Co-Founder, The Knot and XO Group Inc.
Carley Roney is co-founder of The Knot, America’s leading wedding planning marketplace, and one of New York City’s most successful media & tech companies. Started in the earliest days of the Web, The Knot has expanded into all media, and now has the #1 wedding apps, registry site, print magazines, book series, planner, and Instagram following—and is used by 8 out of 10 couples in the country. Now a public company under the name XO Group Inc. (NYSE: XOXO), The Knot has grown with its audience and launched popular platforms The Nest (for creating a home) and The Bump (for pregnancy and early parenthood).
Carley’s obsessions, and areas of leadership at The Knot and sister brands, are branding, community, editorial, product design, user experience, public relations, social media, digital marketing and delighting customers while driving business growth. In her relentless quest to make sure every couple in America knew about her brands, Carley became a regular lifestyle contributor on TV shows from Oprah and NBC’s TODAY to FOX and LIVE! With Kelly, and published 12 books with Random House.
Carley is also passionate about entrepreneurship. She advises many female founded startups and has served on Rent The Runway’s Board of Directors since inception. Carley speaks at conferences such as SXSW, guest lectures at her alma mater NYU and Columbia University, and has been featured in Inc., Fortune, Vogue, Fast Company, and The New York Times.
Most importantly, Carley is mom to three incredible kids, and lives with husband and co-founder David Liu in Brookyn, NY.
Describe a moment that could’ve broken you, but didn’t. How did you get past the struggle?
It was 2 a.m., and I was hunched over a laptop on the floor in the attic of my in-laws’ house, simultaneously nursing my insomniac one-and-a-half-year-old and writing perky email copy for the first-ever online wedding gift registry. I’d been up since 5 a.m.; spent two hours commuting; two hours fuming at the contractors who were theoretically renovating our Brooklyn apartment; 10 hours at the office trying not to go psycho in the high-pressure days cruising to our launch deadline; an hour on the phone picking a fight with my husband (and cofounder) David—who’d been on the road prepping for our IPO for what seemed like an eternity—another hour commuting; 30 minutes being polite to my devoted in-laws; and eating for the first time all day. I felt like I’d been working 15 hours a day for 500 days straight. I was SO TIRED. But this product was The Knot’s future, it was the lynchpin to our IPO, and it had to be perfect. I started sobbing…and typing, “Congrats on your engagement!”…and sobbing…I can’t do this anymore. I have to stop. Quit? Something. Then I just shut down—my computer and my mind—curled up with my now-sleeping daughter who I hadn’t seen in daylight for a week, and went to sleep.
That’s how I got past the struggle: I snuggled and went to sleep. The next day, I got up and started at it again. You have to have a tremendous amount of stamina—and self belief—to keep going. (You also need people to love and who love you. It gives you strength.)
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t worry so much. Stress and anxiety can be amazing motivators, but they can also take the fun out of the journey. I feel like the same results could have been achieved (with a few less wrinkles!), if I’d laughed through more of the stressful moments.
Who’s your biggest inspiration and why?
I’m deeply inspired by all the moms in America—particularly those superhero single moms. As soon as I had a baby, and understood exactly how hard it was to be a good mom and bring home the bacon, I became keenly aware of the daily struggle of so many. I was lucky to have an amazing husband, family nearby, the security of a workplace where I had control of my destiny, and I was still a wreck! The collective strength of so many women made me want to improve the workplace for mothers and build better support systems for families in this country. I also want to take the pressure off the idea of being perfect—being a perfect parent, having perfect children, the perfect home and hair. It’s oppressive to women because the math doesn’t work: It simply isn’t possible to have it all without something being off the rails!
If you could create a slogan for your life, what would it be?
Since “Just do it” is already taken, how about “Work. Play. Pay it forward. Repeat.”
How do you define your purpose and mission in life?
My purpose has always been to use my power and privilege to make something that improves people’s lives. Helping young people manage their weddings and pregnancies is the core of the business we built, but the higher mission was always to improve the efficiency of the industry so that more creative and small businesses across America could thrive. And, at the true center, our calling was to create a company and culture that valued equality and opportunity for all. I have been so lucky to have the opportunity to build a powerful brand and successful business that could model this mission for more young companies.