#88. Love Stories TV broadcasts wedding videos and the filmmakers, venues and vendors that make them possible. We talk with founder Rachel Silver about how the company identified a missed opportunity in wedding videos, rather than photography, and how it grew into a platform that both empowers talent and publishes original content. The Loose Threads Podcast features in-depth discussions with leaders across the rapidly changing consumer economy.

Check out the full transcript below.

Richie: [00:00:07] Welcome to the 88th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the rapidly changing consumer economy. This episode is brought to you by Loose Threads Membership, which gives you actionable analysis, insights and events that drive growth, and Loose Threads Espresso for Teams, your energizing and high-pressure filter for consumer news—in context. We also have a newsletter that features our latest analysis of the consumer economy. Check it all out at LooseThreads.com.

Richie: [00:00:34] Joining me today is Rachel Silver the founder of Love Stories TV, a platform that showcases wedding videos and the filmmakers, venues and vendors that make them possible. Rachel started the company after realizing the mistake she made forgoing a video for her own wedding, learning that videos can convey information and meaning that photos can’t.

Rachel: [00:00:53] What we were trying to do is bring together the visual inspiration of Pinterest, the power of video that existed on Vimeo with an organizational structure.

Richie: [00:01:06] Since then, Love Stories TV has blossomed into a platform with thousands of videos and vendors who are defining how weddings are filmed and planned. Here’s my talk with Rachel Silver.

Richie: [00:01:17] Okay. So why don’t we start. Just talk a bit about your background and we can work our way up to this company existing.

Rachel: [00:01:23] I actually studied, in undergrad, international affairs, conflict resolution and civil society development at Michigan State University and then I got my master’s at the American University of Paris also studying international affairs. That is really interesting to study in school but, if you don’t want to work at a nonprofit, difficult to parlay into a career actually, which is another plug. I always tell people, “Don’t go to grad school right after undergrad. Wait.” Whatever. Turned out fine.

Rachel: [00:01:52] So I did not want to work at a nonprofit or at the UN or whatever so I moved to New York and just started looking for jobs and I applied on Mediabistro and ended up at Howcast Media. Howcast Media was a startup founded by several early Googlers who had worked on the YouTube acquisition and had realized that how-to videos were going to be the thing and they started a media company for how-to videos. Howcast now has the biggest how-to channel on YouTube still. Their content’s still wildly popular. The company has since folded. Several of their competitors were acquired and not them, but they were totally right on the idea and they still generate, I think, a lot of revenue from YouTube ads because their content is evergreen. So that’s how I got into media.

Rachel: [00:02:36] And then from Howcast went to Birchbox. I joined Birchbox super early. I think I was maybe the 30th employee or something and they had just had their one-year anniversary and I was the first person hired to do social at Birchbox. And then my experience at Birchbox led me to my “aha” moment about starting Love Stories TV, which is the startup I founded two years ago, and we are a platform and community that connects brides- and grooms-to-be with the products, services, ideas and inspiration they need for their wedding.

Richie: [00:03:06] So what was the original inkling of the idea? The first time you remember thinking about this in its rawest incarnation?

Rachel: [00:03:13] Yeah. Well, it really came from Birchbox. There were two things that really kept me up at night, which sounds cliché, but it’s true. When you’re at a small rocketship startup, that’s what you’re thinking about all the time and it’s fun. All my best friends work there and they’re still my best friends. One is that there’s so much repetition in content. You think about—we were in the beauty space. We wanted to sell an eyeliner so we wanted to do a smokey eye tutorial. There are 2,000 smokey eye tutorials on YouTube. I don’t want to make another one. There are a bunch of really good ones out there. And it’s like, what makes one “really good”? I’m using air quotes that you can’t see because you’re listening. It’s either you just like the personality of the person—Rihanna just did a makeup tutorial for Vogue. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen because Rihanna’s personality is amazing and her makeup skills are fine—or because some crazy amazing makeup artist shows you a trick that you really get. But even still there’s 2,000. I mean that’s wild. So repetition of content was something that really bummed me out.

Rachel: [00:04:06] And then there’s this other thing where what consumers want to consume and watch and what gets them to shop and what brands want are sometimes really far apart. And I think in 2018 they’re closer together than they were in 2012 and 2014. Brands, particularly at that time, wanted people to hit the talking points and for things to be really glossy and really polished and they usually wanted, like in the case of beauty, a makeup artist who—again, that doesn’t mean you’re good on camera. And consumers want someone in their bedroom who is funny and fun or Rihanna. So we were always thinking about that. How do we deal with like the duplicativeness of all this content? Are there ways to aggregate and curate? And how do we make brands happy and our users happy? And I think that’s where Birchbox really did a great job, is we sort of made our staff talent. So I was thinking about those two things all the time.

Rachel: [00:04:53] And then I got married in 2013 and I had nothing to do with my own wedding. I didn’t go to my wedding venue till the day I got married. I didn’t hire any of my vendors. My mother did the whole thing. We had a big, fancy wedding but my mom and my grandma are great at that and I was busy in New York and whatever. I didn’t have a wedding video. I didn’t hire a videographer because when my mother asked me about it, I was picturing wedding videographers ten or 15 years ago. It’s usually a man and they used to have a giant camera on their shoulder and they’d shine a bright light in your face on the dance floor.

Richie: [00:05:22] With a shoulder rig.

Rachel: [00:05:22] Exactly and they’d be like, “Richie, tell the beautiful couple something,” and you’re drunk and you’re like, “I love you so much.” So I was like, “No, we don’t need it.” And then the day after my wedding—my family did this wild flashmob, which was amazing and I was like, “I can’t believe we didn’t have someone capture this. What was I thinking? Even if it was cheesy. What’s wrong with me?” I really regretted it. So then I just started paying closer attention to wedding videos when I would see them on Facebook of my friends or people in my sorority. And as I started watching them, I was like, “This is the best content I’ve ever seen. This is not what I remembered. These look like feature film trailers.” It’s real people, real stories, professional production. These are just fun to watch. This feels like reality TV and these look like commercials for the products and services. So if you are the venue or the florist or the dress designer or the suit retailer or the makeup artists, there’s no better way to show off your products and services than these videos.

