Real Talk With Jen Glantz, Founder of Bridesmaid For Hire
Jen Glantz knows how to chase her dreams. She started her company, Bridesmaid for Hire, with a crazy idea and a Craigslist ad. Now, she spends her time helping women around the country with their weddings. Soon, she’ll add helping women start their businesses to her resumé.
Name: Jen Glantz
Location: New York City, New York
Title: Writer, Founder of Bridesmaid for Hire
Company: Bridesmaid for Hire, The Things I Learned From
What it is: The new Wedding Planner
Educational Background: B.A, Journalism, English-Creative Writing, University of Central Florida
Just a general guestimate: approximately how many times have you heard jokes about 27 Dresses?
Way too often. People love to compare me to that. But you know, before I was a professional bridesmaid, I was the perpetual single girl and I got prepared to [suffer the shame] so now it’s nice to have a different preparedness.
Before you were a professional bridesmaid, you created The Things I Learned From. What came first? How did you get your original start?
So I graduated from college about five years ago now and I majored in poetry. I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to get a job doing that, and also I didn’t really know what kind of job I wanted. I just started by doing a little bit of everything, and one of the things I did was give myself the opportunity to write by starting my website The Things I Learned From.
So you just started a website straight after college and went after it?
It was actually a year out of college after I was finishing up my first job and I took a new job part-time, working for a magazine. Not as a writer, but as the personal assistant to the editor — which meant I was putting up Christmas decorations and walking dogs. I was doing everything but writing, and that was when I realized, in this world, if you want something, you need to create the opportunity yourself, and that’s when I created my own website.
I was the only writer for a while, but I do have a section for guest posts and I welcome guests posts from people who want to submit stories. It’s a lot of fun getting other voices on the website.
The Things I Learned From — that’s a passion project of yours and how you got your start. Is that a revenue-generating business or purely a labor of love?
It’s purely a passion project. Of course, there are many different ways to turn a blog into a revenue source, but for me it’s just been a home and I don’t want to sell anything on there. To me, it’s a just place where other people can come when they need a home. Maybe someday in the future it will be a source of revenue, but I truly value that as a place where I’ve been able to build a following and share my heart with strangers.
You started The Things I Learned From, one book that is already published, and one that is about to be in 2017?
Yeah! All My Friends Are Engaged — that was my first book and that came out in October 2013 and my newest book Always a Bridesmaid (for Hire) will be out in hopefully early 2017.
You know, it’s like when I said, when I graduated college and I knew I wanted to be a writer but I wasn’t able to get a job writing, I gave myself the opportunity and when you give yourself an opportunity you face a ton of rejection so a lot of times I would want to write for a certain website and it would take almost two years for them to say yes.
Same with the book process. You know, selling a book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and I was rejected about 40 times before I finally got a publisher to say yes. It’s all about not giving up and all about understanding that failure and rejection are just stepping stones to your success.
Was selling your second book easier since you already had one successful publication under your belt?
It was actually harder, surprisingly, because the first one was published through Thought Catalog and the second was published through a traditional publisher. When you publish with a traditional publisher, they’re looking for a lot of different qualities in you and in your writing skills. I think I was rejected about 37 times before the final day I got a final “Yes” and I just sat there hysterically crying because it was a very emotional experience — you get a bunch of ‘no’s, but then you finally get one yes.
What’s been your favorite project so far?
I would say my favorite project so far was starting my business, Bridesmaid for Hire. It started as a little bit of an accident but as someone who has zero business experience, it’s been the adventure of a lifetime. It’s been filled with tons of mistakes but more learning experiences.
Lead me through your process of starting Bridesmaid for Hire.
So I was working full-time as a copywriter for a startup. I had just finished All my Friends Are Engaged and I was kind of branded as the “dating writer” and “the single girl” and I did not want to write about dating anymore! This kind of fell into my lap — I was asked to be a bridesmaid twice in one day and my roommate nicknamed me the professional bridesmaid — and I said to myself, “Wow, this could be a business.” I went to Craigslist, I posted the ad there.
Within 48 hours, the email went viral. I had hundreds of emails from women all around the world who wanted to hire me and work for me, and I said to myself, “Wow, I’m going to figure out a way to make this my side-hustle.” I was working full-time, but I would wake up every morning and go to sleep at night doing this. I was working two jobs; living a double life for about a year and a half.
