Interview with Justin Bianchini | CEO & Founder | Ditch The Planner

Kindly tell us something about yourself?

- I have a terrible singing voice, but I’ll still sing or karaoke any chance I get. It’s not unusual for me to be belting out whatever comes on the radio. I might also have some videos of myself performing songs in the car, a la Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, which I’m also obsessed with.

What was your career before Ditch The Planner was founded?

- I’ve worked in many aspects of operations prior to founding Ditch The Planner. I oversaw operations for a pharmacy for many years and also worked as a mortgage banker. Currently, I work full time in sales for a footwear/apparel manufacturer based out of Las Vegas.

Can you tell me a little more about Ditch The Planner?

The idea behind Ditch The Planner is to be a one-stop shop to plan and book every aspect of your wedding, all in one place. Everything from invitations, to the venue, to the dresses, to the decorations and beyond will all be included in an easy to plan interface for our couples.

What’s your motivation in opening Ditch The Planner?

- That is such a loaded question, I don’t even know where to start! I think that there is so much stuff in my life that had to happen at the right times for Ditch The Planner to come about. Growing up, I was constantly coming up with new ideas on how something could be improved, running to my parents to tell them my next big idea and them always being really supportive and telling me to “Make it happen”. I was always bugging them to run a lemonade stand or having a garage sale, so I think that entrepreneurship was just always something that came naturally and was ingrained to me at a young age. How that transpired into the wedding industry, came much later on. As a member of the LGBT community, weddings were always a very elusive topic for me. There were many years growing up where I knew that it was illegal for me to get married, and the wedding that I hoped to one day have, wouldn’t be a possibility. I can remember a time in early 2014, when marriage equality slowly started gaining momentum in a few states and telling my friends that I didn’t think that we’d ever see full marriage equality across the whole country. Obviously, I was ecstatic when that was no longer the case. Tying those two things together, I recently had a coworker who was attempting to plan her wedding, and she was talking about how stressful it was, there were so many phone calls that she had to make to vendors that she didn’t have the time for, and how overwhelming it was in general. I thought that there had to be a better way to do things and I started searching online to see if there was something that could help her. All I was able to find were sites with tons of wedding resources on them, or sites that would show you all the vendors in your area, but nothing that allowed you to book directly through the site. I started bouncing ideas off of her and roughly mapping out what I thought the site would look like and from there, Ditch The Planner was born. The average cost of a wedding planner across the country is roughly $3,000 , but many times it runs much higher than that. I wanted to give people an easy to use option, where they could plan exactly what they wanted, and put that $3,000+ back into their wedding.

Who is/are part of building/founding it?

- On paper, I’m the only founder and own 100% of the company. However, I’m a strong believer that it’s hard to make something great on your own. I have many close friends who act as impromptu advisors whenever I need to bounce some ideas off of them or talk something through. It’s been a pivotal part of the process in steering the direction of where Ditch The Planner will go.

What was technically the most challenging part of starting this business?

- I think in any new venture there’s going to be quite a few challenges and Ditch The Planner has been no exception to that. The most challenging part so far, I think has been being the founder of a web startup, but not having any sort of technical background. Like I said before, my background is all in operations and not in anything technical. It’s been quite the learning experience so far. There are a ton of great resources out there that I’ve been using to learn as much as I can. On top of the resources, I found great value in using Bubble to develop a rough draft prototype for Ditch The Planner. It was a great tool to use, which required no coding, which allowed me to develop my vision into something that functions.

How did you get the funding? Is it just from your pocket? or you have partners?

Being an early stage startup, so far all of the funding and expenses have come out of my own pocket. Since developing the prototype in the past few weeks, we’re now at the point where I feel like we’re ready to start seeking investors or accelerator/incubator programs to participate in.

This is a weird question but I really want to ask as you’re business is something to do with love, do you believe in forever?

- Without a doubt. I really believe that everybody in the world has a soulmate, and it’s an unbelievably magical thing when those two people meet and decide to spend the rest of their lives together. Not only the way that they better themselves, but the energy they put off that their friends and family pick up on, is such a cool thing. My absolute favorite part of a wedding, is when the couple locks eyes on each other for the first time walking down the aisle. The overwhelming emotion that you can see and feel from them, is unlike anything you’ll get anywhere else. I don’t think that forever love is something that happens and just makes itself work for the rest of your life though. Having a lasting, love-filled marriage, definitely requires a ton of respect, sacrifice, and communication.

Can you tell me a little bit about your products/services?