Rachel: [00:06:18] That really clicked for me and it solved those two problems that I was telling you about before. Every wedding video is different. It’s a different wedding. It’s a different couple. It’s real people, real stories, but professional production, which really only exists in this category of content. And so we built—my husband and I built a super simple WordPress site with a Google Form where people would tell us the details of their wedding and just put in the Vimeo URL and we’d publish them on our site and it just started taking off. And that’s how it got started.

Richie: [00:06:48] You didn’t think you should do the wedding over again and film it?

Rachel: [00:06:51] Now I’m part of this amazing community and I’ve gotten to know all these people and they’re always like, “Do you wanna renew your vows?” And the thing is we weirdly don’t because we don’t want to put that on video but—

Richie: [00:07:01] Everything else.

Rachel: [00:07:02] Yeah. The rest. I want to see everyone else. I want to hear my dad’s speech back to us and the toasts and see the flashmob. Yeah. So I really regret it. It was a big mistake.

Richie: [00:07:14] But it fueled this.

Rachel: [00:07:15] Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Right. A mistake that led to something great. I’m trying to prevent—If nothing else comes of this, I hope other people hire a wedding videographer.

Richie: [00:07:24] Awesome. Okay so it starts as a Google form. People start submitting.

Rachel: [00:07:27] Yeah.

Richie: [00:07:27] Is it friends and family submitting? When is this, too?

Rachel: [00:07:31] So this was October 2016. So I emailed everyone we knew but then they would email everyone they know. A couple things clicked for me. One, the story I told you before and, two, I was like, “It’s crazy that these filmmakers are out there producing this amazing work.” And when I started researching it, wedding filmmakers get paid about two-thirds of what photographers get paid which is crazy because they’re shooting for at least the same amount time if not more. They have more equipment and they’re editing for way longer. They should be getting paid more, not two-thirds of [what photographers are paid]. So I was like, “Bring justice to the wedding videographers!”

Richie: [00:08:04] What are actual numbers, generally, for a wedding photographer versus video?

Rachel: [00:08:07] So WeddingWire and The Knot and Brides publish these average wedding costs which I have a huge problem with, actually, because to average across a state is really crazy. Buckets are actually better way to think about it because there are some people [who] charge $1,500—they shouldn’t, but they do—and there [are] people who charge $15,000. So if you average those, you end up with something that is not necessarily the number people are paying, which is why I think averages [are] a bad idea in this business. But the way we do it on the site is we are like, if you’re just getting started, people are charging $2,500 or less, which they shouldn’t be, but when you get started, you’re getting started. And then there [are] a lot of people in the five, six, seven package and then there [are] the VIPs of the industry who won’t do a wedding for less than $10,000 or $15,000. And it obviously varies by state and, also, now the packages are becoming more diverse. So now people are having wedding engagement videos just like they have engagement photos, which is a really interesting trend.

Richie: [00:09:00] Are they shot landscape or portrait?

Rachel: [00:09:02] They’re still shot landscape—wide—because that’s what people expect. Even us, we use JW Player on our site. That’s the shape of the player. But the day that IGTV launched, we emailed all our filmmakers and we were like, “We will, for the next several days, publish every vertical video you send us.” It was one of our best video acquisition days ever because they’re digital storytellers so they really get it and they really understand how much better a vertical video looks on your phone. And, for us, 90% of our traffic comes from mobile. We’re always encouraging them and we try to prioritize in our feature process—people who do the vertical cuts. Actually, a wedding is a really interesting thing for a vertical cut because, if you think about wedding vows, you are standing, it’s two people standing next to each other. It’s harder when you want to show the sweeping ceremony, but there are moments of a wedding which are actually uniquely suited for vertical. So it’s fun. We’re doing a lot of innovative stuff on Snap and Instagram because of the nature of the content.

Richie: [00:09:58] Very cool. Sorry, I cut you off. You did the Google form, people started sending it to their friends.

Rachel: [00:10:03] Okay. One, we discovered that 20% of our audience is under 24. And, even in the state with the youngest bride, which is Alabama and she’s 26, the youngest average bride in Alabama, and across the United States she’s 29. So if you are under 24, there’s a high likelihood you are not engaged to be married. You don’t have an engagement ring on. Women just watch these videos for fun. And that’s something, when I was still at Birchbox and I started researching the business idea, all of the young women at Birchbox were like, “Oh yeah, when we get home from the bar at night, we watch wedding videos with our friends,” or, “In the sorority house we used to do it.” And then I would be like, “Well where did you find the videos?” And they were always like, “Well I don’t really know. I can’t remember,” or, “I’d just find one.” Filmmakers were putting all their content on Vimeo. They’ve been moving away from it now. They don’t really need it. Now a lot of them just store all their videos with us.

Richie: [00:10:45] Right, because Vimeo was like the professional YouTube.

Rachel: [00:10:46] It was like the professional YouTube, but the average person doesn’t even notice that Vimeo exists. So that was really interesting. The way it started taking off is there’s a flywheel effect of this business, which I guess lots of people say, but it’s true for us. Two groups of people can submit a video on Love Stories TV. Either the newlywed couple or the videographer. And when they submit the video, they tell us all the vendors who worked on the wedding and, if they’re the newlyweds, they give us the videographer’s information and vice versa. So then we can email all those people and say, “Hey, a wedding that features your work or a wedding that you shot or your wedding has been featured on Love Stories TV.” And then they learn about us and then they tell people and, if they’re a vendor, they go tell the videographers they work with, “Hey, y’all should put your work on here because it helps us all grow,” and the brides just get excited to tell their friends. We really quickly branched out to groups of people we didn’t know. Although, I will say, Michigan is one of our biggest represented states in terms of video library. I think that’s because we’re from there. Otherwise it’s what you would expect: New York, California, Texas.

