Part of wedding planning is creating your dream registry. The process can be tough as you try to figure out one store (like IKEA) that can fit all of your needs for your newlywed life. Going through each room in your nest can be a cumbersome task, and even with the ultimate registry checklist, you鈥檙e bound to wish you had added that聽*one* thing to your list. In this week鈥檚 How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with聽Shan-Lyn Ma, the CEO and co-founder of Zola, a popular wedding website and registry service. Ma shares her story of how she turned common wedding registry woes into a fast-growing company.

Meet the Wedding聽Pro: Sha-Lyn MA

Born and raised in Australia, Ma always knew she wanted to start her own company. She was fascinated by the rise of the internet and dreamed of moving to Silicon Valley to start a tech company. One thing that Ma noticed聽all those聽tech founders seemed to have聽in common was a degree from an Ivy League, so she got an MBA from Stanford聽and worked at Yahoo!, Gilt Groupe, and Chloe + Isabel after graduation. Together with her Gilt Groupe colleagues, she and co-founder Nobu Nakaguchi launched Zola, a popular wedding planning and registry website.

The Tips

1. Find common ground. Given their background in technology, ecommerce, and design, Ma knew that she and her co-founder Nakaguchi could really innovate the wedding company space with a聽new approach. They consulted聽with Kevin Ryan, founder of Gilt Groupe, about their business plan, and聽Zola was launched. Through research, interviewing engaged couples, and finding out what works best for today鈥檚 modern brides and grooms, Ma has found ways to continually improve her company. 鈥淎lmost four years later, I am still deep in all of our couples research because there is no better way to improve our business than by listening,鈥 says Ma.

2. Learn what your customer needs. According to Ma, two million couples get married every year. Ma and her team interviewed hundreds of those couples to find out their biggest problems with traditional wedding registries. One problem that popped up was shipping. 鈥淪ome couples even had gifts stolen off their front porch while they were on their honeymoon. So, at Zola, we offer free shipping and we send couples a notification when a gift is purchased but then let the couple decide if they want to ship the gift ASAP, or if they want us to hold the gift until a later date so they can avoid box overload,鈥 says Ma.

3. Provide a personalized experience. What resonates with Zola users is the personalized experience they want is in one place, for free. In 2013, when Ma found herself buying countless wedding presents from department store registries, she was shocked by how terrible the commerce experience was for the shopper. Nakaguchi, who was in charge of user experience at Gilt Groupe, lamented the same pains of traditional wedding registries. 鈥淥ur original hypothesis was that millennial couples didn鈥檛 want many physical gifts anymore, that they preferred experiences to share with their significant other, but actually what we鈥檝e found is that couples today want to have everything. They want cool experiences, home upgrades, and funds for their future,鈥 says Ma. Zola was born out of the need to cover all wedding planning needs.

4. Rely on your squad. Many of Zola鈥檚 earliest wedding couples were Ma鈥檚 engaged friends who wanted to support her venture. From her time at Gilt Groupe, Ma developed strong relationships with her colleagues that resulted in聽six of them working together at Zola in an executive team of eight.

5. Go all in. If you鈥檙e thinking about starting a company, Ma suggests diving in head first. She believes that if you鈥檙e only working part time on your side hustle, it鈥檒l be much harder to make it work. She quit her job at Chloe + Isabel in 2013 before Zola was even an idea to her. 鈥淚聽gave myself 24/7 to hone in on what I wanted to build,鈥 says Ma.

6. Be obsessed with innovation. Since she runs a tech company, constantly testing and thinking about what鈥檚 next is part of Ma鈥檚聽daily routine at work. She鈥檚聽addicted to finding ways to make Zola even better. 鈥淭here is nothing as energizing to me as hearing what someone loves and hates about our product,鈥 she says.

7. Believe in your vision. During her early pitch meetings, Ma wishes that she had not been so humble about her business. 鈥淎 lesson I had to learn during the fundraising process is that your pitch is being viewed in the context of hundreds of other pitches. Most male founders claim without a doubt their business will be worth a billion dollars or more. If you have a billion-dollar idea, say it. Believe in your company鈥檚 vision and speak like it!鈥 says Ma.

Perfect Your Skills

Coding Class

1.聽Coding: From Web Page to Website Online Class ($39): Designer Allison House will teach you how to create a beautiful multi-page website聽using HTML and CSS. Make elements that will help聽your site聽stand out from the crowd.

2.聽Build Your Digital Brand Online Class ($49): Creative director聽Caroline Winegeart walks you through the steps of figuring out your brand鈥檚 mission statement and defining your audience. Find the right fonts and colors to convey who you are.

3.聽Build Your Brand on Social Media Online Class ($39): Social media guru Melanie Ham knows everything about every social media channel. She鈥檒l show you how to choose the right platforms for your brand and track your content with an editorial calendar.

What鈥檚 your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!

(Photos via Zola)