Ditch The Planner virtually functions as a wedding marketplace with a twist. It will walk the couple through planning and booking their wedding, every step of the way, to make sure that nothing is missed. Couples start by filling out a simple questionnaire to help us get to know them a little better and to help provide them the best service possible. After completing the questionnaire and creating an account, they’re brought into the marketplace where every step of the wedding is separated on a separate page. Couples can scan through venues, check out photos, packages available, dates available, and check out the great discount that we’ve negotiated specifically for Ditch The Planner clients. Once finishing that and making a decision, they’ll continue on through the walkthrough to help coordinate the rest of the vendors and items that they’ll need. Every vendor will be personally vetted to make sure that we’re only delivering the highest quality options out there. When I imagined what the design of the site would look like, I knew that it had to be something pretty simple. Planning a wedding on your own can be an overwhelming task, so I wanted to make sure that we took as much of the pressure off of the clients as we possibly could, eased their anxiety, and helped them plan the wedding of their dreams without breaking the bank.

What’s the biggest wedding event you had?

- Since we work with all sorts of vendors, we’re able to fill the needs of majority of the clients out there. The vendor options we’ll have available will spread across all budgets, whether you’re looking for a simple ceremony in a Chapel with just a few friends or family present, or a lavish wedding with 500 guests, there’s no limits to the weddings we can help plan.

How do you handle stress like during the times that you need to meet deadlines, some unexpected problems, technical issues etc. during an event?

- Stress is something that I think everybody trying to launch a startup is going to face. The “cool” thing about stress, is that it’s something everyone’s dealt with at least once in their life and by now you probably know what works best for you. There’s no magical cure or solution to when something stressful happens. For me, what works best, is first off staying calm, but then talking through the problem out loud with somebody else. It’s not uncommon for me to call a friend, or grab a co-worker, and say “I’m having trouble with this, I need to talk it out”. Usually within a couple minutes of defining the problem and hearing it out loud, the solution becomes obvious and then I can work on implementing it and making the changes necessary. Believe me, I wish there was a miracle drink that could wipe stress away, but if you’re not facing stressful situations, I feel like you’re not pushing the boundaries enough.

If you’re going to plan your own wedding, how would it be look like, I mean the settings, set up, designs etc.?

- I always thought that I knew what I wanted my wedding to look like, something traditional, but still fun. Great music, great food, tons of dancing, and maybe even some karaoke? Since diving into creating Ditch The Planner, I’ve seen so many creative ideas out there that my whole wedding vision has been flipped upside down. So honestly, I don’t know what my own wedding would look like, maybe still the traditional style I once thought, or maybe a hodgepodge of ideas thrown together from various weddings planned with us. Of course, I’m not the only opinion that matters when it comes to planning my wedding either, my future partner will probably have to be the voice of reason in the planning process, and I’m sure my Mom will have a ton of opinions as well!

What are your plans in the future? Do you vision to go worldwide?

- When we launch, we’ll start by servicing weddings based in the Las Vegas area. We’ll help plan weddings for people local to the Las Vegas area, as well as couples from out of town that want to plan their destination wedding in Vegas. I foresee that being a huge portion of the business, couples that want to come to Vegas for their wedding, but might not be able to come out here prior to their special day, putting their trust in us to deliver them only the highest quality vendors, at an affordable price. Once we have a successful launch, ironed out any kinks or bugs that might be lingering around, the next step would be to look at scaling to other major Metropolitan cities across the country, maybe New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, who knows. I think the most exciting part about bringing Ditch The Planner to life, is realizing that there doesn’t have to be a ceiling for when growth has to stop, whether that’s across the US or even worldwide.

In one word, how would you describe Ditch The Planner?

- Innovative. The wedding industry is such a huge industry across the country, but there hasn’t been much change or technology advancements in the industry. It’s ripe for disruption. With millennials reaching the age of getting engaged and planning their weddings, coupled with their love and reliance on technology, it just makes sense to keep the wedding industry moving to keep up with the growing demands of the clients.

In one sentence, how would you market Ditch The Planner?

- The one-stop shop wedding marketplace to help you plan the wedding of your dreams, without breaking the bank.

Do you have any message/quotations to aspiring CEO’s/Founders?

- Be patient and never give up on your dream. There’s going to be days when you feel like you’re not making any progress, you don’t know what your next step is, or maybe you just want to throw in the towel. You just need to remember that you don’t have to tackle every major problem or build something brand new immediately. When you’re feeling like that, tell yourself you’re going to do one thing, even something small, towards your idea. Maybe that something small is all you do that day, and that’s okay, but most of the time, you’ll find yourself hours later solving the exact problem that initially seemed too overwhelming.

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