Richie: [00:11:46] And so was the idea, when you had the Google form, to literally tag all the vendors and so forth?

Rachel: [00:11:51] Yeah, that’s how it works. What’s so nice is we don’t produce any content really. We’re starting to do a little bit of original, but mostly we don’t produce content and we don’t tag the content. The contributor does and so then it just auto tags.

Richie: [00:12:02] From when it was just a Google form? That was still the idea?

Rachel: [00:12:04] Yeah, exactly. That was the idea right from the start. People would want to watch these videos just for fun and we do want to just bring some attention to this wedding filmmaking industry because we think it’s underrepresented and it’s really been underserved. And that’s something I think, when you start a business, when you really get lightning in a bottle is when you find a small community of people for whom what you’re doing really resonates and that’s what you need to get started.

Rachel: [00:12:33] Birchbox is another great example of this. Birchbox became successful, originally, because of YouTube, because beauty YouTubers needed to create content everyday and a great way to have a guaranteed, awesome video every month is to unbox a Birchbox. And so we were serving this small community and they helped us grow and that’s the same thing with wedding filmmakers. When we started this business, we started hearing from them. They’re like, “We’ve been dying for someone to do this. We’re so under-respected. We’re underpaid in our industry. We’re the last people to get hired. We’re always the first people to get cut from a budget.” The other big players in the space, like Style Me Pretty, will feature a wedding and list that there was a videographer and not highlight the video. And so they were so excited. So they helped us grow and I think if you can find that—we didn’t even really know that when we started. How underserved they were and how left out of the ecosystem they were.

Richie: [00:13:22] Were you still Birchbox when you started it? Or was it you were going to go do this full-time?

Rachel: [00:13:25] No. I started it on the side. I didn’t really know what it would be. I just started on the side and I told the Birchbox founders, both of whom are now investors in Love Stories TV. I was like, “I’m just gonna try this thing.” And I remember Katya was like, “Is there some way this could be part of Birchbox? Does this mean you’re going to leave one day?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I guess that would be a great problem to have. If I had to leave a place I loved because this little idea I had turned into something.”

Richie: [00:13:49] The inkling was in October 2016 [when] you started the form?

Rachel: [00:13:53] October 2015, I think we really started working on it. I think it was the winter of 2015, early 2016 that we put it out there to see what was what. And then October 2016, I was no longer at Birchbox and hired someone.

Richie: [00:14:08] Gotcha. How long did it take you to know that it was going to actually work?

Rachel: [00:14:11] I think the first submission we got was in October 2015 and I think I told Katya I was going to go do this in maybe January or February. So what’s that? Like six months or something. Yeah. My husband is a data scientist and so really early on—I mean he has a full-time job, but we don’t have any kids, we don’t have any pets, his free time is spent helping me—his eyeballs lit up when he start thinking about it. The data is a really powerful thing because that’s what’s broken—Pinterest is somewhere people go to plan a wedding or other life events, by the way. You might see something really beautiful, but it’s a mess. It’s not organized. So what we were trying to do is bring together the visual inspiration of Pinterest, the power of video that existed on Vimeo, with an organizational structure.

Rachel: [00:15:00] And a lot of times I tell people we’re starting Houzz for weddings. Houzz is, I think, the best example of a platform, plus community, plus visual content that really works. There’s just enough curation. There’s just enough rules. It’s just niche enough. So you can find what you’re looking for whether it’s a product or service and that’s really what we’re also doing.

Richie: [00:15:22] Alright. So you’re now working full-time in early 2016.

Rachel: [00:15:27] Yeah.

Richie: [00:15:27] What’s the list of priorities of where you start to spend your time?

Rachel: [00:15:30] We did a fundraise, which ends up being a full-time job. We hired someone who was a previous colleague of mine at Birchbox. She had since left, didn’t steal anyone. This is a good lesson in starting a business. I was saying to my husband, “Who am I going to hire? All the good people I’ve ever worked with work are at Birchbox and I’m not going to steal anyone. I’m not going to do that.” I mean it’s presumptuous for me to think they would even come but I wasn’t going to try. And he was like, “Well what about Vanessa?” Because she had worked with us at Birchbox and left to move back to Chicago. And I was like, “Well, she lives in Chicago.” And he was like, “If she’s the best, she’s the best. Who cares?” That was the best decision I could have made. The best people are the best people no matter where they are I think. So we hired Vanessa.

Rachel: [00:16:07] And then the priority was just to really get in with the wedding filmmaker community. It was really clear to us, from the very beginning, [that] they own the content. It’s theirs. This whole thing only works if we’re helping them book more weddings and that’s really the foundation of the business. They don’t pay us. Other people pay us. Other wedding vendors and wedding brands pay us to have the content that features them promote their products and services. But the whole bottom would fall out if filmmakers didn’t love what we were doing and didn’t feel that we were booking them more business. So that’s always our North Star. We’ve hosted two annual wedding film awards which are like the Oscars of wedding videos and this most recent year, we teamed up with B&H Photo and did this whole big event.

Richie: [00:16:46] The greatest place.

Rachel: [00:16:46] It’s like Disneyland. And that’s our North Star and always sort of has been.

Richie: [00:16:51] Why not wedding photos?

