Fetefully founder and CEO Gigi McDowell
Fêtefully founder and CEO GiGi McDowell. | Photo: Fêtefully

Sure, the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of Dallas’s rising startups from last quarter here.

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Like many little girls, GiGi McDowell had a thing for weddings. When she was five years old, the Dallas entrepreneur said she used her mother’s credit card to order a bridal magazine. When McDowell was 13, she helped plan a wedding for someone from her church.

While running her own wedding and events planning business as an adult, though, McDowell came to grips with a harsh reality in the wedding business. One day, a bride broke down crying because she and her partner — both full-time professionals — couldn’t afford the cost of their dream wedding. Wedding planners like McDowell, meanwhile, found themselves without the income needed to focus full-time on their company. 

In 2018, she launched Fêtefully, an online service that connects cost-conscious couples with wedding planners looking for extra income. The planners work virtually with couples to build a budget, manage their guest list, pick a venue and navigate the world of wedding vendors.

“We have the expertise that meets couples where they are at any stage in their planning,” McDowell said. “From celebrity event planners to event experts, we have a community of industry experts to meet every event need.”

“From celebrity event planners to event experts, we have a community of industry experts to meet every event need.”

From a technology standpoint, Fêtefully’s platform can be used to plan tasks, coordinate meetings and track guest information, while also facilitating payments and communications with vendors.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic threw a wrench in many couples’ wedding plans, McDowell said the pandemic highlighted the need for couples and wedding planners to connect virtually. Austin Clements and Ajay Rela, the managing partners of VC firm Slauson & Co., said in a statement that McDowell “built one of the only platforms that grew during the pandemic.”

Slauson & Co. led a $1.3 million pre-seed round for Fêtefully in September and another $1.3 million seed round in June. With that funding, McDowell became one of 98 Black women founders to raise more than $1 million in venture funding, according to a company statement.

McDowell said the funding will be used to finish developing the Fêtefully software, onboard new planners and expand to new markets. The company has seven employees at the moment.

McDowell took Fêtefully through the Techstars Austin accelerator in 2021. She also participated in the Google for Startups Accelerator for Black founders. 

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