Lorraine Tan, COO and Co-founder of HitchPlanner, an integrated wedding services platform providing features that allows couples to plan, book, and pay for wedding vendors. With the recent launch of their wedding marketplace in the midst of COVID-19, HitchPlanner has been recognised as an emerging leader in the wedding startup category by BusinessInsider, Thrive Global, BetaList, e27, AsiaOne and Yahoo!. HitchPlanner is also helping other wedding businesses digitise, scale and reach wider audiences. Vendors on the HitchPlanner platform can benefit from features such as listing analytics, order management system, and secure payment gateways.
Before HitchPlanner, Lorraine lived and worked throughout Asia, Europe and now, Australia. She has worked in the assurance services for KPMG, co-ran operations for HipVan (e-commerce furniture company – Asia’s calling to Ikea!) and managed communications for a distinguished Bitcoin group for a venture capital firm. With a vast background across finance, operations and business development, together with her other co-founder, Brenda Shee, they started HitchPlanner. As HitchPlanner is a Singapore-based company, Lorraine works with her team remotely from Melbourne, Australia.
Where did the idea for HitchPlanner come from?
I was inspired to start HitchPlanner while planning for my best friend’s wedding, who is also my CEO and Co-founder, Brenda. She told me that she spent an average of 6/hrs per week meeting vendors, looking for wedding inspiration, sending out invitations and the work pressure with the added stress of planning the wedding really took a toll on her mental health. We knew there had to be a better way to do it.
We saw the opportunity to design and build a bidirectional SaaS solution to give couples the confidence to shop for reliable vendors and break down the silos within the wedding industry. With our process, users have access to a directory of verified vendors within their reach, this would in turn save vendors thousands of dollars in their marketing costs. We also have a chat system where vendors can respond instantly to customers queries and generate quotations on demand. These time-cost savings are enjoyed and passed down to consumers, allowing wedding planning to be easy and accessible.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day starts early, sometimes even as early as 4am. I usually start by making coffee and checking in with my digital assistant – The Google Calendar. I tend to schedule all my calls, meetings and tasks on a weekly basis so i can just jump straight into work each day. I usually do the hard stuff like analysing or design work in the morning, then I’ll have meetings and calls from mid-morning until 1-2pm, have a light lunch and go back to work. I would only take 15 mins break, twice during the day. I know I sound like a total workaholic but then I like to finish my day early, around 5-6pm. That’s also when I can have the evenings to catch up with my partner, cook dinner or I might occasionally host friends for dinner. 2 things that have helped me stay productive are: a morning routine and focus (limit non-work related casual chats and texting during working hours).
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to start by writing all the elements of the idea on a big piece of paper or whiteboard. If i’m out and about, I do it on my iPad. Wait for a week, and relook at the idea again to see if I still resonate with it. If so, I’ll start tackling it! I find that by giving myself the space and clarity within the week, it helps to redefine and sometimes reshape the idea.
What’s one trend that excites you?
WFH (Work from home)! Just kidding. One trend that excites me now is that the opportunity for businesses to go digital now. Not just go digital and have an online presence but I saw some impressive businesses that went on to create their branding and gave their businesses a social media “voice”, and saw engagement rates with their customers soar through the roof.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Always be open to ideas and feedback. This actually really came and hit me pretty hard when we sat down to talk right before we launched the marketplace for HitchPlanner.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be confident, know what you are capable of and trust the work you do.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Whether you get funded or not, it does not determine the success of your company.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Hardcore discipline. I think it’s the most underrated attribute to anyone who is successful. We see the glamorous side of building a business on social media posts or on magazines, news such as “this company has grown to xx employees” or “this company just fundraised $x millions” but if you talk to anyone who has successfully grown their business, they will tell you that it’s just being disciplined and take ownership of what you do everyday.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being empathetic. Covid 19 was something that was totally unexpected and I am sure businesses around the world did not plan for this. With many weddings being cancelled, we had to quickly brainstorm new ideas for our user and partner acquisition strategy. We had to change the tone of voice we used in our social media postings and emails.
With the recent launch of our wedding marketplace, we are targeting wedding businesses whose revenue was affected by COVID-19, to digitise, scale, and reach wider audiences, by allowing them to benefit from features such as listing analytics, order management system, and secure payment gateways, all for free from our platform.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Not talking to more founders and customers more. When we were at the MVP stage for HitchPlanner, we quickly designed the wedding planning tools and decided that was it. We had to change up, enhance and add several features after getting feedback from other founders, designers and customers. We definitely could have saved ourselves more time and resources if we had gone through a couple of rounds before we created our first MVP for HitchPlanner. For first time entrepreneurs, if you think you’ve talked to enough people about your product, you haven’t.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Live-streaming weddings! With social distancing set to be the new norm, weddings will most likely have to be smaller. With live-streaming, more people can be part of it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
High quality Magnesium powder for sleep. It helps me to relax before bed and I get quality sleep no matter how long my sleep is. Highly recommended.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Our team loves Trello board, it helps to organise and remind you of immediate tasks that need to be looked into.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Less but better” from a book by Dieter Rams recommended by an old friend of mine – that was before the minimalist trend was considered cool. I was fascinated by his design principles of a good design: innovative, useful, aesthetic, understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, thorough down to the last detail, environmentally friendly and involves as little design as possible. As we were creating HitchPlanner’s brand identity, our primary focus was on the customer’s experience on our platform. We wanted our brand to reflect as much of his principles so our users can focus on the services and products that we are delivering and actually enjoy their wedding planning journey.
What is your favorite quote?
Lorraine: “Be the person you want in your life”. I spent most of my 20s living in 3 completely different cultures and I don’t have the luxury of having my close friends and family to rely on for support. I wrote this quote down on my old notebook more than 10 years ago and that was what gave me the strength to be a better version of myself again and again.
- Talk to as many people you can and get their feedback before pouring resources into building something.
- Be confident, know what you are capable of and trust the work you do
- Be consistent and disciplined in what you do.