Joining our entrepreneur interview series today is Alan Katz, owner of one of the largest wedding officiant companies in Southern California, and possibly the U.S.
Revenue: $750,000 a year
Independent contractors: 37
- Meet Alan Katz
- Can you describe your wedding officiant business?
- How did your business grow from solo ceremonies to handling thousands with a team annually?
- Could you share insights into your revenue growth over the years?
- What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are just starting?
- What are the essentials for starting this business and the estimated initial investment?
- How have your public speaking and industry awards impacted your business?
Meet Alan Katz
I grew up in So Cal to a nice middle class family. I had a normal upbringing with the traditional norms of go to school, get a job, get married and live a happy life.
I knew that I was a bit different from others as I was growing up. I was silly, outrageous, nerdy and never fit the norms of regular life.
I made my TV debut at 16 performing a comedy act on the Gong Show. I had hoped my life would be off in that direction but alas it just reverted back to the “norm”.
I always knew there was something there just couldn’t find it. I got married and had 2 kids got divorced and this is where my life took a turn.
I dreamed of a life of being able to make people laugh. I started doing singing telegrams, celebrity impersonations and being a Santa Claus and doing movie extra work.
I excelled at this and actually made a living for a while. To supplement my income I drove a Limo. Things were going good. Then during a doctor appointment, they discovered I had thyroid cancer. I decided that I was going to fight it and beat it and I did.
But that is what really made me think. What am I here for? I wanted to make a difference in this world. I just didn’t just want to be one of those nameless people who disappeared from existence. So I started to formulate a plan but it had no direction.
Until one day My best friend asked me to be the Officiant at his wedding. This would be that day that changed my life forever. With words we designed together, I put my own Alan spin on the ceremony and stepped up to the microphone and rocked it.
After the ceremony, so many of the guests came up to me and told me it was the best wedding ceremony they had ever been to. My friends told me that I needed to quit my job and do this full time because I found my calling.
So I listened. I put up a website talking about changing the narrative of the boring weddings to make them fun and romantic. It started to catch on. I started booking weddings. Some great some flopped but all the while was learning what made couples happy.
I got to the point where I had to decide to quit my limo job and concentrate of this business. I was watching the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the scene about the leap of faith.
I realized that I was never going to achieve my goals if I did not take that leap. So I stepped off the ledge. 20 years later….I run the biggest, most popular and most amazing business officiating weddings doing almost 2000 weddings a year.
Can you describe your wedding officiant business?
Great Officiants is the largest company of its type in So Cal if not the US. I have over 30 Officiants comprised of Ministers, Priest, Rabbis, Bilingual, Non-Denominational, and Cosplay Officiants.
I have assembled the go-to place where wedding planners, Venues and other wedding vendors can trust when asked “do you know a good Officiant? They can say “I know a Great Officiant” The company is multi-faceted.
In addition to going to a location (hotel, backyard, golf course etc.)I expanded my operations. I opened a boutique 30 seat indoor and outdoor Wedding Chapel, created a Beach Wedding Design company that sets up and performs weddings on the beaches in So Cal.
We became authorized agents of the county clerks office to issue marriage licenses to our couples to avoid the county clerks office. We created an elopement division for quick and easy weddings. For memorials/ funerals, we created Memorial Celebrants.
I still do the singing telegrams and I don’t make comparatively as much money I love doing it. And most recently we created our cruise line division where we do the ceremonies on Cruise Ships in port before they depart to the sea.
We stand out in the industry because we broke the norms of what a ceremony should be. We have shown that weddings don’t have to be boring and that we can make it Fun and Romantic.
I am out there constantly marketing this on social media, at networking events and through extensive (and expensive) advertising. When I go out to industry events I dress very colorfully to stand out in a crowd.
While I never read the book The Purple Cow, its concept, “Safe” ideas are not safe at all–they are boring and will be ignored like normal-colored cows.
Rather, it’s the risky ideas, over-the-top ideas that will get noticed, and have a chance to survive.” I am the “Purple Cow” in the wedding industry.
Once my business grew and I added on more officiants my source of income changed. I was not just making money on the ceremonies I did but I made it by collecting the retainers to book the other officiants.
I became for lack of better words “An Officiant Booking Agency” I get the booking for the officiants get the balance and work directly with the couple once it is booked.
