Refugee legal adviser Marica Frost, 28, discusses making the move from the public to private sector and why she decided to pack in her career with Immigration NZ to pursue a wedding planning and directory business.
What does your business do?
The Curator is a free wedding planning application which I created to be a one-stop shop. It's all online and there's a couple's create account so you login, and it has a full directory of all the vendors throughout New Zealand such as caterers, florists, venues, music operators; everything under the sun basically.
The website also includes a budget tracker which records how much each part is costing and calculates how much you have left based on what your total budget is to keep people on track with their finances. There's also a to-do list with pre-populated information and is customisable to guide people through the wedding planning process. It launched to the public at the start of May but I started working on it just over a year ago.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I had been flicking through a wedding planning magazine earlier last year and noticed at the back there was a whole lot of ads for different vendors kind of like a Yellow Pages and I was wondering why it wasn't online in this day and age. I discovered it was in various forms, but the directories I found weren't at all comprehensive so I really wanted to create something that a user could go to and feel confident that all the best vendors were all in the right place.
I started talking to different couples to figure out what their challenges were and found out while finding vendors was a massive challenge for them they also had issues with not knowing where to start with planning, and there was no centralised place to plan which is where the budget tracker and to-do list came into the piece.
How does The Curator make money?
We have all the New Zealand vendors listed and they are charged an annual listing fee based on how much traffic they get through the site.
How big is the team?
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I'm working on the business full-time but I also work full-time at the moment as well. My background is in international law so I work doing refugee determinations - people who claim refugee status onshore we determine their claim, basically. I work for the Government for Immigration NZ. It's been pretty intense juggling both jobs but I actually resigned a couple of weeks ago to focus on this so I'm winding down with the day job before I finish up at the end of August. I'm the only employee of The Curator but I have web developers who I work really closely with on the technical side of the business.
Why did you decide to leave the day job to pursue your business?
The Curator has become a full-time job between liaising with vendors, updating the site and working with all of the web developers and I got to the tipping point where I had to choose between really giving this a decent shot or doing it half-heartedly. I really enjoy doing it as well - working for myself I love, also, I've been doing my day job for the last five years and I wanted to try something different.
What are the plans for the business this year?
We launched just a month ago so we're really focused on making sure the current minimum viable product is as good as it can be; making sure it is functioning properly and talking to our users and figuring out what's working for them and not, and what can be improved. We're also doing the groundwork to add in additional features to the platform to make it even more of a one-stop shop.
Long term, we have plans to expand the feature of the product further but that's based on how we go over the next six months.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced being in business for the first time?
This is my first business and with a background in law and politics it's been a huge learning curve. The biggest challenge has been working two jobs, which has been hugely stressful, and also the technical side of things. I don't have a background in technology at all so building a web application from scratch, understanding how it works and figuring out the best way to develop the user experience has been a huge learning curve - I read a lot of books and listen to a lot of podcasts.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Do your homework. Research as much as you can before you actually start building a product or building a business, and talk to your future customer as much as you can and figure out what they want.