- Jen Glantz is the founder and CEO of Bridesmaid for Hire, a boutique services company that offers professional bridesmaids who “take care of all your wedding dirty work.”
- She started the company after noticing a gap in the wedding industry and wanting to fill it — something she said is key when starting a new business unlike any other.
- Glantz said it’s vital to pinpoint your audience, research market viability, connect with fellow entrepreneurs in the industry, and experiment by putting your idea in motion.
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After going to close to 20 weddings in my early 20s, I realized there was a major gap in the $72 billion wedding industry. There was no vendor or service provider you could hire for the people taking part in the wedding adventure, like the bride or members of her bridal party. Wedding planners mainly deal with vendors and manage to-do lists.
Who was supposed to handle the wedding drama, the questions from bridesmaids, and the last minute personal tasks that the bride ran out of time for and just couldn’t handle?
That’s where my business came in. I started Bridesmaid for Hire five years ago as a way for brides to hire an actual bridesmaid to be there as a personal assistant, a social director, a voice of reason, and a peacekeeper. And yes, also as a literal bridesmaid (wearing the dress, walking down the aisle, giving the speech, and more).
When the business went viral, some people wondered if it was a late April Fool’s Day joke, since I started the business in June. Everyone called me crazy. From friends to family members to the press, people labeled the idea I had as something laughable. But what they didn’t see was my inbox, flooded with hundreds of emails from potential customers, and my Google Analytics that showed over 10,000 people a day visiting the website. The business idea seemed out there, but it was in fact much-needed. Five years later, we’ve serviced close to 200 customers, offer custom packages for maids of honor, and have had over 40,000 people apply to work for us (we’ve hired and fired over the years).
If I had listened to the people criticizing my idea, none of the above would have happened. But how do you know if your business idea is worth pursuing, and investing your time and money in? Here are three ways to test out a business idea to determine if it may actually be profitable.
1. See if your audience is interested
After fleshing out the business idea on your own, you should start exploring if there is a true audience for it. Determine who your audience is, and engage with potential customers to see if your service or product is something they would be interested in. I spoke to 20 brides a week to see if they would use my service. If they answered yes, I asked them follow-up questions as to what they’d want from this package and how much they’d pay. If they said no, I asked why, and what kind of service they felt the wedding industry needed instead. This data helped me optimize my idea and core offerings.
Daniel Cheung, a search traffic analyst, suggests putting your idea out there and seeing if there’s traction.
“Set up a Facebook business page that represents your concept. Then you can run ads via Facebook and Instagram to validate your business idea,” said Cheung. “Your initial ads can feed into landing pages that ask for email signup. This will give you an early indication that the problem you wish to solve exists. At the very least, you will gain an email list of early adopters that will allow you to explore your options further.”
2. Put the idea in motion
I didn’t waste much time after I got the idea to start a professional bridesmaid business. I built the website in two days and started offering a few initial services. Every day, I made changes to the website and updated our packages based on the feedback I received. Having an MVP (minimal viable product) launched allowed me to test my ideas in real time and make improvements.
Sean Sessel, founder and director of The Oculus Institute, promotes the theory of giving yourself one week to make a gross profit of one dollar.
“Far too many potential entrepreneurs spend months or years, and thousands — or even millions — of dollars trying to make their product perfect before it goes to market,” said Sessel. “However, they never get proof of concept that people are in fact interested enough in the value proposition to pay a profitable price for it. If everything has to be perfect to make any money, then the business idea isn’t compelling enough, and will face continual resistance in the market.”
3. Take a good look at the market
Starting a business can feel lonely, and it can be hard to validate your ideas. That’s why it’s extra important to understand your competitors and the market around you. I spent over 15 hours speaking with other vendors in my industry to get a pulse on current trends and the customer’s mindset. I spent additional time mapping out my competitors’ strengths as well as their shortcomings.
Waldon Fenster, a small business consultant, said that first you should identify the problem you want to solve, the core audience you want to reach, and the ways you want to make the world more convenient for people. After that, the next step is to determine if the market is ready for your service or product.
“One good indicator that the market is ready for your business idea is that someone is already doing it,” said Fenster. “I know that sounds counterintuitive to most people, but the fact is that nothing is really new under the sun. And frankly, if no one is solving the problem you want to solve, then it’s possible that either it’s not the problem you think it is, or no one else is being inconvenienced by it the way you are.”
When you think of your idea, start with research. Even if someone else is already tackling the problem, it doesn’t mean you can’t start a similar business. What it does mean is that you need to figure out what value you can provide and how you can be a little bit different than any other business out there. It’s a challenge that may make you both uber successful and uber frustrated at the same time. But if you’re passionate about making your business work, it’s a challenge you should be eager to accept.