Member Spotlight: Adapting a Tradition to Support Women in Business 

When Emily Wazlak founded a business to help women launching their own companies, she put a new spin on an old tradition: Wedding registries.

The idea to create a platform for entrepreneurial women to “ask for the things that they need” came to Emily in 2015 during a bachelorette party. She and her friends were at a karaoke bar in matching “Team Bride” tank tops when she realized that one friend, who was starting a company, wasn’t getting the same kind of support for reaching a professional milestone as she would for a personal one.

“The traditions that we have — they add meaning to the most significant moments of our lives. They are things that we pass down from generation to generation, to help us connect with our communities and show them that we care about them,” Emily said during a TEDx Talk in Pittsburgh last year. “We didn’t have that muscle memory to show our friend that we cared about what she was doing professionally. We didn’t know how to show up for her.”

And so Shine Registry was born.

The registry website allows business founders to create profiles and request money for new equipment and office supplies, as well as items that don’t cost anything — like giving pep talks, making network connections, or engaging with content on social media.

“It’s not just about funding. It’s also about creating the conditions for anyone who has an idea to feel loved and supported,” said Emily, a KettleSpace Member who worked out of Gran Torino in Williamsburg before COVID-19 forced a suspension of service. “When you want to support a friend, having confirmation that you can help them in a substantive way because they’ve been able to give you some direction is meaningful.”

While Emily is based in New York, Shine Registry has Pittsburgh roots, and the five other team members have been working remotely from Michigan, California, Pittsburgh, and Brazil. There are more than 250 founders on the registry; some of the companies are sole proprietors and early-stage tech startups, while others are family-owned brick-and-mortar businesses.

Over the past few months, Shine Registry has hosted virtual workshops that double as virtual business showers, Emily said. She added that attendees are encouraged to support selected profiles on the registry.

In addition, the website has become “a tool for small business owners doing quick contingency planning,” Emily said. She noted a sustainable bow tie company is raising money to support the business and pivoting to make face masks. And a plant nursery is using Shine Registry to ask for gardening equipment, while promoting urban farming and battling food insecurity.

“I think what we’ll learn from social distancing is that we need each other,” Emily said. “We’re trying to celebrate people and connect people.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Shine Registry may sign up for its mailing list here.

About the Author

Sarah Latson is a freelance writer and editor who teaches journalism in New Jersey.

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