Michelle Yuan is the CEO and Founder of Asia Wedding Network, Asia’s largest online wedding platform that allows couples to search for vendors throughout Asia, create inspiration pools, use wedding planning tools, and have access to thousands of tailored wedding content for both brides and grooms. The platform also allows brands, venues, and wedding professionals around the world to effectively market and promote their products and services to thousands of newly engaged couples in Asia each day. In 2016, Yuan was featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia List in the Media, Marketing, and Advertising category for her team’s work on Asia Wedding Network. She has a degree in Economics from Columbia University and previously worked in investment banking at J.P. Morgan before founding her own business. Read our interview with the lovely Michelle below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
So a lot of friends and family around me were getting married and I saw that they were all using websites from the US to plan their wedding in Asia. They said they were using it to get inspiration for their wedding but they couldn’t use any of the vendors or any of the information they read as they were all targeted for couples in the US. Plus, it was all in English only! Instead, they found their vendors and wedding ideas on Facebook or Instagram or through exhaustive Google searches.
I thought there must be a better way to find vendors and plan your wedding in Asia – weddings here are so different and there are plenty of amazing professionals in the industry that remain undiscovered. After extensive research about the wedding industry in Asia, I found that there was definitely a business opportunity here – and it definitely helped that I loved weddings and pretty things! Hence, Asia Wedding Network was born!
Tell us about your business.
Asia Wedding Network (www.asiaweddingnetwork.com) is now Asia’s largest wedding platform for couples getting married in the region. The online platform has everything from a vendor search system to an inspiration search function where you can save your favorites and create Pinterest-like inspiration boards to plenty of wedding planning tools such as a budget calculator to manage your wedding costs. It also has a wedding hashtag creator, wedding planning checklists according to the number of months before your wedding. Additionally, it has what type of wedding you’re going to have to an auspicious wedding date calendar for you to find lucky wedding dates. We also have thousands of tailored wedding content especially made for the bride and groom.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
We’ve currently launched our Buy & Sell Gowns section where past-brides (or even boutiques and individual designers) can sell their wedding dresses for a one time listing fee of $19.99 USD. The dress is listed on the Asia Wedding Network until it is sold. We don’t take commission on the sale and we let the buyer and seller communicate directly for the purchase!
- Forbes 30 Under 30 List in Asia (2016)
- Current Luxury & Lifestyle Columnist for Forbes
- Former CMO at luxury e-commerce startup
- Former Writer for the Wall Street Journal
- Former Investment Banker at J.P. Morgan
- Masters in Journalism and Media from the University of Hong Kong
- B.A. in Economics from Columbia University
Where is your business based?
Headquartered in Hong Kong, but the site is made for brides and grooms all throughout Asia – we also have offices throughout the region.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The first and most crucial step was that I needed to hire a core team with the same focus and vision as myself for the company. This was key as it has been absolutely fundamental for our growth today.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Well first and foremost, in any business, you need to have a very good product, so for us, that meant a very good, easy to use website that made brides and grooms want to actually use it. From there, raising awareness meant creating more useful content and having an effective SEO strategy. This helps us rise up in the Google search ranks, increasing our organic traffic – which is where the majority of our brides and grooms come from.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Finding the time to do everything required of a startup – you have to wear multiple hats in any position you take on, but then you also have to find the time to wear multiple hats! It’s a big challenge to use time as effectively as possible, make quick decisions, and really get stuff done!
How did you overcome these challenges?
For myself, I create an effective time management system that allows me to stay on schedule and get as many things done (throughly!) as possible each day. Also, I surround myself with positive and support people (both professionally and personally) because that makes a huge difference! Negativity is the worst. Oh, also less sleep and more coffee 🙂
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I was generally a pretty motivated person in the past – and even more motivated now that I am running my own company.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
A lot of the wedding resources in Asia are either just a wedding blog, which aren’t functional (i.e. don’t have many wedding planning tools), or just don’t have the look and feel that most modern brides and grooms in Asia want. Most large wedding websites in our competitive landscape are run by older men who see weddings as a lucrative business. We really try to use our passion for weddings to cultivate something for today’s brides and grooms that they can relate to, looks good, and is actually useful in the planning process!
What is the best advice you have received recently?
To really understand your customer and what they go through to achieve the end result (for us, that’s what the bride or groom has to go through to plan their dream wedding). You have to understand what happens from the very beginning of the process until the end – this will help you build something that they will love!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
I would say that you should try to work really hard but also enjoy the process. Being an entrepreneur is certainly not an easy road. You’re taking a big risk with a lot of uncertainties. It can be very stressful and there are times where you want to give up, but if you remember back to the basics of why you are doing this, then it will be worth it in the end. Keep your eye on the big picture.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
I would have to say Instagram because there are a lot of wedding professionals and couples using Instagram so that’s where our main audience hangs out! Plus, with the new metrics and analytics data, you can see which posts get the most engagement from your audience!
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @asiaweddingnetwork, @michelleyuan
Hashtags #asiaweddingnetwork #asiaweddingmagazine
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I read growthhackers a lot. There are so many useful tips there for really growing your business – it can be quite technical too!
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Currently, we are looking for sales and support teams to answer the inquiries coming in from vendors and brides!
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
For the next few months, we want to keep increasing the number of brides using our site – we haven’t done much marketing (our traffic is mostly organic) so we’ll be spending a bit more time and resources on marketing our site more. Also, we’ll be on the lookout for strategic partnerships to do collaborations with!