If the media had its way, millennials would go down in history as self-obsessed destroyers of everything that our forefathers fought so hard for (like divorce). We spend too much time on our phones (according to your aunt once removed) and more chillingly, we are killing everything from malls to bars to processed food all for the love of self-care and avocado toast. Most of all, we’re entitled, lazy, and refuse to put in "real" work to earn those big bucks. To this, we say "Sure, Jan." In truth, we are less killers of everything that's come before, than innovators: people who see the endless possibilities in forcing some fun (funnovation?) on every industry in existence.
While Baby Boomers were busy buying homes for us to grow up in, or aiding in the great crash of 2008, we started investing in experiences, not things — and revolutionizing the consumer economy in the process. They call it the Millennial Experience Economy, or MEE, a very on brand way to describe the larger phenomenon that keeps building on itself. According to a recent Eventbrite study on the topic, “Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) millennials experience FOMO. In a world where life experiences are broadcasted across social media, the fear of missing out drives millennials to show up, share and engage.”
In other words, nothing’s scarier than being labeled ‘basic,” or having a reputation for being overly traditional in any part of your life. It’s an endless cycle of FOMO for us all. We see someone else living their best life, and in turn we want to live ours even better, and so on and so forth until you’re throwing your dog a Coachella-themed baby shower.
To give you a better idea of how the Millennial Experience Economy operates, we spoke to five women about the businesses they built that specially tap into the need to have the most fun and Instagrammable experiences ever. Be warned that should you continue reading, it will be nearly impossible not to put in your two weeks notice so you can start your own bespoke MEE-inspired company.
HAYLEY MEHALCO, FOUNDER, PUPPY PARTIES NYC
In an era when animals have more Instagram followers and influence than most humans, like Esther the Wonder Pig, it’s no surprise that we’ve started celebrating our pets more than our BFFs. Enter, Haley Mehalco, founder of Puppy Parties in NYC, whose business revolves around giving your puppy a special day and knows better than anyone how to treat your pup like the early aughts socialite that she is.
Refinery29: How exactly did you get into the puppy party business?
Mehalco: I went to school for hospitality and events, and when I first moved to New York, I did all different types of events. And, honestly, I wasn't really 100% satisfied with what I was doing, but I loved the event planning part of it. One day I asked my mom, “Would it be weird if I threw [my dog] Bailey a birthday party?” She was like, “Absolutely not! You love planning events, I think it's wonderful.”
So, my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I had about 15 people over. And of course I went all out! We had a princess theme. I did gift bags, we had different games and activities, food for the dogs and food for the humans. And, everyone had a really nice time! A year went by and somehow the party just always kept coming up. It was kind of like maybe this could really be something. I love dogs, have a passion for event planning, and just decided one day to combine both of those things. That's how I created Puppy Parties NYC!
Do you just do birthday parties?
No, we do Bark Mitzvahs, Gotcha Days, Adopt-a-versaries. We’ve had a party on a boat going around Manhattan; we’ve rented movie theaters!
What portion of your parties are planned strictly for the humans?
We're a full service party planning company, [but] we do strictly focus on the dog. That’s the core of the business. In terms of what the dog gets; the dog friendly cake, ‘pupcakes,’ dog friendly drinks, decorations, doggy gift bags, and fun games and activities. Those are always great because during the party we do like to include the humans a lot, whether it be doggy musical chairs or something.
Do you think your business could have thrived 10 years ago?
I think it could have, but I don't think it would be as successful as it is today — now with social media, and people spending the amount of money that they do on their dogs. And being a millennial myself, I would say a lot of our clients are millennials. Either they're single, just engaged or just got married, but a lot of them don't have children yet so their dog is essentially like their child. We do a lot of first birthday parties, and [owners] just want to go above and beyond and make sure they have a fabulous day!
JEN GLANTZ, FOUNDER OF BRIDESMAID FOR HIRE AND AUTHOR OF ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID (FOR HIRE)
When Jen Glantz realized she was the IRL protagonist of 27 Dresses, she decided to rework the phrase, “always the bridesmaid, never a bride,” to a more fitting and bank account boosting, “always a bridesmaid, never one for free.” Now the founder and CEO of Bridesmaid for Hire, Jen and her team of professional bridesmaids, act as a Bride’s BFF for hire, personal assistant, therapist, and even security.
Refinery29: So, how did you become a professional bridesmaid?
Glantz: On a late-June evening, two distant friends asked me to be a bridesmaid. I came home and vented about being “always a bridesmaid,” and my roommate said to me, “Yes, you’re good at this and everyone knows that. You’ve become a professional bridesmaid.”
