By Kate Toporski, CFE Content Development Intern
Each year, roughly $19 billion is spent on wedding gift registries. With an average of 200 guests per wedding and $85 per wedding gift– that’s a lot of money. But after seeing the need of others during her time in the Peace Corps in contrast to American wedding celebrations, Kate Glantz decided that a change could be made in the industry of weddings.
CFE had the chance to sit down with University of Michigan Alumnae and Founder/CEO of heartful.ly, Kate Glantz, where she shared the story of how her startup has influenced the way we celebrate and give back to one another.
Q: Tell us about yourself
Kate Glantz: I’m a do-gooder with an entrepreneurial spirit. After graduating from Michigan with a dual-degree in Political Science and African Studies, I joined the Peace Corps and served as a health volunteer in Tanzania. I had such a great time and loved the culture and community so much, that I stayed in Tanzania after my service and joined the Centers for Disease Control as a Communications Advisor. I headed to Washington, D.C. in 2011, where I worked for the State Department leading public diplomacy efforts for America’s global HIV/AIDS initiative. Itching to get back to the field, I spent 2013-14 in Dakar, Senegal as
the Communications Director for Peace Corps’ Africa-wide malaria program. The idea for heartful.ly had come to me years earlier, and in 2014 I decided to enter a startup weekend competition to see if it had any legs. I ended up winning the competition, and after nine months of juggling a full time job in D.C. and building out the beta for my startup, I quit my job and dove in. I haven’t looked back (or slept much) since!
Q: How did Heartful.ly get started?
KG: The idea for heartful.ly came to me as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I remember browsing an American friend’s wedding registry of pots, pans, and sushi plates, and I couldn’t help but feel a major disconnect between the two worlds I was straddling. I thought it would be super cool to have a registry for the things I needed and things my community needed, like mosquito nets to fight malaria or textbooks for our classrooms. It would be several years before I actually founded the company, but the idea was born that day. heartful.ly launched as a wedding registry for charitable giving in 2015. We recently expanded to support birthday fundraisers and the winter holidays.
Q: What does a day at Heartful.ly look like?
KG: As most founders will tell you, no two days are the same. The only thing that happens without fail each morning is drinking a lot of coffee! Some days are full of meetings, investors pitches, and networking events, while others are spent working solo at a cafe or on my couch.
Q: What is your definition of an entrepreneur?
KG: An entrepreneur is someone who sees a problem as an opportunity. Instead of accepting the status quo, an entrepreneur thinks, “how can I create something better and monetize or optimize it?”
Q: How did your time at Michigan shape you as an entrepreneur?
As a student, I had never heard the word startup, knew very little about “tech,” and never considered business as a potential path. However, Michigan instilled in me the value of investing in my community. That value gave me the confidence to dream big.
Q: Best and worst advice I’ve ever received
KG: The best advice I’ve ever received was from one of the executive conference room at Peace Corps headquarters. There is a sign that says “Work hard and be nice.” I live by those words and they have never steered me wrong. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by really smart and thoughtful people and can’t think of any terrible advice offhand (You don’t work at the State Department without learning when to be a diplomat!).
Q: What do you look for in an ideal candidate?
KG: I look for passion for the mission and a willingness to dive in and get uncomfortable. We’re a small team and do things every day that we have not been trained or educated to do. When you’re in startup mode, you wake up, put one foot in front of the other, and figure it out. My ideal teammate is someone who is willing to learn, who is innately curious, and who has strong interpersonal and writing abilities. Those qualities in combination tend to yield amazing and innovative contributions!
A big thank you to Kate for taking the time to share the story of her growth as an entrepreneur, as well as the growth of heartful.ly. To learn more about heartful.ly and their services, check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
To explore other alumni startups in the Washington D.C. and across the country, be sure to take a look at our immersion trek opportunities.