Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Right Brained Girl Learning to Make a Profit...

Shall we begin?

If you own a business, especially a party planning one- this post is going to make you feel like you're running it amazingly well. You're welcome for the that in advance.

You see... if I'm totally upfront and honest here- up until this month (September 2013), Miss Party Mom has been a huge hobby of mine. Yes, you read that right: hobby. Here I have all of these Facebook fans and all of my parties on the "big blogs"... What could you possibly mean a hobby, Kenna? I meeean- if I ever made any money doing any of this... I really have no clue about it. I've basically been doing it because I love it... and I'm good at it... and I needed a creative outlet... just like a hobby.

Why wouldn't I want to serve ice cream to a bunch of 10 year olds at an Ice Cream Party for $20.00 profit... Was it $20.00? Maybe it was $15.00...
Ahhhh... the ever popular  "Stylized Shoot". A great way to really piss the husband off- a party, "for NO ONE!" Try explaining that one.

Now don't get me wrong- I've had some crazy aspirations to take Miss Party Mom to the business level... but with no real "know how" on how to actually do this I've been pretty content with the way it's been going- the fun press and all (um, NBC called me?)... I was just kind of sitting back hoping for a break through of epic proportions, really...

I mean, you didn't really expect me to actually know how to make a profit too DID you?? What am I supposed to be like- well rounded or something? No, if you label me anything- label me: right brained. The maximum amount of right brained-ness ever given to one person: that is me. Still holds hands in to the L shape to turn left from time-to-time? Check! Gets lost in her own neighborhood? Check! Prefers digital clocks? Check!!!

And let me get one thing straight. Miss Party Mom wasn't started out of some life long goal to be a party planner. The truth is, it just sort of fell in my lap after planning parties for my kids. I only say that with such ease because there's no way to sound like a bragger when you don't have the profit to back you up (maybe I do, maybe I don't- who really knows?) And truthfully, booking parties did come naturally... People said they loved my work and wanted to hire me- and hello- why wouldn't I give the people what they want and for a great price? I love great prices! In the first year Miss Party Mom booked 6 "paid parties" which really quickly turned my hobby in to a: "job-hobby" (coined it!) which I've spoken candidly about in this post on "Affording a Party Planner". So without ever really writing down anything on how I would actually run my new said "job-hobby" I launched: Miss Party Mom. I focused my energies on possible "party themes", "set up ideas", a cute logo and a bitchin' website... Anything having to do with the owning/operating of a real business, I figured that would just kind of work itself out. Crazy how that doesn't really happen! I definitely never took the time to actually write up a business plan or install Excel... oh, come on... You really thought I'd done those things? That's funny. And you're crazy.

A lot of people (my husband being one) have been saying since I launched my job-hobby and declared my desire to be a party planner that I need to, "Buy some business books and read some business blogs!"... and um- well, I just haven't. Partly because I'm crazy stubborn like that and partly because I had no interest in actually creating a REAL business. A real business seems stressful and hello- I just want to party! Being a party planner is supposed to mean being one with the creative process- not learning a bunch of boring business stuff... If that were the case, don't you think I'd have been a business major?! And let's be honest... I don't really read- shocker! Ok- I'm not like, illiterate- I'm actually a rather good reader... but reading, well... it's just not my thang. I used to try and conquer like 2 books a year (self help books that is) but since having kids I can't even say I've really even read one in 4 years. I love reading blogs and flipping through magazines... but books? That takes some serious concentration... and I'd rather be getting burnt by the hot glue gun attaching a bunny to a jar and inhaling hot pink spray paint for the love of the PARTY. Duh!

So it was to my utter surprise and delight when I saw someone in my party planner forum recommend a business book written by an actual party planner (who's HUGE and I hadn't heard of- go figure). Just the title alone, "But Are You Making Any Money?" by Marley Majcher made me jump on Amazon as quickly as I possibly could. "Um, no Marley... I'm not!", is all that went through my head as I clicked "Buy Now". (Click on picture to purchase- AFTER finishing my blog of course!) I cracked it open the minute it arrived and I didn't put it down for pretty much 2 days. My son kept asking, "Why are you reading mom?" The poor little guy was down right confused.

And let me tell you- it is a GOOD thing I stumbled upon this book recommendation when I did. Unbeknownst to myself a week after finishing the book I was about to have my phone start ringing and for once it wasn't for play dates... but actually for parties, parties by yours truly by clients I am not even friends with. It was a busy week of quotes, contracts and meetings... For the first time I started to think to myself, "Well look at you... You're like turning in to a real business and stuff!"

Based on the book I started seriously tracking my time spent. I've never really wanted to do this time tracking stuff out of the fear that I'd calculate how much time I'd spent on a party from start to finish and realize I'd made $2.00 an hour (if I was lucky) Because the book was written in party planner language and easy for me to understand... I actually quite liked the idea of actually making money as well as figuring out where all of it was going. I immediately started tracking my time/expenses with a little divided up binder and you know what? It felt good to actually be in the know.

I rented out my first rental package and after everything was done: taking phone calls/ emails to arrange it, organizing it, cleaning it up, packing it up, writing up a contract and taking an inventory of about 100 items... I can confidently say I made $50.00 an hour on the time that went in to renting this package out. Eventually my goal is to make more money hourly, but the fact that I KNOW how much I made, that is a huge feat for me- and one I will celebrate... with Mint Chip Ice Cream, right now. Ok, I'm back. Before I'd have just said, "I rented it out- pure profit- happy dance!" because I've always been kind of a rounder upper like that... But now I am paying myself hourly based on my time on the project and if I feel the need to increase my rental package rate so I can make more hourly... well- then I can. No more blind guesses as to what and IF I'm making any profit.