That’s when I had a “lightbulb” moment. In the $300 billion [worldwide] wedding industry, why is there no one whose job it is to be there — really be there — for the bride? Wedding planners have a job of their own — to work with vendors and get the venue all set up. They rarely have time to be the on-call therapist, personal assistant, social director, and peacekeeper for the bride and the cast of characters at the wedding. That’s what we provide.
Why do women want, or need, to hire a bridesmaid?
I think some brides who reach out to me are overwhelmed with wedding decisions, that are only getting more complicated thanks to social media, and people are busy. Brides sometimes ask their friends to do a laundry list of things that make being a bridesmaid feel like a part-time job. The average millennial woman is working a full-time job, focusing on self-care, starting a side business, and perhaps even starting a family of their own. They don't have time to answer the phone a handful of times per day to help a bride. We're willing to help brides with whatever they need — providing them with emotional support, decision-making help, and an overall friendship-like service they can't get from any other vendor.
What’s been the weirdest request from a bride?
There's a been a lot. I was once asked to be a bodyguard for a bride who fired her maid-of-honor and was scared she was going to come and crash the wedding. I also had to scoop up animal poop, with my bare hands, because the bride didn't want to walk down the aisle with poop (from animals) lining it. It was an outdoor wedding.
AMY SHACK EGAN, MODERN REBEL & CO., FOUNDER/CEO
Amy Shack Egan is the founder and CEO of Modern Rebel, an “alternative event planning company” that specializes in weddings and “love parties” for creatives, and out of the box couples. Amy and her team serve a wide number of queer couples who are swapping out the traditional gender norms of weddings for full on themed parties that should honestly be mandatory for every wedding.
Refinery29: How would you describe Modern Rebel?
Egan: We don't think of ourselves as just an event planning company. We really think of ourselves as in the relationship business. How do we prioritize partnership through our wedding planning experience? WeWe create an environment where people are encouraged and excited to build events that actually reflects our personalities.
Has social media influenced your clients, or how you approach working with your clients, at all?
Yes. The rise of the Internet age, and social media on top of that means that people are seeing what's out there. And it's a little bit easier to imagine things once you've seen it. Once you've seen somebody else break the rules, especially in the wedding world, it gives you permission to do that. “Oh, that's so exciting. I can think of something else!”
What’s been the most outrageous event you’ve planned?
We did a Space-Disco-Cowboy Love Party. So, we did it in a ghost town near Austin, Texas. The ghost town had a ton of different spaces. So we had a karaoke space, a hot guy saloon, we had the dance floor with the stage outside, had a country band play for the first hour, and then we brought in a DJ. We had installations of different rooms with these performance artists called Moon Puppies in these crazy costumes interact with guests. People arrived on these really, funky, cool buses and were dressed in either cowboy attire, space attire or a mixture of both with a disco, flashy flair. And, in the ceremony we actually had an air rocket launched.
Is it hard to find vendors that cater to the very specific and creative needs of your clients?
To be honest, most people are bored and they want an opportunity to spice it up and do something different.
LAURA ANDERSON, FOUNDER, NY TEACUP PIGS
Back in the day, a “piggy party” was popping by Blockbuster, renting the latest VHS/DVD, and stuffing your face with dunkaroos and Cheetos. Today, a piggy party is an actual party with pigs! Thanks to Laura Anderson, founder of NY Teacup Pigs, a company that breeds and sells true teacup pigs, and hosts piggy parties for anyone one else who isn't ready for the commitment of raising a pig themselves.
Refinery29: How long have you been in the Pig Industry?
Anderson: We started the parties and events about seven years ago. Okay. Our company was mentioned in a magazine as part of their Christmas gift [list], because we started offering gift cards a couple years ago. Now, we are constantly booked, and the pigs love it! We’ve done weddings, roof-top events, work events, [and] the pigs do about 10 parties a week.
We've done piggy parties at weddings, baby showers, rooftops, all different kinds of party venues, and we've worked for famous movie stars.
[People say] just having the pigs around is therapeutic. It brings smiles to people's faces, and it’s really turned things around for a lot of people. They just are so happy when they get to interact with these guys. And the same for the pigs. So it's like, you know, that's why I think everybody spread their experience and the love that they get when they interacted, hold these guys
Wow! Do you think Instagram has influenced people’s want to have a piggy party? Recently, Ariana Grande bought a pig and people were obsessed.
We actually sold Ariana Grande her pig!
Are you serious!?
We never got to meet her, but we did meet her manager.
Do you know why she wanted a pig so badly?
We have no idea. At first they actually kept it a secret but I knew it was for her once I saw the pig on Instagram. With my pigs, we have a very specific breed, I raise each baby by hand, I know each baby’s personality, individual color, marking, everything. I said, “can I ask you a serious question and I would appreciate an honest answer: was this pig for Ariana?” And, he said, “yes!” So, Instagram definitely spreads awareness and different experiences to people.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.
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