…It’s interesting you should ask that. I am a mom of two smart and sassy girls who are both active in soccer. This past year, the sport got a bit more competitive and my older daughter, and her teammates, were consistently rattled by the way OTHER TEAMS COACHES would yell at their young female players and their choice of language from the sidelines. I approached my daughters’ league and suggested that perhaps we set an example, lead the pack — publicly and on social media — to change that. There’s no correlation between shouting and swearing at young impressionable girls and their on-field sport performance.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Brisman, a leading Wedding and Event Planner and owner of jennifer brisman weddings newyork. For nearly 20 years, Jennifer has been providing wedding and event planning, consulting and coordination services with integrity, grace and style. Jennifer is best known for her attention to detail and innovative ideas. Jennifer has been spotlighted on CNN and quoted in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Hamptons, Gotham, Redbook and host of other national publications. She has also been featured in wedding industry publications including Town & Country Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, Brides, Modern Bride, Manhattan Bride, Inside Weddings and The Knot. A year ago, Jennifer founded a Wedding Planning Platform called Vow. VOW emulates her 20+ year wedding planning process by providing couples with wedding tools to plan their wedding like a PRO.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Believe it or not I was a premed student in college at The George Washington University. I loved the sciences but the level of academic competition was beyond fierce. In an effort to make myself more well-rounded, I got involved planning out-of-the-classroom premedical programs and events for the student body. I also orchestrated other fundraisers including one for STATS — Students Teaching AIDS to Students. I needed some planning support and a friend connected me with one of the most well-regarded event planners in D.C. and the rest, as they say, is history. I went to work for her straight out of school!!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
I think an interesting ‘storyline’ in my journey is about loyalty and longevity. As soon as I started my business, and every year since, I brought on interns. I did so as I STARTED OUT as an intern. So I value the opportunity and access internship positions offer. Our interns became coordinators and ultimately trained to become part of the team that collaborated under my leadership to orchestrate full weddings and events. Some coordinators went on to become full fledged wedding and event planners and 2 even became my business partners. Over the years, I have trained over 40 women who ultimately went on different career paths, dominated their own fields yet, can you believe it, many still work with me to this day! And I love hearing how the lessons I taught them day-1 still shape their work ethic now. Remarkably, many have now taken on an active role in the development of VOW, which brings me such professional and person pride. Feels like everything coming full circle and the way the world should work!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A wedding can’t just be ‘a pretty face.’ Form and function must co-exist at every step along the way. So when our clients have ideas, we have to fully unpack them and evaluate their impact on the client and guest experience.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes my firm, jennifer brisman weddings newyork, stand out is our proven planning process and a consistent standard of practice, honed over thousands of projects. They’ve been the secret to my success and are certainly the secret sauce of VOW. VOW is distinguished from other wedding planning platforms in the market in that it is
a) the ONLY affordable alternative to hiring an actual wedding pro,
b) built by an actual wedding pro with 2 decades of experience performing and perfecting the craft,
c) a true advocate for couples and not based on biased business models and
d) offers wedding pros 1:1 for back up
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Really value your ‘event families.’ For most event pros, weekends rarely mean ‘time for our family.’ Most of us spend weekends with our ‘event families’ bearing witness to the most intimate and memorable moments in others’ lives, often missing quality time with our own loved ones. That’s why relationships are so important and what makes the wedding and event world so unique. Technology + science = a more efficient business, saving precious time and protecting hard-earned money. But, last I checked, robots and other modalities can’t engineer floral centerpieces, take candid photos, play live music, light candles or serve on the front lines in the kitchen. So, until then, let’s take care of each other — our event families — grow them and continue to be irreplaceable.
Also, something simple to deploy, when you are working on a project that involves a lot of mental bandwidth, improve your performance by turning off your phone (or letting an assistant answer it), turn off notifications on your computer(s) and put up a DND (do not disturb) sign on your office door. Allow yourself to totally zero out background noise so that you can deliver your best work. It’s a bit uncommon in the events industry but I have found that work management software and collaboration tools such as Asana and Trello can really reduce the need for endless text and emails if used strategically and in a very tailored way.