Richie: [00:16:53] ‘Cause other people are doing it, one. And, two, photos don’t show what I think are the best part of weddings. The speeches and the vows and the dancing and the emotions. That’s the most important part of a wedding. A wedding just happens to be a wedding. It’s really just a moment in time where all the people you love the most are together, having fun. Any way you can capture that I think is really important. I think that what videos do, is they do show you the dress and they show you the tablescapes, but they also bring in the speeches and the vows and the important part of a wedding, and photos only show you that surface part. A photo of a bouquet is really just a photo of a bouquet. But a scene of the bouquet being held when your dad sees you for the first time in your wedding dress and what he says is powerful. I feel like we’re promoting the commercial, but also the real, important part of weddings. I think photos can quickly devolve into just photos on Pinterest and you don’t know who the person was or where it took place or how did they meet. When people submit their wedding video, they tell us how they met and how they fell in love and they tell us that in the copy, but it also is in the video. These videographers, these filmmakers tell stories.

Rachel: [00:18:04] I just sent out a newsletter last night to our wedding filmmaking community and I always pick one wedding filmmaker to highlight and the one I put last night is this filmmaker from Chicago called Leap Weddings. The recent video of his that caught my attention is the video—it’s a cold open into a groom being interviewed by the videographer. The videographer is like, “So, word on the street is there is a discrepancy between you and your wife about how you first met.” And he turns bright red and starts laughing and starts to tell the story of how they met and that’s cool. And then it leads into the beautiful, epic venue and… But only video can do that.

Richie: [00:18:38] How does length work with these?

Rachel: [00:18:41] If you hire a filmmaker to do your wedding, you usually have a package and, typically, the package will have a documentary edit, which could be anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes.

Richie: [00:18:50] So it’s long.

Rachel: [00:18:50] Long. We have some of those on the site, but they also usually deliver you a highlight, which is between three to seven minutes. That’s what most of the videos on our site are. And then, because these filmmakers are smart, they’ll usually deliver, even before that, a one-minute trailer just to get you excited and then you share it with all your family and friends on Facebook and now on Love Stories TV and whatever. And sometimes that one-minute highlight now will be vertical for Instagram. So they’re usually delivering you three things at the end of the day. And now some people are doing engagement videos, which is really just engagement photos and sometimes they are used as a save-the-date. And more and more people are hiring professionals for their proposals too.

Richie: [00:19:28] Interesting.

Rachel: [00:19:29] Yeah.

Richie: [00:19:29] Were there any concerns about privacy?

Rachel: [00:19:31] We have pretty strict policy. So, first of all, the only people who can submit the videos are the videographer or the couple. So, if you’re a venue, and you know that there’s videos that took place at your venue, you can’t submit them because every contract is different and it’s on you—when you sign our Terms of Use, you’re telling us that you have the right to submit this video. But most contracts say the photographer or the videographer owns the work, which people don’t always realize. You don’t own your wedding video or photos unless you negotiate that up front. And, usually, people for whom it’s important do negotiate it upfront and sometimes they have to pay more for that because the filmmaker might be like, “I need your video to book more work.”

Rachel: [00:20:08] Seventy percent of our films come in from filmmakers and about 30% come in from brides and grooms and maybe one day that will switch. But filmmakers don’t submit videos if they know the couple wouldn’t like it and they know the couples of theirs [who] wouldn’t like it because the couples already made that clear to them in the beginning of the process. So there’s really only been one or two times ever I can think of where we’ve heard someone and they’re like, “Can you please take the video down?” And we just take it down and we don’t ask any other questions. We just really try to be so respectful and I’ve always been really surprised. There’s this wedding video I can think of that won in our awards this year and the groom has since passed away. They wanted us to feature it more afterward. It’s just such a beautiful celebration of life, a wedding video. They actually were happy to have the story continue be told, which I thought was really interesting.

Rachel: [00:20:53] There is one really funny thing. I like to tell this story because I actually think it shows off our business. This groom emailed me and he was like, “Our wedding video is on your site and it took place at my parents-in-law’s farm and someone showed up at the farm the other day to research it for their own wedding because they saw it on your site. Congrats to you that your website’s working, but my parents-in-law were freaked out. You need to take it down.”

Richie: [00:21:16] Yeah, that’s not a venue.

Rachel: [00:21:16] So we did. But I was like, “Okay, well at least it’s working.”

Richie: [00:21:18] That’s really interesting.

Rachel: [00:21:19] Yeah.

Richie: [00:21:19] Explain a bit just [about] how the business works.

Rachel: [00:21:21] How the business works, sure.

Richie: [00:21:22] It sounds like it was pretty solidified from the beginning or has [it] evolved since?

Rachel: [00:21:26] I think we always wondered how much revenue would come from national versus local. So we make money in four ways: local advertising, national advertising, distribution and shopping. We have worked with national advertisers, like Bonobos or the Jamaica Tourist Board, and we work with them to create these custom campaigns based around the fact that we know all the videos where the groom wore Bonobos or we know all the videos that took place in Jamaica. These campaigns include one of our editors going to a resort in Jamaica and doing an Instagram takeover and turning that into a blog post, which we then promote. We promote all the Jamaica videos on Facebook and Instagram using the language and story that they want told. We do a big sweepstakes for them to collect emails. Lots of things that are super innovative and some things that sound sort of run-of-the-mill except for the fact that, you have to remember, we don’t have to produce any original content because we already have it. And the filmmakers love it because, if they shot a video in Jamaica, they want the video they shot in Jamaica getting to more people who want to get married in Jamaica. So it’s a win-win-win which I think is super unique. We’re very strict and feel very strongly that the filmmaker, not just that they’re always credited, but they’re always tagged and we always link back to a place where you could hire that videographer. That’s really key and that’s good for the videographer and for Jamaica and for Bonobos. So that’s an example of national advertising. And we can do pre-roll and we can do display and we can use the real videos that featured, get it in front of more people on social, on our site.

