By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun
7:16 AM EDT, September 29, 2011
All Danielle Rowlette wanted to do was become Danielle Tate.
But after taking a day off work and wasting nearly all of it in lines at the state Motor Vehicle Administration, she drove home disappointed — and still a Rowlette. It seems she'd filled out outdated name-change forms and brought the wrong documents to show officials.
She went home to her new husband and complained, "I can't believe there isn't a website that can do as much of this as possible — I would pay almost anything not to deal with this."
He smiled at her and said, "You should do it."
And so she did.
The former Baltimore resident, who turns 30 this weekend, founded MissNowMrs, a site that for $29.95 promises brides a honeymoon free of paperwork and waiting in line. Running since 2006, the Potomac-based business has helped about 85,000 women change their names.
"Would you like to spend 13 hours reinventing the wheel or spend $30 and spend your time being a newlywed?" Tate says.
For brides, the service is a lot like what Turbo Tax is to a taxpayer. A woman who wants to change her name goes online and the service asks her series of questions. By the time she's done, the service has filled out dozens of forms automatically and tells her exactly how to print them out and where to send them.
The site handles everything: driver's licenses, titles and registrations, Social Security cards, passports, voter registration and tax forms. It will even notify places a bride might not initially think of — banks, utilities, licensing boards, investments, frequent-flier programs and gyms.
For women trying to do all of this by hand, on their own, Tate says, it can seem as if there's always one more place to notify.
"You think you're done," she says, "and then every time you open the mailbox, there's a new thing."
When Jessica Schmidt of Nottingham got married in 2009, she wanted to change her last name to Schmidt-Bonifant. But because she'd heard horror stories about how cumbersome the process can be, she was dragging her feet — until she heard about MissNowMrs from a friend.
Through the site she changed her name on her driver's license, passport, credit cards and more. It even reminded her to adjust her 401(k), which she said she never would have thought of on her own.
"It was really easy," says Schmidt-Bonifant, 28. "For me, it was a very marginal cost for the convenience."
Meredith Ashley Wishart, 27, planned on changing her name shortly after getting married last September. But after doing some research on MissNowMrs, the Manasquan, N.J., resident learned that waiting a few months would save her some tax-related hassles.
"Even making my car payment is harder than changing my name," said Wishart, a director with Teach for America. "It was just very comprehensive. I didn't have any of that back-and-forth."
Once she conceived the idea, it took Tate nearly a year of research and leg work — including contacting motor-vehicle agencies in all 50 states. ("It was a lot of hold time," she says.) A partner built the database, her husband joined the team and they launched in 2006 with an ad on Google.
Within 30 minutes, they had their first customer. Tate was giddy, jumping around the house.
"It just ramped from there," she says. "Each day got bigger and bigger."
Not that it's been without pitfalls. The recession hit the company hard. And then copycat sites cropped up.
But with an estimated 90 percent of brides changing their names, Tate can't help but see a growth industry. She recently expanded into Canada. And for those less lucky in love, she's launched GetYourNameBack.com for divorcees.
The company's revenues to date have been about $2.5 million.
Justine Ingersoll, editor of Bridefinds.com, a site for finding wedding deals, said MissNowMrs is one of several online tools recently created to simplify getting married —such as services that send invitations and others that write toasts.
"One great thing about the bridal industry is that it will never go away, it's not a trend," Ingersoll said. "I think there's a market for sites that just make a bride's life easier."
Reuters contributed to this article.
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