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/ February 26, 2014
A Conversation With Rent a Gent’s CEO On Hanging With Talented, Beautiful Men

There’s a guy who exists who could easily impress your boss with his Ivy League education just as easily as he could allure your friends at a bachelorette party with his rock-hard abs and killer dance moves. Rent a Gent, an entertainment service created for women by women, lets you “rent” these types of men for dates, for entertainment, and even for teaching you a new skill (karate, anyone?).

Launched last November and based out of New York City with services in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Washington D.C., Rent A Gent boasts an exclusive, curated assortment of sexy, smart, and sophisticated men who are perfect to be your next plus-one for virtually any occasion. Women may browse through the selection of men online offering their talents (at a $200/hour rate) to find the right match. We sat down with Sara Shikhman, CEO and co-founder of Rent a Gent to discuss her company, her gorgeous selection of men, and how her business is revolutionizing dating for women.

NYU Local: What prompted you to create Rent a Gent? It seems to be a very novel idea that’s much needed in New York City.

Sara Shikhman: It was actually two things. One was I went to a bunch of bachelorette parties, and they were boring! The guy that showed up was not the guy we ordered in the picture, and at that point we couldn’t really turn him away so we got entertained by an oily, hairy guy. Five minutes later, we just wanted him to leave. The other experience was that an ex-boyfriend of mine was having a birthday party, and I wanted to go, but I wanted to bring someone really hot, and I didn’t really have anyone I could call at the very last minute that was hot enough. I thought, “Wait, there has to be a service for this.” So I googled around, and I couldn’t find anything.  So, I wanted to offer a new entertainment option for successful and confident women. You can go bowling, you can go to the movies, or you can Rent a Gent.

Can you briefly summarize the services the men offer?

The services offered range from putting together your Ikea furniture to writing a poem for you to singing for you to accompanying you to a charity event…even to teaching you how to do breakdancing or karate. They can even be your personal trainer. There’s a wide range just depending on the guy’s talent. What combines it all is that all the guys are good-looking, very charming in person, and have at least one talent.

What’s your most popular request? Are bachelorette parties a focus?

Bachelorette parties are our second-most popular request, actually. Our number one is one-on-one dates. So if someone’s trying to make somebody jealous or wants to make a good impression on a colleague or a boss, it’s common they’ll request a one-on-one date. Usually the request is made the day before. Like on Mondays, someone will request a guy for 7 o’clock the next night — and that’s it. It’s super easy to book.

You have descriptions of guys like “Wolf of Wall Street” and a “Karate Expert” as well as a variety of other exclusive services. What would you deem your most exclusive service?

There’s the breakdancing stripper — what he does is he breakdances to “Hava Nagila,” and as he breakdances he also takes off his clothes. He teaches everyone in the room how to breakdance a little. Then we have Eric, a movie director who is a really beautiful, handsome man, and he just goes on dates. He’s never had a bad date experience. Every client is like, “Wow, where did Eric come from? He’s amazing.” He’s able to create a feeling of passion and attraction with almost every person because he loves women, and he wants to make women happy.

How did your selection process initially work, and how did it transform as popularity grew?

At first we posted on all the acting and modeling websites. We said, “Hey, we have this new service, you’re going to make a lot of money — do you want to do it?” And at first we got a few applicants a day, and it wasn’t anything big. As people started to hear about it, we started getting thousands of applicants, and we’ve met with over 200 people, and out of them we have selected only 20. We have people from Canada, from the Netherlands, from places where we don’t even do services yet, asking to be on the website. We basically said, “Hey, it’s a nonsexual service. You can look me up on Google, I’m putting my reputation on the line.” So people look it up and feel confident because they know based on my experience and who I am that it’s not going to be some crazy thing.

Can you describe your ideal Rent A Gent guy? Is there any specific quality that helps him be marketable?

One: the guy has to be even better in person than he is in the picture. Two: the guy is able to entertain a group of women and make them feel amazing. Three: he has a great education and passions and interests that would be entertaining to a woman. Probably most important is that he loves women: he’s not doing it for the money, but he’s doing it because he really, truly cares and wants to make women happy.

Would the men be doing this on the side, or is it a full-time commitment?

Actually, all of them are doing it on the side. They all have full-time jobs — whether it’s in finance, in a restaurant, or they’re acting in a movie — and then they have their Rent A Gent appointments in the evening. So they finish their day job, and they literally become a different person.

How is your company revolutionizing New York City dating?

I think it puts the power in the women’s hands. You have women who are more educated and making more money than men, and they want to be in complete control of their dating. And here, your happiness at the end of the night is not going to be a question. It’s guaranteed. At the end of the night, you will have a great time or you’ll get your money back. But we’ve never had one client who wasn’t happy. It’s completely by women’s rules and completely in the women’s control; the guy isn’t going to try anything sleazy. All the guys are truly in the top 1%: they’re the kind of guys that if you walk into a bar in the Lower East Side that you will not meet.

It’s the best time to be a woman. Women are more and more powerful, and we have more options than we’ve ever had. My mother or my grandmother would never be able to do this — they wouldn’t even have had the option. So we as women have to explore more and live more, and I think through opportunities like Rent a Gent the dating scene can reflect our progress.

NYU is known for its 60:40 female-to-male ratio, so there are a lot of assumptions about a difficult dating scene. Do you have any advice for dating in NYC?

My advice would be not to keep yourself closed and to try different things. You can meet people in the most unlikely ways and places. Don’t say to yourself, “Okay, if a guy doesn’t have blond hair, and if he didn’t go to Harvard, then I can’t date him.” Just be a little more open-minded and try nontraditional things. You may be the first of your friends to try something new, and maybe everyone will tell you that you’re crazy, but you’ll be happy. I’d rather be called crazy and be happy than make everyone else happy and be unhappy myself.

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