Rachel: [00:22:50] And then we do local advertising which is a partner program we call The Love Club and that’s where the vendors who are tagged in the videos—and, actually, more and more recently vendors who actually aren’t tagged in any videos yet, they just love our offering—pay us a monthly subscription to have the videos that feature them reach more people on our site through being at the top of search or getting featured on the homepage and reach more people on social media because we do dedicated posts about those weddings that feature them. And then their channel pages on our site have enhanced functionality: links back to their own website and their social and a bigger description and da-da-da. And we just give them lots of great marketing. We leverage paid social, I think, in a pretty savvy way. And so that’s what we call local advertising.

Rachel: [00:23:32] And then distribution. So we have distribution partnerships, most notably with Amazon Prime. So we stitch wedding videos together thematically and you can watch them like reality TV on Amazon Prime and we get paid for that. And the filmmakers love it because it’s an insane amount of visibility for them and, like I say, we are just really clear, after every wedding video, it’s like, “This wedding video is by Anchor Films” and you could google Anchor Films and find them pretty immediately and all the other vendors.

Rachel: [00:23:58] And then shopping. So we have little shopping windows, sort of like how [on] Houzz you can tap a photo. Under the videos, if it’s a Pronovias dress or Laura’s Bridal and BHLDN—actual product images of those dresses and you tap them and you click through. We have affiliate relationships. Really, the mission is to help the user find the products and services that they need and to help the filmmakers and the other vendors tagged book more business.

Richie: [00:24:26] So, at the end of 2016, where is the business?

Rachel: [00:24:30] National advertising was always the thing. We were like, “We know that local vendors and filmmakers are going to be into this.” And there’s a lot of templates for it. We do it really, really differently than The Knot and WeddingWire but, whatever, they’re doing it. We know people want to pay for that and we knew affiliate would work. Distribution and national advertising were the two things we really wanted to test out before we went to a bigger fundraise and so we did those two big tests with Bonobos and Jamaica Tourism Board. We’ve done more since then, but those were the ones [where] we were like, “Okay, these bigger companies. This resonates with them and helps them achieve their goals.” The first two distribution partnerships we did were with David’s Bridal and Bridal Guide magazine to test that out. And so that’s what we’re doing at the end of 2016 and then, when we felt good about those tests, we went and did a fundraise. Hired a few more people, made some big website upgrades and have just been executing since then.

Richie: [00:25:24] What’s the difference between the local versus national piece from what the customers want to and so forth?

Rachel: [00:25:32] Yeah, so it’s been really interesting. With local, they just really get it, really fast. They’re like, “Wow, this video really shows off my work.” They’re like, “I can have a storefront on WeddingWire or The Knot and probably people will discover me there because they’re so big and a lot of times, if people Google ‘wedding venue in Nashville,’ they will end up on WeddingWire’s Nashville section and they might just find me. But the storefronts there are out-of-date at this point.” Listen, these two companies have done amazing things. I’m not trying to disparage them at all. We want to be as successful as them, but you benefit when you launch later. And so we’re just offering them [something] different. They get guaranteed social media. We really talk to them about their needs and can tell their stories on social and the videos just show off their work in this way that photos and text reviews just don’t. People just get the power of video. People are more likely to purchase something if they see it in a video and everyone knows that now because they’ve done it. So people just get it.

Rachel: [00:26:36] I think, for national, what’s really interesting in the wedding space is we’re always trying to think of, “What are the brands that solve the biggest problems for our users?” And we want to start there and branch out. Wedding dresses is a really obvious place to start. You don’t buy your wedding dress online a lot of times. You’re actually booking an appointment. So what we realized is we had to bridge this gap between seeing the wedding dress in a real wedding video, but that dress might not be for sale today. But probably a designer—their styles don’t change that much. So if you love a BHLDN dress last year, you’re gonna like a BHLDN dress this year. So that was part of the impetus to get the shopping modules up more quickly for the dress designers. And, again, when you talk about vertical, when you’re on mobile, display ads can’t show a wedding dress. You have to build something organic for wedding dresses. What some of the bigger players in the space do is they have these really old-school galleries where you can look at product images of wedding dresses and it’s all 20-year-old models, which is just so not reflective of humans in wedding dresses. So we think, by pairing real brides in real weddings with the product images, it’s just a better experience, a better shopping experience.

Richie: [00:27:42] Right. I didn’t even think of it until now but the idea of, you mentioned before, that these are the best possible commercials, but you see all the other discussion of using non-18-year-old white, skinny models.

Rachel: [00:27:54] It’s so important for us.

Richie: [00:27:55] But you cut out all of the fake production, basically.

Rachel: [00:27:58] Yeah. It’s always coming down to this problem that brands want one thing and consumers want another thing. Part of the reason I like doing podcasts like this and that Juliette [Dallas-Feeney, Rachel’s co-host on Love Stories TV’s podcasts, Since You Asked… and Do You Follow] and I have our podcast is, I want to train brands to think like they’re consumers and not think how they’ve always thought because it doesn’t connect. People want real. “People want real,” if anyone takes away anything from what I say. So that’s why people want to watch real wedding videos. But the brands want you to see the dress you can buy today. So how do we bridge that gap? I’m much more comfortable putting product images of 20-year-old models [whom] I don’t necessarily think they should be using because it’s next to a real woman.

Rachel: [00:28:36] And that’s actually something that [is] another benefit of just launching in 2018. We have weddings from over 60 countries, from all over the world, every color, every gender, every budget, every religion. That’s not just important to me, but important to our users. This is not Rachel’s Favorite Weddings. It’s not Martha Stewart Weddings. This is all the weddings. And then the ones that we curate for our homepage and for our blog section and for our social life, one of the filters we think about is diversity. And not just ethnic diversity but budget diversity and religious diversity and location diversity and all that, size.

