is a really big trend in design right now, the KonMari method blew up… Do you think it’s an especially ripe time for these organization based platforms?
Nevin: Yes definitely! I think what we’re seeing in terms of the market is very streamlined, elegant, simple designs, and functionality in terms of utility. When you think about how you buy and purchase gifts and how you purchase furniture, you want something that’s streamlined, easy to use, and useful to you. So we’re trying to blend that in terms of using a visual experience, like your house, and combining that with multiple different retailers so you can get everything in one place in a really easy experience.
What is the timeline for opening up Blueprint to these other life events?
Lizzy: Our next life event we’re going to be moving into is baby registry, which has been an overwhelming ask from our current users. They’ve really wanted a way to use it for their babies. We’ve actually had a ton of users use it for that reason already. They created a “wedding registry” and used it as a baby registry or a housewarming registry. There’s a lot of unintended uses which shows us the market is ready for it. We’re hopeful it will launch in the middle of Q2.
Have you noticed any interesting wedding industry trends?
Lizzy: Yeah, it’s really interesting from a product standpoint. What’s hot this year compared to last year, there’s a ton of that information. We’re seeing a lot of marble and wood and those combinations. Whether it be with kitchen products or decor. Also copper is still really big… and gold. We’re seeing a ton of copper and gold flatware sets. That’s really ranged from really expensive sets at William’s Sonoma to something that’s a little more affordable at Target. Still, the color and the feel of copper and gold are really popular right now. Also, the next trend I would say is cash registries. That has increased over the last couple years. A lot of people nowadays live together for a couple of years, so they have the registry essentials. They may have plates and glassware, they may not need that, so they’d rather have an amazing honeymoon. Or help with a down payment on a house. So that’s been extremely popular and has grown in popularity over the last few years.
Did either of you ever imagine yourself getting into this kind of business?
Nevin: I know I didn’t. I never thought I’d want to start a startup. Or I want to run a business. It was more like… this is a really really cool idea and it’s a really big idea and I think we can actually solve this and make it better for all users. Let’s go for it. I think that’s the perspective and I think Lizzy would agree with that. We’re not in the mind of “hey, let’s do it just to do it.” We actually think it’s a pretty good idea because we’re the ones who want to solve the problem.
Lizzy: In our respective fields of finance and design we were really strong and we knew them very well, and coming into a startup, you don’t know 90% of what’s going to happen. And you’re learning every single day, which is very scary but also thrilling at the same time. So I think we both enjoy each part of it.