Two years ago, Jen Glantz was a 26-year-old working as a copywriter for a tech startup in New York City.
A Florida native who graduated with a double major in journalism and English, Glantz spent her days writing video scripts for big companies like Disney, Target, Geico, and Comcast.
“I really loved the people I worked with and the work I was doing, but it was never enough for me,” Glantz, now 28, told Business Insider. “I had this entrepreneurial bug inside of me that was always saying ‘create your own opportunity.’ Every night I’d come home and work on a project of my own — whether it was writing a book, working on my blog, or trying to start my own business.”
It wasn’t totally surprising that when Glantz’s roommate called her “the professional bridesmaid” in the summer of 2014 — somewhere around her sixth stint as a bridesmaid — she had a light-bulb moment. She went to Craigslist, posted an ad, and went to bed. She woke up to over 250 emails, and by the end of the week thousands of messages had flooded her inbox.
Her ad read something like this:
When all my friends started getting engaged, I decided to make new friends, but then they got engaged too, and for what felt like the hundredth time, I was asked to be a bridesmaid. This year, I’ve been a bridesmaid four times. That’s four chiffon dresses, four bachelorette parties filled with tequila shots and guys in thong underwear twerking way too close to my face. So let me be there for you this time if you don’t have any other girlfriends except your third cousin, twice removed, who is often found sticking her tongue down an empty bottle of red wine.
Glantz said she saw a gap in the $300 billion wedding industry but had no idea what to expect after posting the ad.
“When I was behind the scenes at my friends’ weddings, there was no one there for the bride. Sure, there was often a wedding planner, but she was focused on making sure the room was set up and the vendors arrived on time. If the bride had bridesmaids, they were often busy getting ready and posing for photos, leaving the bride to feel overwhelmed and stressed out over last-minute tasks and heavy emotions,” Glantz said. “I decided to fill this gap. I figured I’d post the ad to see what happens, but I never thought I’d get that kind of response.”
The overwhelming interest to her Craigslist ad confirmed her suspicions, and she ran with the idea. That same week, she and her brother cofounded Bridesmaid for Hire, a company that offers “undercover bridesmaid” and personal-assistant-type services to brides and their wedding parties.
“Essentially I’m there as the bride’s personal assistant and on-call therapist. I help her manage and execute her personal to-do list of tasks, which can often be over 100 tasks long.”
Glantz’s services aren’t for “sad brides without friends.” There are a few reasons people hire her. Some brides have bridesmaids but are looking for a professional to step in and help with tasks and make sure their wedding party has everything they need. Others are women who don’t have many close people in their lives and “want a bridesmaid by their side to make this adventure special for them.”
She’s not a rent-a-friend for the day, she said, though she does become friends with most brides she works with. “I’m just a professional who can help make the wedding experience more pleasant for everyone,” she said.
Glantz booked her first client, a Minnesota bride named Ashley, in July 2014, a few weeks after her ad went up. “She hired me after her maid of honour ‘stepped down,'” Glantz said. “This person was not there for Ashley and couldn’t provide her with the support a bride deserves.”
They spoke on the phone weekly, and when Ashley’s big day came in September, Glantz was by her side. In the six months following Ashley’s wedding, Glantz booked another five weddings as a hired bridesmaid.
At the time, her packages ranged from $300 to $2,000, and the average bride or bridesmaid paid her $1,000 per gig, but that wasn’t enough to give up her day job just yet.
“I would wake up every morning at 6 and work on my side gig until 9, and then go to my full-time job and come home around 6 or 7 and work again until midnight,” Glantz said. “I loved working two jobs. I loved spending half my day being my own boss and spending the other half in an environment working for someone else and learning how to be a boss from them.
“It was exhausting and I hardly saw my friends, and I spent 75% of my weekends doing work … but I enjoyed it because I felt like I was working on building something for myself. I was creating an opportunity for myself that perhaps nobody in this world would ever give me.”
Glantz imagined that she would eventually quit her full-time job and go off on her own but didn’t know when. Before she ever got the chance to make that decision she was laid off.
“In October 2015 I was let go, and it was a complete shock,” she said. “There had been whispers that my company was going to be laying people off but I didn’t think I’d be on that list. I was very loyal to my job and the work that I did. Even though I was managing my own business on the side, I worked extra hard to make sure it never interfered with my responsibilities at my full-time job.”
She told Business Insider that she would never forget the morning it happened.
“I stood outside of the building on my way out and said to myself, ‘I will never ever work for anybody else.’ I was a bit heartbroken. I called my mum and she told me that I was hanging off a cliff and I needed this push. I probably never would have left that job, and perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am today with my own career and business if I didn’t get laid off.”
Glantz now had more time to focus on her business.
“At first I felt lost,” she said. “I started having to structure every hour so that I knew what I had to do next and when I had to get it done by. If not, I’d find myself working on a task and procrastinating on that for hours.
“I was solely responsible for working my butt off to make my business successful and for earning enough money every month to pay my bills and health insurance — it was terrifying.
“You inherit a lot of pressure you didn’t have before when you were getting a steady paycheck,” Glantz added. “My life, at first, became the constant obsession of looking at my finances and counting every dollar I was bringing in every month.”
Leaving a traditional office environment was tough too: “I miss working closely with other people. Starting your own business and working from your couch can be super lonely. When I first started working from home, I went entire days without seeing anyone. I loved interacting with my coworkers, grabbing lunch with them, or just chatting about what’s up in the world.”
But working for herself also has its perks. She doesn’t miss having to ask off from work when she wants to go visit family in Florida or take a vacation — or having to ask permission to go outside for a 30-minute break. “I love that I can structure my days the way I want to,” she said. “If I want to wake up at 6 and work till 3 so that I can take the rest of the afternoon off, I can do that without having to explain myself to anyone.”
Glantz said her best advice for anyone trying to make it as an entrepreneur is to start right now:
“Don’t wait for the perfect time to write a business plan or test your idea. There will never be a perfect time and you will never have every single thing you need to start your own business. Start with what you have now and start with who you are now — because truly, it’s enough.”
Teaching people how to start their own business became a passion, too, and Glantz now offers virtual workshops for people around the world to learn the ins and outs of starting a side gig while working full-time.
“You have to do and want and try things that give you nervous jitters, that make your heart race out of control,” she added. “Because if not, what’s the point? If you want to try a new career, take a class on that industry, have coffee with someone who does that job right now, get to know what it is you want to do and then find a way to break into that career path. Either way, just do it. It’s always worth a try, and as my mum told me when I said I was moving to New York City, you can always go back if you don’t like it.”
In the year since she was laid off, Glantz released a second book, “Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire),” and worked with over 40 brides and maids-of-honour.
She says most wedding guests don’t know she’s a hired bridesmaid. But if and when guests do ask Glantz how she knows the bride, her response is simply, “We’re friends.” “Rarely do they question me beyond that,” she previously told Business Insider.
Today her services — which range from speechwriting to being an “undercover bridesmaid” — start at $150 and can exceed $2,000. She’d like to expand and have teams in cities around the world. To date, she’s had more than 10,000 women apply to work with her. She hopes to start franchising her business soon.
While she wouldn’t comment on the specifics of her earnings, Glantz says her income comes from a combination of Bridesmaid for Hire, freelance writing, virtual classes, and consulting.
“At first, starting your own business feels terrifying and will give you an unnecessary amount of daily acid reflux,” Glantz said. “But the more you get the hang of managing your time and figuring out how to jump on your goals, the more you can take a deep breath knowing that you own your career now and you own your life. It’s the most empowering feeling a person can have.”
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