Green Bride Courts Suitors
(10/4/2010) (From New Haven Independent)
Kate Harrison has already attracted 20 angel investors to her fledgling New Haven-based company, the Green Bride Guide. She spoke to 10 more potential angels last week, as entrepreneurs and investors filled a downtown conference room.
Harrison (pictured), founder and CEO of Green Bride Guide, was one of 115 up-and-coming, high-tech Connecticut business owners at Thursday’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Summit at the Omni Hotel. Each made a one-minute presentation (likened to “speed dating”) to 100 investors brought together from around New England to check out the hottest entrepreneurial efforts around the state. The companies were divided into rooms focused on life sciences, information technology services, software, new media and green technology.
Harrison was one of a small minority of women among 400 attendees entrepreneurs and investors. Her company began as a paper guidebook, published in 2008, based on Harrison’s own environmentally friendly wedding the year before, and has now expanded to a web-based business, located at 315 Whitney Ave. Now she’s seeking more money to bring her business to the break-even point, and then grow.
In her one-minute spiel, she told the audience that the Green Bride Guide is already the leading green wedding site—and is looking for more investors to help it grow more.
Her claim to be the lead wedding site is based on web traffic and Google ranking, she later elaborated. “We have twice the traffic of our closest competitor and we’re the largest in terms of pages of content. The website is really an e-commerce platform, so we have this local directory where they can actually find vendors in their area who are providing green services, and then we have this green wedding gift registry that we launched a couple of months ago.”
In the guide, an aspiring green bride or groom can find vendors of everything from local flowers to organic food to wedding invitations made from recycled paper, and other ideas for reducing the often huge carbon footprint of a typical American wedding (like dispensing with paper invitations and sending them on-line instead).
For investors in the crowd, she advertised that her business qualifies for the Connecticut Angel Investor Tax Credit Program. Investors qualify for a tax credit equal to 25 percent of their cash investment, up to a maximum of $250,000.
An “angel investor” is a private investor investing on his or her own behalf, Harrison explained. “They must be qualified under SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] rules. They have to make a certain amount of money, because start-ups are considered high-risk—80 to 90 percent fail. But the payoffs are very big; that’s why people do it.”
Harrison said she has found angel investors through similar events in Connecticut.
“We closed our first angel financing this spring and raised $350,000 to relaunch the web site, the green gift registry, and redo our directory. We were pre-revenue, and that was funding the company.”
The company is “still not at break-even,” she said. She’s looking for more investors to help “grow the company.” She’d like to secure money to hire a marketing director, more web developers, and pay for advertising.
Matthew Nemerson, president and CEO of the Connecticut Technology Council, played chief matchmaker at the event, hoping to connect angels with companies like Harrison’s.
“These are some of the most exciting young companies in the state,” he enthused. He said investors came to learn more about companies they’d like to invest in, and the gathering offered a chance to meet and mingle face to face instead of just on-line.
Harrison said she spoke with 10 interested parties looking to invest in the Green Bride company at Thursday’s event. She said she “won’t know for a while” if the ones she talked to will become angel investors. “I have to follow up and see if they’re interested in coming in.”
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