January 2017 - Penguin + Stone: a labour of love

Penguin + Stone: a labour of love

They say if you can make it past the planning, having the wedding is a breeze.

Winnipeg startup Penguin + Stone is making wedding planning – and weddings themselves – a whole lot easier.

Penguin + Stone helps brides and grooms coordinate their big days, providing a reliable, credible and efficient one-stop shop where they can compare costs and aesthetics across many local vendors in distinct subject areas (like wardrobe, catering, photography, venue, décor, furnishing and flowers).

For the company’s founders, Daena Groleau and Sue Leclair, what started as favours for friends quickly turned into a labour of love.

“People we knew would come to us, trying to avoid the gamble in wedding planning,” said Groleau. “Our careers up to that point had kind of put us in the middle of all that, so we had become the go-to people.

“Instead of just people we knew calling us and us telling them who to go with for each thing [you need for a wedding], we thought we could use our experience and make a service out of it – like an online travel agency; like Expedia but for weddings.

“We were already well-established in our other careers, so we thought – why not? We could actually do this – we could make the planning better for people. ‘Might as well take on a new challenge,’ we thought.”

Penguin + Stone’s clients can plan, coordinate and execute their entire event through one service, offering a consolidated alternative to multiple meetings and vendors. Clients can even pay up front and online via credit card instead of being forced to deal with multiple invoices.

The website offers individualized planning services for people at all stages of wedding preparedness, from the dreamer to the last-minute planner.

Penguin + Stone also offers ways for couples to make some money back on their event by selling social tickets and items like centrepieces online.

“In a nutshell, we’re about trying to simplify the wedding process,” said Groleau. “We know it’s stressful. We want to streamline it and make it easier.”

The company’s approach to simplification comes across in its basic (yet memorable) name – but the words “Penguin + Stone” weren’t chosen at random. The name’s drawn from the animal kingdom and illustrates some clear parallels between penguins and humans – or their mating habits, at least.

“Penguins mate for life,” said Groleau. “The male penguin will seek out the perfect rock – stone – to give its mate.”

Groleau and Leclair have been getting their feet wet in helping Manitobans seal the deal for years, but they only dove in headfirst about a year ago. For now, it’s just them, their partner vendors, some helpers, and a website donated in part by students of Red River College – but business is growing, and they hope to grow with it.

“Eventually we want to move across Canada, then spread internationally,” said Groleau. “But first we want to conquer Winnipeg. They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”