It’s doable, and I advise it to anybody who is working full-time but wants a side career.
What does a typical day look like for you now?
A typical day for me involves a lot of different things — one of which is being pretty attached to my email, because I get emails from brides all day long. I also get different emails from people who are looking for bridesmaid advice. I get emails from different types of people who I never would have thought in my life I’d be speaking with — whether it’s media or different brands who want to work together — but I do spend a lot of my day also writing.
I freelance for a bunch of different websites, I write five times a week for Brides Magazine, and I do a lot of my own, personal writing as well — because no matter what I do in this world, I will never give up on The Things I Learned From website. That was my true home five years ago when I had nothing else.
How many weddings can you handle at one time?
The good news about the business and the different packages is that I can manage a ton of people at once. I have Bridesmaid Bootcamp packages, I have a How to Not Hate Your Own Wedding Package, with all of the different packages I am able to be there for up to 40 people at once because a lot of it isn’t day-to-day work, it’s weekly phone calls, it’s monthly meet ups, it’s teaching a class to a group of bridesmaids. That’s the beauty of this business and the different packages; I don’t have to be there in person for all of them, which is really cool.
How do you make sure you stand out from other wedding professionals (or a therapist, for that matter)?
I always say that a wedding planner focuses on the things. They’re there to help prep the venue, they’re there to work with the vendors, and you know a typical therapist is there to listen to you, but what makes me different is that I’m there for the people. I’m there to make sure that the bride and the bridal party have everything they need emotionally before the wedding and also on the day of.
I am truly their wedding consultant, their wedding therapist — just a person to go to who will hear them out and give them unbiased opinions and advice. [That’s important] because weddings are extremely emotional for people. There’s a lot of drama that surrounds them and a lot of pressure that comes with planning a wedding, so having somebody there for you whether virtually or in-person is a true game-changer.
You’ve said your most popular package is your “virtual” bridesmaid package. What’s your favorite package?
I would say that my favorite package is the “Bridesmaid by your side” package because I truly get to know a stranger and I’m integrated into the most personal day of their life. That’s the package where they hire a bridesmaid, and it’s not just that they’re hiring a person to show up and wear a dress — they’re hiring a person to be there for them in their life, so we work together up to a year before the wedding.
I am truly there to get to know them and help them out with anything that they need. We do build a relationship, which is very unconventional for a typical business, but that’s what this business focuses on, and that’s why I started it — to truly get to know strangers and help them out on one of the most important days of their life.
Did you have this sort of business structure in mind when you started Bridesmaid for Hire?
Yeah absolutely NOT. When I started Bridesmaid for Hire, I sat there thinking “Wow, you know I posted this Craigslist ad and it did really well, but I have no clue what kind of packages to give people.” There’s no other service out there like this, so you know a lot of it was reading through all the emails and figuring out what people were asking for and giving it to them.
I basically started the How to Not Hate Your Own Wedding and How Not to Hate Being a Bridesmaid packages because every time I worked with a bride, three months before the wedding, she would say to me, “Jen, I hate this. I want to go elope.” and I thought to myself “This should be the happiest time of their life, but these women are eager to get it over with!” I keep adding new packages and changing packages as requests come in, which is really cool for a small, new business — just being able to evolve to the need.
Do you have any employees yet? Have you expanded that far?
Luckily, and this is a really cool part, I’ve had over 8,000 women apply to work for me as professional bridesmaids, and I do have women who I’ve hired to go to weddings with me or for me sometimes. As for managing the business, it’s all me, but I really have found it cool that all of these women have applied to work for me.
When I read through their applications, and I do try to read through every one, I notice a common thread is that they’re asking for help learning how to start a business like this because they don’t like their conventional, cubicle jobs. So one of the new packages I’m going to be rolling out is a course on how to take an idea and turn it into a business in 30 days because I really want to help women get their ideas off the ground.
When will that course be live?
I’m working on it right now — the actual course, getting it put together — but that rolls out in March. It’s definitely going to be a course that I know will inspire women because I’m willing to open up and teach them everything I’ve learned, give them the tools, tell them about the mistakes I’ve made so they won’t make them, and even be there for them as a virtual coach while they get their business off of the ground.
[Update: “Bootstrapping PR for Entrepreneurs” is live!]
What’s the single craziest thing that’s happened at a wedding?