Richie: [00:29:15] Absolutely. From the actual wedding process, what does that look like local versus national? Is it like someone in New York goes, “I want to go to Michigan”? How did vendor selection work before this and has this at all changed how that works?

Rachel: [00:29:31] The wedding expo experience is something that’s very, very broken and we’ve always done a lot of events and are going to be disrupting that really soon. But people find vendors from Google or from word-of-mouth. And that’s the other thing that we think we’re really solving for. Someone tells you, “Hey, Richie. You should check out this venue.” The best way to check it out is to watch a wedding video of it because going to it empty doesn’t really tell you much. Or you picked your venue, but then you need to pick a florist and then you can watch the videos on Love Stories TV of all the real weddings there and see all the flowers. You need all those layers. You need someone to refer you to someone, but then you need to see it in action and the best way to see it in action—we sometimes joke you can crash weddings from your couch—is to watch it in a video.

Rachel: [00:30:18] And then there’s the Google piece where you don’t know anyone to ask so you’ve got to Google it and then you land on WeddingWire or The Knot or Love Stories TV and we just think the information we’re providing you—I think written reviews have diminishing returns at some point. You want a few reviews but—

Richie: [00:30:34] Just show me the thing and I’ll decide.

Rachel: [00:30:35] Show me the thing and I’ll decide. You’re going to go meet them in person anyway. So I think that’s where video helps sell for that because people don’t get married where they live. To answer your question, there’s a few different things. One thing is you want to get married in Mexico and you’re going to go there once to check out the venue and then once more to plan the wedding. So we just start working with this venue called Martoca Beach Garden. It’s this beautiful destination wedding venue in Riviera Maya and we have tons of wedding videos from there. So you go online and you search, “What are all the wedding venues in Riviera Maya?” How many are you really going to go to? You can watch all these videos and be like, “Well, I want my wedding to look like that so I’m going to go visit that guy and that guy.” We already saved you a ton of trouble. And, by tagging all the vendors, you could reach out to this wedding planner and be like, “Hey, I see you worked on a wedding at Riviera Maya. Do you recommend it? Are you available to meet with me?”

Rachel: [00:31:27] So it’s the video, but it’s also just having all the data there and data at scale. So there’s lots of wedding blogs. There’s a blog for rustic weddings and a blog for rock-and-roll weddings and a blog for Martha Stewart Weddings. But what does that even mean? You just want to see all the weddings. I think pairing scale with curation is how companies like ours win. We don’t select which weddings get published. They all get published, but then by tagging them and by pulling out our favorites, we’re giving you some level of curation so it’s not overwhelming.

Rachel: [00:31:55] So national is really interesting. I was surprised when I started. Because I was at Birchbox and we had partnered with Bonobos and we had partnered with Rent the Runway and we had partnered with GlamSquad, I was actually surprised that more people weren’t using these national vendors. And so that’s something we think about a lot, is how can we help our partners crack into this crazy wedding ecosystem and get in front of brides at the right moment?

Rachel: [00:32:17] The other thing that you have to remember: We have all this data when it comes to shopping. So I know—we have thousands of wedding films on Love Stories TV. We know what shoes everyone wore, we know where everyone registered. Badgley Mischka is the most popular wedding shoe. Full stop. We didn’t have to survey people to get that. We just have that data because people tell us. Those shoes are sold on Amazon and at Macy’s and they’re the most popular wedding shoe because they have a price point for most people and they come in all different colors and all different styles. Badgley Mischka is a pretty old-school brand, but they’re selling at Amazon. That’s why they’re one of the most popular shoes. And then you go down the list. It’s all things that are sold on Amazon. Kate Spade, Betsey Johnson; these are all Macy’s, Amazon brands. You have to be available to people where they go today for information. So we think that some brands are doing a really good job with that and some brands could be doing better and we want to help them.

Richie: [00:33:09] What part of the journey do people come to you? Is it right when they’re going to plan the wedding? Or is it, as you said, when they’re three years out or not even close and so forth?

Rachel: [00:33:17] So that’s a big differentiator for us, particularly when I was going through the fundraising process. We have an amazing group of investors and it went really well in the end but people are like, “Well, it’s a really short cycle.”

Richie: [00:33:29] Right, you’re seasonal.

Rachel: [00:33:30] Seasonal. And that’s why people love Zola because Zola is monetizing not just the couple. But that’s what’s really different about our business, right? We have 18- to 24-year-olds who are watching wedding videos on Love Stories TV long before they ever have an engagement ring on. And then we do capture people all through the funnel. So you just got engaged and you just are thinking what you might want to do for your wedding. You just watch videos on Love Stories TV and you’re like, “I just watched 20 videos and it actually feels like a ballroom isn’t really for me.” So that’s one thing.

Rachel: [00:33:58] Or the second thing is, “I just got engaged and I know I want to get married in Charlevoix, Michigan and I want to research all the wedding venues in Charlevoix, Michigan so I come to Love Stories TV and I can watch videos of all those venues and decide which ones I even want to visit.” Or, “I already booked a venue because my sister got married there and I know I really like it, but she got married there five years ago and I want to know which vendors are working with the venue and the venue sent me their preferred vendor list, but who else has worked there?” And so you go watch the videos on Love Stories TV and you can see all the vendors who worked at that venue. So no matter where you are in your funnel, we can help you.