And, I strongly recommend being religious about standards of communication. Emails for sending documents and contracts. Texting for meeting confirmations and updates. Conversations ONLY happen by phone (not text or email) no matter what. Try it for 2 weeks. You’ll be surprised at home much time you will save not having conversations unfold on email. You’ll be thrilled with how much quicker you bring a topic to a close.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are so many I am grateful towards. The list is truly endless. It sounds common, but my husband. He believed in me at the very beginning, every step along the way and he and my daughters have supported me unconditionally as I have transitioned to VOW. My professional family of incredible staff, venues and vendors. I don’t make magic by myself. I am exclusively dependant upon talent and pros of all types to make my clients’ dreams a reality. Execs at the helm of New York Women in Communications, Inc., the premier organization for female communications professionals and women who help shape the world. They really embraced my talent and ambitions early on in my career. They helped nurture it; they championed me; they allowed me to take a leadership role for many years in the esteemed Matrix Awards and thereby trusted me. But more than anything, my clients. They are my true champions. I mean that. They trust in me everyday and allow me to guide them on a journey that must be worthy of the most precious commodities in life: relationships, time and money.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One particular client, Vicki and Craig Brown, have made a tremendous difference in my life and given me the amazing opportunity to bring goodness to others. Early in my career, I planned their daughter’s wedding and other events. Years later, they trusted me to help bring their own personal passion project to life — the Hydrocephalus Association Vision Dinner, which seeks to raise national attention about Hydrocephalus, an incurable brain condition that affects 1 million individuals in the United States. For the past 7 years, I have planned and produced the Vision Dinners in partnership with them, Helping shape and grow such a remarkable program and making a difference in the lives of others is one of the greatest honors of my life. I have learned so much from Vicki and Craig Brown and they inspire me every day.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
If it works on paper it has a chance in hell of happening that way in reality. If it doesn’t work on paper, your screwed.
I truly believe this. Whether developing a webapp or creating a run of show for an event, the pen is your sword. Use it. I always focus first on having all plans highly developed on paper. If for some reason that can’t happen, that can be a sign that your plan of attack isn’t quite right.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Marketing is everything. Marketing can make or break your product. In fact, you can have the best product ever, but your marketing still needs to be better than you product and your marketing campaign needs to start well in advance of launch, even if subtly or indirectly!
2) Unlike 20 years ago, being an entrepreneur today requires that you speak many different languages. Before I founded and started developing VOW, I wish someone would have told me that I would be dependent on so many professionals with super specific skills and talents I didn’t even know existed!
3) Today’s start-up workforce is very heavy on talent that works remotely. It can take a while to figure out how to navigate these waters if you are not accustomed to it. But it’s important to learn how to lead a culture of productivity when you’re not all in the same room. You get the hang of it in short order, but at first, it’s like, ‘who moved my cheese.’ With VOW, my entire team works remotely. We rely on zoom, skype, dropbox and workflow management softwares. But I think our success is directly proportional to our efficiency and sense of fulfillment. You can have a much more productive day when you are not losing time to travel, etc.
4) Even with a well thought out business plan, in the first year, you will burn through much more capital than you think, even and especially outside of / before development.
5) Trust your instincts and be your best self. Even if you are surrounded by your version of ‘the brightest minds’, if something doesn’t feel right or sound right, speak up.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-).
It’s interesting you should ask that. I am a mom of two smart and sassy girls who are both active in soccer. This past year, the sport got a bit more competitive and my older daughter, and her teammates, were consistently rattled by the way OTHER TEAMS COACHES would yell at their young female players and their choice of language from the sidelines. I approached my daughters’ league and suggested that perhaps we set an example, lead the pack — publicly and on social media — to change that. There’s no correlation between shouting and swearing at young impressionable girls and their on-field sport performance.
Also, when I was little, I had ‘pen pals.’ To this day, I love the idea. I love the concept of a global program that safely and securely connects children of the same age and gender all over the world to share their world and their personal story. I think being connected to another human over time — versus on a trip or for a moment on social media — is a great way to foster understanding, acceptance and peace. If your child was connected to another child in a land far away but communicated with them on a regular basis over the years, it could personalize the news, make global events seem smaller and create a unique lens that could better shape the future.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!