The Registry Entrepreneur

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Kathy Cheng, founder of Thankful Registry

What is Thankful?
It’s a website that lets couples keep all of their registry picks from around the Internet in one place. We have a button that you can install on your toolbar that’s just like the Pinterest pin, so it’s easy to add items as you see them. One couple asked for genetic testing, another requested Nest Protect smoke alarms. As long as the product has an image and a URL, you can add it to your Thankful registry. Then, when guests want to buy something, we direct them to the retail site.

How did you come up with the idea for the site?
I was a bridesmaid in a wedding in 2007 and I was late to the registry, so I got my friend a $200 blender because there was nothing left. A few months later, she told me it was in storage because she didn’t have room in her kitchen. She felt embarrassed and I was upset. I created Thankful with the idea of maximizing the registry experience. Our number one priority is customization, so that it’s your registry and not Crate & Barrel’s.

What’s wrong with registering at a big-box retailer?
Big-box retailers encourage people to go around with bar-code guns like they’re on the shopping spree of their lives, or to follow arbitrary lists like “The Ten Luxury Items You Must Have on Your Registry,” so couples end up adding all this stuff that they don’t need or want. You need a registry because it’s a courtesy for friends and family, but no one should feel they need to stick to the old classics, like bed linens and formal tableware.

What’s a common registry pitfall?
I see couples who can barely boil water put a whole bunch of fancy kitchen equipment on their registries, because they’re adhering to a checklist of must-haves that doesn’t reflect how they actually live.

What would you suggest for those who want to support local businesses with their registry?
Camping gear has become very popular. Also, Fluent City language school offers gift certificates and classes all over New York. One couple I know registered for Italian classes before their honeymoon in Rome. There’s a Brooklyn start-up called that has amazing gift subscriptions—everything from cocktail-of-the-month to beef-jerky-of-the-month clubs.

Thoughts on going off-registry?
If you really, really know the couple, it’s okay to go rogue, but if you don’t, it’s unlikely that the couple is going to fall in love with something super-specific that you picked out from your corner shop. If the bride and groom are close friends of mine, I’d rather just write them a check with a nice card—I don’t hold a grudge against people who want cash.

Illustration by Aiko Fukawa

“If you’d rather have a pickle-of-the-month membership than a baking pan, go for it.”

The Registry Entrepreneur