How did your business grow from solo ceremonies to handling thousands with a team annually?
As I started getting bigger I couldn’t handle the volume of business so I started seeking out others to take my overflow.
I started off my first real company So Cal Officiant. It thrived. I added more and more officiants and it excelled. I went to wedding industry seminars and learned from the top professionals on how to run a successful wedding business.
I took nuggets on each seminar and put them into practice. I also learned to “Be the Expert” so I started being a speaker and teaching about success. That gave me amazing credibility in the industry.
I was now “The Expert” and industry people trusted me and my wedding concepts. I was growing bigger and better. But then my good friend who was one of my officiants and I had a falling out and I removed him from the company.
He got an attorney who falsely claimed that he owned half the company. While it was a bogus claim, it sent me into a personal downfall.
I hired an attorney and fought it and we realized that the best way to fight it was to file bankruptcy.
Little did I know that single act freed my soul and was allowing me to rebrand, get rid of debt and rid my life from this menace forever. I became Great Officiants.
As the business grew so did my profits and then my prices. I found a sweet spot where I was not the cheapest not the most expensive. I make my money by taking the retainers for the officiants bookings and the design fees for the beach weddings.
As the bookings increased so did my income. I moved from my first chapel/officiant location to a much nicer and larger facility with more offices and better parking and great neighborhood.
That upped my status even further. While we are worth top dollar in the industry I still needed to be able to keep the bookings coming and if we priced ourselves too high we would lose market share. So we chose quantity over higher fees to keep the retainers coming.
For my officiant contractors, it is easy for them we do all the work getting them in the door and they deliver the produce. They are amazing at it. The business end is the hard part. The ceremony is the best part and we are the stars of the show.
My biggest competition is not the other companies, it is the Friend or Uncle who has never done a wedding before who the couple can get for free.
The old saying you get what you pay for is never more true than this scenario. In most cases, they suck and can ruin weddings (even though started this way).
So, my job is to also educate the industry professionals and couples of the folly of this option. One of the most important aspect of success is reviews.
I am known as “The King Of Reviews”. I have more reviews than any other officiant in the industry and get more each week.
It kind of snowballs, more weddings more reviews. I tell my team to perform their ceremonies like the owner of YELP is standing there watching and reviewing you (I know it doesn’t work that way but you get the point).
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are just starting?
Newbies should do their research before starting out. My story of success is an anomaly.
I had no idea what I was doing at the beginning I should have never been successful. But I had the drive to make it work at all costs.
So I learned from the experts. I read books like “The Greatest Salesman in the World: By Og Mandino. And it showed me the way.
I decided to do it differently than everyone else but with the foundation of working concepts that propelled others to be successful.
When you are ready, take that leap of faith.
What are the essentials for starting this business and the estimated initial investment?
To start any business you must research the legal part of starting a business in your locale. Talk to an attorney and an accountant to delve into all the legal and financial aspects to start such as Corporation vs LLC vs Sole Proprietorship.
Will you work from home or rent a space. Website development and advertising. Creating a social media presence will grow as you have more business. Learn how to be the expert. But don’t fall into the same norms that others have.
Create your own world around you. By your authentic self but also create a new evolved persona that will lead others to see you and respect you.
It won’t happen overnight. It took me 20 years to achieve this level of success. I still have to go out every day and make it happen day after day to maintain my image.
The moment I stop, others will be there to take my thunder.
If your gut is telling you something, you should listen to it. Go where you are appreciated and valued and can make a difference.
Know Your Worth and cash in on it.
How have your public speaking and industry awards impacted your business?
Portraying myself as the expert has set me apart from my competitors. As I have said it makes me the go to person for advice and expertise and has given me the “fame” that makes me desirable.
I have also become somewhat of a TV celebrity. I am sought out to be on TV shows and the news. With my clout in the industry another focus is publicity to news and entertainment outlets.
W=I was the officiant for the most famous 90 day Fiance, a reality show called Spouse House, a guest spot on the Kelly Clarkson Show as she was obsessed with me.
We have been chosen to do many celebrity weddings like Brittany Spears. I current am on a new HULU show called The Prank Panel (episode 1) this and more can be seen on my As Seen on TV page.