You often hear about athletes who've suffered after retiring from sport, but as far as former Olympic water polo player Holly Lincoln-Smith, 29, was concerned when she retired after Rio 2016, "the best was yet to come". She grabbed retirement from sport by the horns and looked at it as a chance to pursue her other passion: weddings. She's put that drive she used for water polo for so many years, and used it to create an innovative app called The Little White Wedding Guide. Anyone who's planning a wedding in Australia – or even a destination wedding – will want to know about this app...
Why did you decide to retire from water polo?
There were a few reasons. I knew I wanted to pursue other passions in my life and I also to start a family. But ultimately my body decided for me. I was plagued with injuries, especially in the four years leading up to Rio [Olympics]. Physically, I would not have been able to continue playing. After two major shoulder surgeries, thumb surgery, back and hip issues, I had to walk away.
How did that feel to go from elite sportswoman to retired at a relatively young age?
I think because the decision was made for me, it was a bit easier. I was also really excited about what was ahead for me – even though at the time I had no idea what I was going to do with my life! My biggest struggle was having the confidence to pursue my passion of weddings. I’d been so confident in my sport, and to then leap to something else was really scary. I had a little while of feeling down and a little lost. I had my thumb surgery right after Rio and those few weeks of recovery were definitely the hardest. Previously, every injury and surgery I’d had, I’d always had a goal to come back to, I had coaches and physios and doctors calling me every day checking on me. With my thumb there was nothing. I decided to start working in the floral industry with Posy Supply Co (in Sydney) and working in the wedding industry, and from that my confidence started to grow and I decided I just had to go for it.
Did you have the idea for the app before or after retiring from sport?
I always wanted to be a wedding planner from when I was really young. The app and the website were something that I came up with when thinking about my wedding and what I found really difficult to plan. I see so many friends stress out about planning their wedding and I wanted to find a way to make it easier. People spend so much time staring at a screen and at their mobile phones, I put that together with my passion for weddings and came up with The Little White Wedding Guide.
Tell us about the app…
At the time I was brainstorming about how to set up the guide, my husband and I were house hunting, so I was on real estate apps every day. I had my shortlist, and every day my husband and I would send each other new houses that we’d found that day. That’s when I had a ‘lightbulb moment’. I decided to base my app off that concept. People can search for their dream wedding venue via location, capacity, venue style, venue facilities. You then get a shortlist where you can scroll through venue profiles, read a description, visit their website and social media channels, send venues to loved ones and enquire directly with the venue. It’s really going to change how people find their wedding venue. Simple, no fuss and everything you need right on your mobile phone while you catch the bus to work or have your coffee break.
How long did it take you to set up the business?
It’s taken me about a year to get to this point and there’s still a long way to go. The app was the hardest part because there are so many intricacies in creating an app. I started working with my app creators in October 2016 and there have been many roadblocks along the way. I don’t have a background in tech at all, so trying to be patient while waiting for issues to be sorted has been really hard. You also learn as you go, and what I know now, there are things I’d do differently, but it’s all a learning curve. They say it takes years of hard work to get a business off the ground, and I believe a lot of people fail because they give up when it gets hard. Quitting isn’t an option to me, even on days where I wonder how I’ll make it all work.
And how have you set it apart from other wedding planning guides?
The app is something that hasn’t really been done before. The simplicity of it, and being able to access so much information about a venue and enquire directly with the venues is what makes it so unique. It really is the real estate app for wedding venues, and makes it so easy to pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for. I’m also expanding to international venues as well, so you can plan the perfect destination wedding. I already have beautiful venues from Bali, Thailand and Samoa and am hoping to expand that a lot over the next few months.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to sportswomen who haven’t retired yet?
Something I always tell myself is that “the best is yet to come”. There are so many amazing things to experience in life. I’d want to remind them that they are so much more than just the sport they play. I also think it’s so important to have good balance during your career. That’s something my parents always told me. I always studied and worked because I knew that sport wouldn’t last forever. It made me feel confident that I can accomplish so much outside of my sport and you need all of that confidence to move forward and retire.
A PEEK AT HOLLY'S OWN WEDDING...
> The dress? Sarah Janks.
> The venue? Gurragawee, Byron Bay Hinterland.
> Sit-down or cocktail? Cocktails and finger food after the ceremony and then straight to a sit-down dinner.
> The flowers? Cotton Blossom Studios on the Gold Coast. I had huge hanging flowers over my tables and a table runner for the bridal table. I stuck with beautiful soft colours with pops of bright pinks.
> The car? I hired 2 Kombis for the bridal party. One had the roof off, which made for such a fun entrance when returning to the wedding after photos.
> The cake? The Cake That Ate Paris made me a stunning four-tiered cake alternating between banana caramel layers and raspberry white chocolate layers. Yum!
> The time of year? November 1st 2014. It was pretty hot for the ceremony but ended up cooling off pretty quickly. It was perfect!
> The highlight? Other than saying ‘I do’, the highlight for me was the dancing. Gurragawee has a big barn that we kept closed off for the wedding. Once dinner and the first dance was over we opened the doors and it just became a dance party. The boys ended up with their shirts off (including my dad). I just remember looking around and seeing these big smiles on everyone’s faces, especially my parents.