Time: A warm spring night. Place: A sculptural room packed with models, artists, real estate developers, and everyone in between. Certainly, the place to be in NYC that night.
Celebrating the launch of a jewelry line and a new boutique apartment building, I was dancing to unexpected cut of a Kornel Kovacs song. Grooving easy, I leaned over to a friend and asked,
“This is incredible, who’s the DJ?”
An enthusiastic response: “It’s Hannah Bronfman”.
Skip ahead a few months and I’m chatting with Hannah herself by phone. She’s simultaneously energetic and totally focused, despite being on a Greek holiday with her family. It’s hard to characterize Bronfman as any sort of ‘party girl’ in this setting, proof she’s the essence of millennial thought. Rather than pick her brain about the songs she likes or the people she’s met, I went deeper into a space that young people sometimes don’t feel confident discussing or don’t know how to discuss: growing up.
No mention of ‘adulting fail’ or ‘the struggle is real’, Bronfman embodies the confidence millennials crave. She’s a serial entrepreneur who seems to capture the interest of an audience through her own passion for a subject. Take, for an easy example, her DJ career, which started over 10 years ago out of a love for music. Now consider Hannah today, who’s turned her bathroom kit into a trendsetting conversation piece. I asked what her travel essentials were: “It must be my toiletries. Like, I have a full separation anxiety for my bathroom. It doesn’t matter where the f– I’m going – whether it’s like, Alaska or the Hamptons, I bring my entire bathroom with me.” Clearly for Bronfman, tapping into a passion like beauty from a business point-of-view only makes sense and paired with passions for fitness and wellness, the three-year old HBFIT has become Bronfman’s playground.
Originating as a hashtag for Instagram, HBFIT quickly developed into a robust site that, like using a cabinet full of beauty products, revolves around experimentation. The wellness space isn’t a vacuum- it’s a crowded and challenging place to be a content creator. Competing with long established resources like Women’s Health and the more recent Goop, HBFIT differentiates itself by way of medium (newsletters and webpages) and its remarkably fast turnaround: “We’re kind of adapting with the times right now. I mean, before we were traditionally a content website where we were producing about 40 pieces of content a month for our dot-com, and just as lean startups do, evaluating what’s working, what’s not working.”
Moreover, HBFIT’s most compelling asset involves collaborations: “We’ve got a really fun collaboration coming out in early September with an organic juice company located in Brooklyn. We’ve done three different smoothie blends with them and three different granolas and three different bars that will be able to be sold nationwide. We’re really excited about that because, for us, it’s really just about adapting with our community.” There’s little more exciting-and rare- than seeing the tangible stuff from a website you love.
Bronfman went even further: “We’re doing tons more video content because I think that’s where people really are spending time, and we see it in our audience. I mean, they love it. We obviously are trying to bring really smart, funny, new ways of doing video that other people in our same space are not doing.” Covering her bases like this gives a well-rounded offering to consumers and sends a clear message to competition: try us.
Video isn’t an unusual medium for Bronfman, who’s been working with POPSUGAR on “Hannahgram”, focusing on pop culture and wellness trends. But with HBFIT, it’s personal: “It’s also great ’cause it gives me a chance to get a little bit more comfortable on camera”.
If millennials are fed any advice, it tends to run along the lines of ‘don’t be afraid of failure’. It’s a favorite tip from the Steve Jobs’ and “Lean In” types of the world, but it doesn’t ever explain how to stop failing in the first place. For Bronfman, the answer seems to be a place of purpose. She spoke concisely when asked about where HBFIT might be going: “I don’t want to just start something to start something.” HBFIT proves that something can be infinitely adaptable so long as it’s true to its purpose. Another favorite line of successful people is to be in love with your product. When asked about her most cherished piece of advice, it came from her father: “Don’t fall in love with your business. Don’t romanticize your business.” If this translates to anything for Bronfman, it’s that staying on your toes is key. As for the average millennial, think about what you love. Even if it’s a three-in-the-morning obsession. Let it happen. Bronfman’s optimism around business -and her tendency to make her personal obsessions into full-blown enterprises- is inspiring and a key element to how she functions.
The twenty-nine-year-old recently married DJ Brendan Fallis in Morocco and has been thinking about maturity and success in new ways. Throughout our conversation, it became clear Hannah is sensitive toward her husband but has no interest in ditching her interests and passions in exchange for filling some sort of typical wife role.