There’s been a lot. One of the more gross stories [happened when] I worked a wedding in Nevada, outside on a pasture, and I noticed, right before we were about to walk down the aisle, that there were animal droppings lining the aisle — of course it’s outside and there were animals around, so I took it upon myself to scoop the animal droppings up with my hands and push them to the side so that when the bride walked down the aisle, her beautiful white, silk dress would not be ruined for the rest of the day.
It was one of my lowest moments, but I just kept thinking to myself that I could not let this bride walk down the aisle and get this on her dress, I could not allow that. So ever since then, I’ve kind of thought to myself that I’m your defense person, I will do anything for you. I’ve had brides who hire me and call me and say “Would you do anything? Is there one thing you wouldn’t do?” and I think to myself, “After that moment, I pretty much would do anything for you.”
Do you travel all over to be a Bridesmaid for Hire?
I fly all over — I’ve worked weddings in Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota, Jersey, and of course, New York. That’s one of the benefits of the job — that I can travel and be there for a wedding, no matter where it is.
I’ve always loved traveling. When I graduated college, I worked as a consultant for a sorority and my job was to travel to a different state each week and meet with sorority women. That was always so much fun for me. I live in New York City, and it’s a great place to live, but you’ve got to get out of here every once and a while — and traveling to me is a huge part. It’s really cool to get to go to a new city and work with people I would have never met otherwise.
What do you love most about your job?
My favorite thing about my job is getting to be there for people who need somebody. One of the biggest questions I get over and over again is “Do these people not have any friends? Why are they calling you?” and the thing is, no, they do have friends, we all have friends, it’s not that. It’s just that sometimes you don’t want to bother your friends, or your friends are busy, or your friends just don’t know anything about a wedding.
So the fact that these women have a phone number to call who can help them when they’re having a 3 a.m. nightmare or an anxiety attack over whether to choose kale or romaine. Even the smallest problem, the fact that I can be the person they go to is a really rewarding feeling. It makes me happy, and I take some of these phone calls with a smile on my face because it allows me to step outside of my own personal world for a minute and be able to help people who are going through a pretty rough emotional time. On the surface, not everyone knows. Unless you’ve been married before, you don’t realize the amount of pressure or emotion that goes into a wedding. I’m glad I can be there for other women.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started, what would that be?
This is one piece of advice that I actually followed: Do not tell anyone your idea because they will call you crazy and you will not do it. I am certain that if I told anybody that I was going to start a business called Bridesmaid for Hire with a Craigslist ad, they would have told me I was crazy and said that I needed to get a new hobby. So I am a firm believer in “Don’t tell anyone your crazy ideas — just do them.” People will talk you out of it, or they will give you a sort of half-hearted smile and you will talk yourself out of it. So don’t look for other people’s advice when you’re trying to start something; just start it.
People wrote articles about me after I started it with headlines like: “Bridesmaid for Hire, Jen Glantz: Crazy or Genius?” And I wanted to write back to them and say “You know what? It’s a combination of both.” But I think you need that when you start a business. You need to be a little bit crazy and you need to take an extreme risk.
I think it was just something that I needed to think out in my head before sharing with the world because I know if I had told even my best friend or my mom they would have been like “Don’t you dare do that, Jen, you are insane.” But I think when I mentally prepared myself for it, I was personally ready to tackle it and move forward with it.
Was starting this alone lonely?
It was and it still is, actually, because I’m the only one in the world doing this business and I don’t have a lot of close friends who have started their own business; so sometimes I find myself feeling alone in a lot of my problems.
One example in particular was last February; I wanted to just throw my hands up in the air and end it because it was so much pressure and stress. I googled “Free business tutors” in New York City and I was paired with an 86-year-old man named Ray. He’s been my business tutor for a year, we meet every Saturday, and he has truly shaken up my world; he’s become the person who makes me feel less lonely.
What’s been the hardest part of starting your own business, knowledge-wise?
The hardest part is just not knowing anything. I have a poetry degree from college. I worked jobs in the past but never on the business side — I always had a desire to but I mean I knew nothing. I didn’t even know how to make a business plan. I think the beauty of it is that you don’t really need to know anything and I think a lot of times people get scared because they don’t know everything.