Rachel: [00:34:31] We also get inquiries from mother of the bride and groom who are like—in my case, my mom could have said, “Rachel’s wrong. We want a videographer,” and where would she have gone? So we see that a lot. Also people use our site to get ideas for speeches and vows. So one of our most recent customers in The Love Club is The Speech Tank and they help people write speeches for their wedding. My brother is 31 and he’s single and his friends consistently all tell me that they use the website to get ideas for speeches for each other’s weddings. It’s not just for the bride and groom. Wedding filmmakers use our site to watch other people’s videos and get ideas and vendors come to research other vendors they might work with. The bride and the groom and their family and their friends, long before the wedding and long after. I’m 34 and my friends always tell me they watch Love Stories TV in the middle of the night when they’re breastfeeding because you can watch it without the sound on and it’s relaxing content. So we have a chunk of our audience that has been married for many years and it’s just great content.

Richie: [00:35:35] What’s the most interesting or surprising vendor that has seen success in terms of you never thought they would would make sense for it?

Rachel: [00:35:42] Well, I wouldn’t say I never thought they would make sense but—one of my favorite things to do is read through all the inquiries because that’s the liquidity of the business. That’s the health, is how many vendors and filmmakers are getting business inquiries.

Richie: [00:35:54] And they get them through you?

Rachel: [00:35:55] So if you are a wedding filmmaker on our site, your channel has a email contact button. You can also have a link [that goes] directly to your website and to your social. Vendors only get that stuff if they pay. So you’re listed, you’re credited. Someone could go Google you. We’re not trying to disadvantage you but we have to make money somehow. So we just started working with this Love Club member, this customer called Happily Ever #Hashtagged. When she came to us, we didn’t have any videos that featured her work and she was like, “I know this one bride has a video. I’m going to ask her to submit it but I want to work with you guys because I just like your marketing approach and I think you’re going to create good content on my behalf. I can afford this and I want to get my business off the ground.” Just this morning, I saw that she got an inquiry and so that’s pretty cool. The hashtag’s not in the video anywhere. But what happens is—

Richie: [00:36:41] Wait, what’s her business?

Rachel: [00:36:42] She writes hashtags, custom hashtags for weddings. And so she was like, “I think you guys will do a really good job marketing my business.” So we had one video on our site of the couple that used her. The hashtag’s not in the video anywhere, but we put that video on Instagram, we put that video on Facebook. In the caption, we tell the story. “Look at this couple, look how sweet they are, look how beautiful their wedding is. They hired Happily Ever #Hashtagged.” We posted it and were promoting that and so she’s getting traffic back to her channel on our site that has all the information about her. This morning I just saw that she got an inquiry and someone wants to hire her for their wedding. And so that’s what I think is really interesting.

Rachel: [00:37:14] And registry is really like this too. If I’m watching a wedding video and I think that this couple has great taste and they’re amazing, I want to know: Where did they go on their honeymoon, where did they register, where did they have the rehearsal dinner, what did she wear to her rehearsal dinner? Because I think her taste is great. Who wrote her hashtag for her? Even though I can’t see it in the video, and that’s something I think that the really savvy marketers really understand. I have a wedding planning friend who told me really early on in my journey that after she plans people’s weddings, they often hire her to decorate their apartment because they trust her and they know she knows their taste. Taste is transferable, which is this thing that people who get it really get. So it’s like, “I love everything about your wedding. I also want to know, where did you get your couch? Because I bet you I’m gonna like your couch.” And that’s real.

Rachel: [00:38:01] That’s why people love social media influencers. That’s why you start following a social media influencer when she’s 25 and she has great fashion and then you keep following her all along the way when she starts having kids and buying stuff for her kids because you like her taste and her worldview. Otherwise you wouldn’t be following her and taking her shopping recommendations.

Richie: [00:38:17] Yeah. I’m curious to talk a bit about the interplay between the platform itself and then existing on social.

Rachel: [00:38:23] Yeah.

Richie: [00:38:23] It’s a little interesting because it seems almost like—like Facebook doesn’t advertise on Twitter. It’s just like Facebook.

Rachel: [00:38:29] Yeah, yeah.

Richie: [00:38:30] It’s like you go ‘there.’ But it sounds like you have presence on both that actually works.

Rachel: [00:38:32] Yeah, we do. We do.

Richie: [00:38:34] Was that counterintuitive to begin with? How did that come about and how does it work?

Rachel: [00:38:37] No. So one thing that I feel really strongly about—not to give away all my secrets—but I think that people, still in 2018, have this weird thing about paid social and that it’s bad, which is so backwards. If you think about the salary you would pay a junior social media person to just create more and more content and you think about how you could use that money in a really smart way to get the great content you are creating in front of more of the right audience on the social platforms, that’s a better way to spend your money. That’s an arbitrages rate that can work for businesses. So we create a lot of content. We put a little bit of paid behind all that content. We see the way it’s performing and that’s sort of how we think about it.

Rachel: [00:39:16] So no, because we can target in a really different way on those channels. If you’re Happily Ever #Hashtagged, you can work for people all over the country but Stacie Ford, who is a makeup artist, she’ll work anywhere, but she primarily works in New York and L.A. So we put content about her on social and then we want people in New York and L.A. to really see it. And so we can target people in New York and L.A. who have already come to Love Stories TV or whose email we already have or who follow our competitors and then they have to come back to our channel to learn more. If you think about the wedding videos, we’ll put a clip on Facebook and then we’ll say, “Come back to Love Stories TV to learn more about this filmmaker or see all the vendors who worked on this wedding or to watch the full version.”

Richie: [00:39:55] So you’re teasing basically?

Rachel: [00:39:56] Yeah. But sometimes we’ll put the whole wedding video up there, sometimes we’ll do a link. It’s really a combination and it’s because we think that, if you liked watching that wedding video on Facebook, you will like our site and you will like the value we provide. We’re not trying to trick you to get you back there. We just think you’re gonna like it and it’s reflected in our cost per click. Obviously people do.

Richie: [00:40:19] Alright. So, if we bring the business up to 2018, throughout 2017 and and the last half of the year, priorities post-second fundraise?

