Disrupting the wedding industry

Jennifer MacKinnon
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A young woman in her early 30s, Hana Abaza is already the CEO and founder of technology startup Republic Inc. Earlier this year she launched the company's first product – Wedding Republic – a social gifting platform targeted at the wedding industry, specifically gift registries.

Hana Abaza, co-founder and CEO of Republic Inc. which created the online gifting platform Wedding Republic.

It all started in 2010 at a Superbowl party. Ms. Abaza began talking to a young man at the party about his sister's upcoming wedding. Unlike most people who might never pursue the idea, this conversation resulted in the two of them forming Republic Inc., and the eventual launch of their first product. 

Wedding Republic is an online social gifting platform that disrupts the way traditional wedding planning, specifically registries and giving, are being conducted. Although technology is being used in every aspect of our lives, the way people plan and organize weddings hasn't changed in years. Consumers had not yet capitalized on the benefits of mobile, software-as-as-service, ecommerce and collaboration in planning weddings. Recognizing this gap, Ms. Abaza saw an opportunity to disrupt the way a highly established industry worked by introducing leading edge innovation and technology.

That technology shift – coupled with the fact that more and more couples are choosing to live together before marriage and have all the plates, towels and appliances they need – solidified the plan. Ms. Abaza knew this was more than a conversation she was having with her now partner James Kinkaid. She knew it was not only something that couples would use, but it was something they needed. Knowing that consumers were willing and ready to adopt new technologies, Ms. Abaza knew that applying this behaviour to the wedding industry was brilliant.

 Wedding Repulic.com lets couples create a registry online of any number of items they would like, including unique items such as a down payment on a home renovation or a honeymoon. No longer are registries restricted to a location or item you can carry. Plus, online registries make collaborating on gifts easy. 

Of course, Wedding Republic is just the inflection point for the business. Ms. Abaza wants to build a product that stays with couples as they go through their various stages in life from weddings to big financial purchases and decisions to babies and beyond with the ultimate goal of being a ubiquitous gifting platform. All of this innovation and cleverness from a lady who hasn't yet gone through the process of planning her own wedding, proving you don't have to be your customer to know what they want. 

Ms. Abaza's background and interest in technology was a natural fit for her to build a tech startup. But more so, she had enough spunk and drive to simply do it. Being an entrepreneur was never something she had to think about, not because she never considered being one, but rather because she came from a family of entrepreneurs. She was literally surrounded by them. Her mother and father were both entrepreneurs, along with her uncle. For Ms. Abaza, it was never a question of whether or not she could be an entrepreneur, but rather when. Her mindset had always been "if they can do it, I can do it." And she did. 

Ms. Abaza credits her dad as a key mentor in her life. His work in the technology industry introduced her to not only entrepreneurship and business, but also to technology, and this has always stayed with her. She is both grateful and happy for this influence at a young age.

Working in a startup has its challenges and Ms. Abaza has learned along the way to rein herself in or risk being a workaholic. Having recently closed one round of venture capital funding, Ms. Abaza and her team are constantly feeling the startup pressure; the all-encompassing nature of the work and sense of urgency that needs to be constantly managed.

"Being a CEO can be lonely," Ms. Abaza explains. That's why she stays so well connected to the startup scene locally, attending FreshFounder events and other key opportunities centered around startup growth. In fact, Wedding Republic was just accepted into the Canadian Technology Acelerator based out of New York City. 

Although a young women herself, Ms. Abaza is often in a position where she is providing guidance and mentoring to others looking to start their own company or build their own product. Her advice is simple: "Just get started."

And that is good advice. 

Fenix Solutions Inc. CEO Jennifer MacKinnon writes a monthly column, Ottawa Women of Wonder, to profile and celebrate local women in business.

Organizations: Republic Inc.

Geographic location: Wedding Republic, New York City

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