The best way to start a business is just to toss an idea out there and revise as you go and just try to learn as much as possible for yourself. I don’t have the kind of money to pay people to do things, so a lot of what I’ve done is I’ve tried to become an expert myself — which at times is even harder because you’re researching things all day long. You try to be your own lawyer, your own accountant, your own marketing person, your own social media manager — and that’s okay because you learn all of these skills for yourself and you make mistakes along the way.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Chaos. Sheer chaos.
When you’re not a bridesmaid-for-hire or a full-time entrepreneur, what are you hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I’m definitely a little bit of a workaholic; I’m always attached to my email. I find joy in spending Saturdays and Sundays writing or doing work but I’m a huge music person. I play the guitar, I’m in a band with my dad.
I’m a huge reader to the point that I’m known as a book thief because I don’t return books to the library. That’s kind of my little secret — that I love to steal books from the library.
Have any books inspired you entrepreneurially?
I don’t really read a lot of business books, but I do read a lot of fiction and short stories. Sometimes, surprisingly, characters in those books, even though they’re not real, they come into my life and they make me want to be a different type of person. That might sound weird because they’re not real, but I really like that more than the business/self-help books.
My favorite character of all time is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. I read that book once a year and I think he has a very dynamic personality that everyone can relate to, even somebody like myself can find a lot of joy in reading his character. He’s very lonely and wants to connect with other humans and I think that’s something we all struggle with throughout our lives. His character in particular sticks with me, but he would make a terrible bridesmaid.
How do you balance all of your projects and your work-life balance?
To be honest with you, I don’t understand balance at all and I’m very open with that. I think that balance is a very tricky thing to learn, especially when you are the sole source of making your own income. I have many times in my life chosen my career over love or over friendship or over fun.
Whether or not that’s a good thing, I don’t know but I think balance is very hard to learn. I think that you learn it through overworking yourself and getting a little burned out, but I think that’s okay, too. Balance is different for everybody and everybody’s stress threshold is different.
For myself personally, I try to take an hour or two every day and attempt to go to the gym or attempt to leave my apartment and go for a walk. I think that’s important but to be honest and frank, balance is something that I am personally still trying to figure out.
What’s your go-to method for learning new things?
If I don’t know something, I try to read about it through a book or just Google. You can find everything on Google! And, of course, you can find a little too much information, but it’s good just to read three or four articles on the same topic and see which one is more credible. I truly think that’s the best school that we all have access to.
There are so many free apps and things online: there are free templates for contracts if you need to write your own, there are free templates for invoices if you need to invoice somebody, there are free services to get paid through — I use PayPal, there’s a lot of free resources. Before you go and pay for something, try to find it for free first.
What’s next for you?
I just see myself pushing through it all — expanding the Bridesmaids for Hire business, working with more brides, offering the web course for women who want to learn to take control of their careers and start their own business in 30 days, and for The Things I Learned From, I want to keep writing! I write once a week; I send out a weekly newsletter.
I hope, I pray, and I work my butt off to be able to write another book and another book and another book because that is my passion. No matter how hard that is, and it is very hard, I will make it happen because I want to inspire people with words. That has always been my goal.
I think everyone has a story inside of them, and while my venture might seem very successful to people on the surface, there’s a lot of failure (and a lot of humor!) behind it all. I’m here to share the honest truth with the world because I want people to know that while it may look good on Instagram, it may look very glamorous, but behind the scenes there’s a lot of running and crying and sleepless nights and you can get through it.
I don’t drink at the weddings, I don’t flirt with guys; I’m there to work a job, so it’s truly not that glamorous. Eventually, the weddings don’t even feel like parties anymore. It feels kind of like an office to me, which is really weird!
Do you think that being a professional bridesmaid has colored your view of weddings?
I think it’s made me see that weddings can often ruin the whole idea of why you’re getting married, which is a celebration of your love. For my own personal wedding, I have this idea of seeing it kind of small and casual. I desperately want pizza there — that’s the only request I have. I don’t want the traditional wedding, I don’t want to do things everyone else has done. I want my wedding to feel like a party and not a staged, rehearsed event.
Will you hire a professional bridesmaid?
I think about that all the time! I think I won’t have any bridesmaids, actually, because I just want my friends to come and hang out and have a good time. I don’t want the kind of wedding where I even need bridesmaids by my side. I want everyone to have fun and stuff their face with pizza and other greasy foods.
Last modified on June 23rd, 2017 at 3:35 pm