(Writing submission for Job Interview)
The most creative and innovative thing I’ve accomplished was to take on changing an entire industry. In 1999 the World Wide Web was taking off and provided the forum and financial means to launch MarryingMan.com. Along with two partners from the sporting goods industry, I took the leap of faith and ventured into entrepreneurship by creating the first resource dedicated to the men’s perspective on marriage and the wedding process.
2.4 million men get married each year who were virtually ignored by the wedding industry that focused 90% of its attention and marketing investments towards the bride. We formed the company Marrying Man Group (MMG) to take on this void in the marketplace head on.
There was plenty of opportunities to obtain funding during this “gold rush” of newly created start-up companies because the web provided a viable gateway to launch from as had never been seen before. Through angel funding from backers at Dell Computers, EToys and K-Swiss we started on Valentines Day, 2/14/1999.
The site originally was named ungroomd.com which was an irreverent editorial approach that included articles written by authors that featured columns called The Last Bachelor and an online live chat forum named The Groom Room. Articles dealt with topics on the wedding process, commitment phobias, handling your new in-laws and the best man responsibilities. The idea was to use a heavy dose humorous content mixed with the needed information to “safely” draw guys into the wedding process and give light to the emotions they were dealing with.
Everything moved very quickly in the Internet industry during this emerging time period as there was no previous handbook on what to do and innovation on a daily basis was the benchmark for success. Competitive sites started to sprout very quickly such as TheKnot and The Wedding Channel with more funding than our angel backing of $350,000 in financing.
We decided to shift the focus of the company from content driven to e-commerce and rebranded as MarryingMan.com. The site generated revenue by selling in categories such as tuxedo rentals, honeymoon packages, professionally written toasts, groomsmen gifts and diamond ring purchases. An interactive section called the “Grooms Playbook” provided worksheets and a place for grooms to save their own To Do list and favorite things.
To increase subscriber counts, a first of a kind Survey and focus groups were conducted, to gain insights into how men viewed weddings and marriage. Findings such as 63% spent less than $3,000 on the ring purchase, 31% preferred a golf outing as the primary bachelor party activity and 55% cited financial and time constraints as their biggest hurdles in deciding when to propose. 23% admitted to bringing a laptop on their honeymoon, and I wonder what that percentage would be in 2014? The findings resulted in articles ranging from the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, GQ Magazine and live interviews on national radio stations across America.
What also emerged was a need for the best man to have a resource of his own as he was thrown into party planning mode with little experience and support. The creation of a new site called ‘bachelorparty411.com’ was started as an online planning tool for local things to do from reservations at steakhouses, destination bachelor parties, outings such as race car driving experiences, choosing the right nightclub, cigar brands, golf outings and ticket packages at sporting events. The site was supported with content to educate and inform the best man on everything from planning to etiquette and ensure they represented the groom correctly.
MMG was an important company because it changed an industry that lacked much innovation with a traditional focus on capturing the bride’s mentality to disproportionately spending by tugging on the emotions and dreams of the bride. MMG gained coverage from every major media outlet and recognized from the men’s and women’s movements as an idea that had been overdue to reach the mainstream.
As things moved fast, during the first wave of Internet companies in 2001, the inevitable bubble had burst and obtained additional funding had virtually dried up. Decisive actions were necessary, and the decision was made to sell the company and pay back financial investments.
We had forged relationships with the wedding industry and our competitors which allowed us to deploy our own road show of meetings. We came to terms to sell MMG to Prime Media, Inc. owners of the Modern Bride magazine title. We had worked with them previously, creating a print magazine version of MarryingMan.com used as a supplement in Modern Bride. Prime Media wanted to have a groom’s equivalent to their bride’s focus and also needed to develop an online presence having been so firmly grounded in print media. They continued to market the site for years to come and eventually dissolved it opting to have issues and sections exclusively dedicated to the groom.
Looking back MMG leveraged a unique time period in the history of business as the web emerged by disrupting an entire industry and opened the door to a new subset industry for the groom. Today there are dozens of sites and blogs geared to the men’s perspective on marriage such as TheKnot/Grooms, Groomstand, The Plunge, The Men’s Registry, The Groom Says and the Groom Sold Separately. Beyond the industry and business accomplishments, the most personal gratification for me was knowing we raised awareness by providing the first outlet for men and women to better understand the previously ignored male perspective on marriage, relationships, and the wedding planning process.