“As I start to think about what it means to expand my family and all that stuff…” Hannah comfortably tosses “expand my family” with “all that stuff”, inexplicably maintaining her easy-going energy even around subjects that terrify many young people.Those young people have a very real gripe: the concern that “expanding my family” means letting go of all self-interests; all of one’s individual passions and curiosities. Bronfman has an answer: “…I’m trying to evolve my business in a way that also doesn’t lend itself to me having to show up everywhere.” That means preserving her love for beauty and fitness and travel, but reimagining what remains a constant in her life.
Here Bronfman reveals a method to the madness: her personal demand for constants in life. Bronfman has grown immune to endlessly-evolving circumstances, but she looks forward to moments of peace. She thinks of an ideal reality: “For me, what I’d like to really keep as a constant is two nights in a week, cooking dinner in my own kitchen. As much as I am a very social person, I love going out, I love seeing people, I love networking and conversing, and definitely being aware of things going down, but I don’t think it’s a sustainable lifestyle for an early mom. Do you know what I mean?” It made good sense and it is a disciplined and concise demonstration of this fact: Growing up means altering the constants in life. For HBFIT, the constant is making great content. The variable is which medium works best.
Another one of Bronfman’s interests is food. Not only involved in the futuristic Seed Street (working to offer equal access to fresh, healthy, and local food by transforming freight containers into highly efficient hydroponic farms), she cooks at home for friends and family.
When asked about her favorite dishes to prepare, she mentions Ina Garten’s go-to, braised chicken. “Braised chicken with olives and lemon. It’s kind of like a little Israeli-inspired. I can put so much chicken in a pot and just pour the liquid on and braise the thing. It’s never overcooked. It’s always tender and juicy.”
I asked where she gets her inspiration for food. Remarkably, Bronfman was raised a vegetarian, not eating meat until 18 years old. For her, it wasn’t about health: “I felt like I had been deprived of all of these experiences within the food world.” Turns out Bronfman follows about five-hundred foodie accounts on Instagram and, using Instagram’s “save” feature, keeps track of her favorite dishes in an ad-hoc bookmarking approach. She puts her own spin on the recipes found on blogs and webpages, admitting that she’s got a well-developed palate. “If there’s a recipe that inspires, it’s really about me trying to create the flavor profile on my own.” Later, she lets slip a true talent: “I can taste things and know what the combinations [of ingredients] should be without having to look.”
From DJing to cooking, it becomes clear that Bronfman enjoys creating environments in some way. This includes her travel. We put it in terms of constants and adaptability, but in reality, it’s an interest for perfection in the partially-planned: “It leaves those open pockets for the exploration while also having [set plans]. But, those are things that I’m obsessed with doing. If I could be, in another life, like a travel planner, I totally would have. I just love knowing about different cultures, special places, places off the beaten path, amazing restaurants. If I could know the chef at every place, I would, you know?”
We wrap up the chat with some tips on hotel exercising: “You can also put bands around your arms and do tricep stuff. You can even do some dead-lifts with bands. You can get really creative with bands. I’m just looking for something to make my butt be a little sore, then I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m over it.’ Like, I’m not sweating but I feel the muscles.”
For Bronfman, she doesn’t see herself as being very different: “Maybe quintessential millennialism: that you gotta go with the flow but you also know what needs to get done.” But her principled handle on life and purpose (as ever-shifting as it is) seems rare and worthy of a second glance. In some ways, she is a typical millennial: totally aware of the passage of time, maybe even obsessed with it. But she’s also keenly aware of her dynamic nature, and that something she can never change, nor wants to. Bronfman proves you can have the best of both worlds: a life-well lived that doesn’t have to end with getting married or getting a job. Work doesn’t have to be a drag and “me time” is a fair to-do list item.
During the phone call, Hannah mentioned, “I’ve been DJing now for 10 years, I’m not in love with it anymore.” She back tracked slightly soon after saying that, but I knew what she meant. I think back to the party, which took place only months ago. Seeing her spin the set that night, I would have never guessed she was not totally loving it. But more importantly, Hannah proves there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either. She also mentioned a desire to be a travel planner in another life. For the vibrant Hannah Bronfman, that next life might start next week.
Photo Credit: Masha Maltsava