Rachel: [00:40:27] So now our priorities are really launching and scaling The Love Club, which is our local business because, one, that’s how we make money but also, the more local vendors that are involved in what we’re doing, the more videos we get, the better our community is. Community is so key. I think I actually mentioned them. Martoca Beach Garden joined recently. So we do a little bit of original content. We have two podcasts that we do. We do a series called Love Stories TV and Chill where we watch wedding videos and give live commentary, sometimes myself and my colleagues and sometimes someone who worked on that wedding, and we shoot a lot of our videos at the Plaza. We have a great partnership with them. We emailed Martoca Beach Garden and we were like, “Hey, we’re going to feature you in our next episode of Love Stories TV and Chill at the Plaza. Is there a wedding that you prefer we use?” And he was like, “Oh my god, we have to get more videos.” And he emailed every bride he’d ever worked with and suddenly we had many more videos from him. So it’s the ecosystem build. Scaling up The Love Club, both to scale up revenue so we can keep running this business, but also to grow the community is a big focus.

Rachel: [00:41:31] But also the biggest focus always is just: Are the filmmakers happy? Are they booking more weddings? Do they feel that we’re helping their entire industry charge more money? We’ve been doing this for two years and the bigger incumbents in the space feature more video now. We’ve changed the way people think about it and that’s important to us. That’s always the North Star. But, yeah, it’s scaling local advertising, working on our distribution partnership with Amazon and then just continuing to hear from our national advertisers what they want. Like this wedding dress shopping product that we launched, that’s a longer tail thing. Video’s new for a lot of them so just working with them on these partnerships to make our product look good for them and good for the user.

Richie: [00:42:12] Has there been any interesting learning on, going back to the idea of the commercial versus these videos, they have kind of no control over how their stuff’s represented. Are they mostly fine with that because the results are better? How do they deal with that?

Rachel: [00:42:25] One of the first big partnerships was with David’s Bridal and they’re so smart. They were like, “Because you have so many videos that feature David’s Bridal, this isn’t a problem. But, honestly, even if there were some amazing videos that the dress wasn’t David’s Bridal, we would still want them on our site because we think that these videos show off the best part of weddings. Even if it’s a David’s Bridal dress that you can’t buy anymore, if you love this wedding video and you love their vows and you love the way the groom looks at the bride when he walks down the aisle and she’s wearing David’s Bridal, you think of David’s Bridal’s brand in a really different way.” And so I’ve just been really impressed with how savvy the marketers are at these companies. I think if you work in weddings, you get it and you care. It’s just a bunch of really nice people working on a really nice part of life. I feel really lucky to be working on weddings. It’s very pleasant.

Richie: [00:43:18] What’s the cheapest and most expensive lesson you’ve learned building the company?

Rachel: [00:43:21] The most expensive lesson we learned I think [was] with the product itself. I think that you are guessing what people want and you build based off those guesses and I think it’s really different being a technical or non-technical founder. It’s something I think about all the time. You have this vision and this idea and other people are going to execute it for you. For us, just getting the digital product right, which we’re still doing, but I think it probably took us longer than if I was a technical founder who was building my own website or my own app. I guess I don’t really know what the learning is. You can’t help it if you’re an engineer or you’re not. But the most important thing I think you can do is really, really find a great product person or great product help to help you really think through that stuff before you start building. Because I feel like we could have done some things faster. Time is money so that’s expensive.

Richie: [00:44:17] Yeah.

Rachel: [00:44:17] And then I think the least expensive is just to hire fast. We recently just added two new saleswomen and that felt a little bit big and scary, to hire two saleswomen at one time. And it’s not just that they’ve come on and have done an amazing job with sales, but we’ve learned so much from them because they both came from the wedding industry and they crafted what we were selling with us from scratch. I was like,”Can we afford two more people?” and they’ve paid for themselves eight times over. And so I think just hiring fast. And then you have to fire fast if it doesn’t work out. In our case, it really has. But I think not being afraid to hire people [whom] you need is scary, but it either pays off or then you just [have to] be brave enough to say it’s not working out [if it isn’t].

Richie: [00:44:57] What you think is the most misunderstood thing about the company from the outside?

Rachel: [00:45:01] Men ask me all the time, “Why do people want to watch other people’s weddings and why do people want to share their weddings?” And no woman has ever asked me that and our users are 95% women. People want to watch them because [of] the same reason they want to watch reality TV or follow their favorite influencers on YouTube or Instagram or watch the Kardashians. People like real people, real stories, but they like those real stories to be aspirational. And that is so clear to me and so clear to most of the women who look at the business. And then why do people want to share them? Why has every woman ever submitted her wedding to be published in The New York Times?

Richie: [00:45:38] Right.

Rachel: [00:45:38] That part of it’s not new. Those parts aren’t new. It’s just video. I don’t mean to sound rude or disrespectful or like I’m making fun of anyone, but it’s just really fascinating. Because if you’re building a tech company in New York, most of the people you’re going to meet are men, but our users are all women. It would be great if they [were] not all women. We have all different kinds of weddings. I hope that changes in the wedding space. We try to not use the word “bride.” It could be a bride or a groom. But the reality is, the analytics tell us it’s all women.

Richie: [00:46:06] Awesome. Thanks so much for talking.

Rachel: [00:46:06] Oh my god, thanks for having me.

Richie: [00:46:10] Thanks for listening to the Loose Threads Podcast. You can read full transcripts of the podcast and join the newsletter at LooseThreads.com. Feel free to also leave a review on iTunes. We always appreciate it. And thanks to George Drake, Jr. for editing this episode. We have a great roster of upcoming guests including Ellie Burrows of MNDFL, Eunice Beyun of Material and Sam Alston of Big Lives. Thanks for listening and talk to you soon.