Everyone loves a party -- especially children. Children's party planners
keep the fun happening with carefully planned activities, entertainment and,
of course, cake.
Party Planning Particulars
Since Nancy Wachs has two young sons, she specifically wanted to develop
a business that could be run from home. She now operates a website called
Kids Parties Connection, which provides listings of children's birthday party
places and entertainers. Parents can then contact the party place or entertainer
directly to receive further information or to make arrangements.
"You find yourself being a jack of all trades, whether it be marketing,
finance or strategic planning for the future," says Wachs of running her own
business. She spends time each day on e-mail correspondence and researching
new products to sell in the gift shopper section. Her background includes
a master's of business administration and previous work with computers and
finance at an apparel firm.
Laurie Wrigley wanted a business that, unlike her previous consulting work,
would allow her to tailor her schedule to her three children. Her background
includes a business degree and technical writing experience.
"I hit upon the Birthday in a Box idea while sitting at a chaotic party
at a 'fun center,'" she says. "I thought that there had to be an easier way
for parents to bring back the home birthday party."
Birthday in a Box offers complete children's party kits. Nearly 80 percent
of her customers come from the website.
This type of service appealed to her because it allows her to combine her
business and creative sides while doing something child-related. She put together
a sample box and tested it on moms from her children's playgroup. She spent
the next six months setting up the company, including choosing themes and
Wrigley works about 50 to 60 hours a week, and has two partners that put
in similar hours. "I usually work for an hour at my home computer before my
children wake up, and then work while they are at school, and again after
they go to bed," she says. She spends her days placing marketing calls, assisting
with invoicing, answering e-mails, and working on the website itself.
Wrigley points out that "the hours can be long and the struggle to keep
up with products that are discontinued from manufacturers or problems with
manufacturer back-orders can be frustrating." But overall, she finds the business
"Because we are constantly reassessing our themes and elements of each
theme, speaking with new customers and creating new designs, the business
remains interesting," she says. And she enjoys working with families around
the world -- "it's great to provide a needed service."
Party Planning Profits
"One of the benefits of creating your own website," says Wachs, "is that
the initial capital exposure is limited." Kids Parties Connection earns its
income from advertising and from e-commerce. Gifts such as toys, books, and
software can be purchased through the site's personal gift shopper, which
suggests presents for a child's upcoming birthday. "This is a growing area
of our site," says Wachs.
According to Wrigley, it took nearly three years for Birthday in a Box
to turn a significant profit. They are now billing between $20,000 and $30,000
per month, and the company has expanded to three part-time employees and three
Advice for Potential Party Planners
Wachs advises researching the business before beginning and devising a
plan. "Expect the specifics of this plan to change as time goes on," she says,
"but you should have an overall view of the business, with your goals and
Wrigley says, "I should mention that I would have never been able to succeed
if I did not have a supportive husband. He was supportive in investing and
also in our daily lives."
Birthday in a Box uses 40 different vendors to supply merchandise, and
significant cash outlay is required to maintain inventory levels. "Each vendor
has different minimum order requirements and shipping lead times," says Wrigley.
"Coordinating these elements is essential to success."
And good press certainly helps. "We have also been fortunate to receive
two parenting awards and have been included in articles in national children's
magazines," says Wrigley. And don't underestimate the value of a happy customer.
Although the majority of their business comes from the website, significant
repeat and referral business have contributed to their success.
Birthday in a Box
Offers complete party kits
Kids Parties Connection
Includes a free birthday reminder service, a present finder service