Packed it up, shipped it out! Here's to new ways to make some money!
The same day I shipped out said rental package, I got a call to rent a bunch of props I own. I added a new tab to my binder, a new "code" to my project and there it was: time tracking galore by little ol' me. I had finally come to the place in my head where I said, "My time IS worth money!"

The next day, same week- I got a call on a Mermaid Party. I met with my client (and kept track of my time at our meeting.) Before heading over to the Dollar Tree to see how much mermaid stuff I could potentially hoard, I went home and collected every item that I could use for a Mermaid theme (which was shockingly a TON), drafted up a contract by estimating my time spent (based on my new knowledge of "Coding Your Way To Cash" that includes 4 ways we spend cash on a party- read the book) and sent over a contract to be signed where I felt comfortable with the numbers and the profit. Usually I get so excited about a party theme my first thought is to purchase items which is then quickly followed by pouring time in to things like: good ol' bedazzling. Suddenly I was thinking about jewels in a new light, "How much am I spending on those?!"  and instead of jumping in to the Mermaid Party with both feet and putting my entire life on hold so I can plan a stranger's party- I have now estimated the time I should spend on said party- based on how much I'm charging so that I'm making the hourly rate I'd like to make... SO that I am running a business and not a hobby. This will be my first go at going through the steps I've learned with an actual party, so I'm not saying I'm a boss yet- but who knows... I'm optimistic.

And it seems like magically, the more I've started treating Miss Party Mom like a business... the more calls I've been getting... call it luck, call it exposure coming to fruition- I have no clue really- you don't expect me to know THAT too, do you? But this month (since the day I got back from Cabo) has given me more shots at making a profit than ever before.

As it this wasn't all exciting enough... I got an email last week... and there's a story with this email... It's a little off topic but this story goes to show you some life lessons about random friendships, networking and why pen pals are supes important...Plus, it ties in another reason I'm so busy this month.

If you know "my story" you know that I worked at Mattel Toys as a Barbie Doll Designer for over 5 years. The reason I got that gig was because they found me mentioned in a small article in Seventeen Magazine about a 'zine I'd created. {'Zine: blogging before blogging... So essentially I was the first blogger, like ever- thankyouverymuch} Anyhow- I took the popularity from the my 'zines publicity and made it in to a monthly "publication" (b/w copies) and in doing so had over 100 subscribers at one point. I was a regular ol' 17 year old magazine editor. One of my subscribers was a cute and zesty 14 year old New Yorker named Jamie Stone. She wrote to me with her check for a years subscription ($12). She introduced herself in a letter and from there on out we became... wait for it: pen pals... Just the thought of those two little words conjures up excitement, stickers, magazine collages... and of course, hand-cramps. Because hello, this was 1997 and I am from the hood and we didn't even know what the internet was... so of course we wrote letters back and forth, about once a month- for years. Jamie was 3 years younger and when you're in High School, 3 years might as well be 30 years... but she was sweet, encouraging and would always write to me about her aspirations to be in the fashion industry, something we both had in common.

Fast forward to 2001. I had just started working for Mattel and one of my first "Trend Trips" was to NYC. Obviously, after 4 years of writing, I asked Jamie if we could meet up so she obviously took the train in to the city, ditching high school to make it happen.... like any good pen pal would! It was our first time meeting and she showed me around we hit it off, just as we assumed we would.

I asked her for permission to use this photo due to the whole denim on denim issue... She's all about embracing the awkward years! If you look at her style now, of course she can laugh at some bad denim choices made in the early 2000's- can't we all?!
In May of 2002 Jamie was a freshman in college and had planned a trip to see LA for the first time. Coincidentally, I was throwing one of my first big parties during her trip, a "Farewell Felicity" party- complete with screen printed tees, a candle light vigil, an "Ode to Felicity Poem" and lots and lots of pics of Keri Russel... I was just slightly obsessed with the show... just slightly. I showed her around town (she LOVED Los Angeles) and she came to the party which was held at my cute little apartment in Hermosa Beach... I remember her clearly telling me she wanted to be a fashion writer or a magazine editor.

Dorm room door circa 1999... just SLIGHTLY obsessed.
And then... Jamie and I lost touch. I have no idea why or how... I was busy building my Barbie career and she was busy being a college student... But life got in the way and we totally lost touch.

Until a month ago! I was just doing my normal Insta-trolling... and saw a cute pic posted by an acquaintance of mine who's a fashion blogger (@bjonestyle). She posted a picture of herself at a shopping event in Los Angeles surrounded by a bunch of other cute fashion/beauty bloggers. I studied the pic wondering how all of them got so stylish... And then I zoned in on one girl... I stared at her for a few seconds and then yelled, "It's Jamie Stone!!". I quickly searched for her tag and sure enough, @itsjamiestone was staring right back at me. I went to her Instagram, found the first pic I could and commented, "It's Kenna O'Leary!!"... she responded 5 minutes later and it's been one big catch-up sesh ever since. I learned she's running a beauty blogging empire over at Queen of The Quarter Life Crisis and that we still have plenty in common... even if I am in full time Mom-mode most of my days.

Fast forward again. Jamie gets asked to help coordinate the launch of a new social media shopping website called WISHCLOUDS. And who does she call on? Miss Party Mom! Because life long pen pal networking tends to pay off I guess!

Now I don't want to say too much else about what I'm doing for WISHCLOUDS just because I don't want to jinx this gig... but let's just say, this could be my epic proportions break through... that's all for now!

Hoping to share more with you on this party happening in two weeks (is anyone stressed?) BUT until then... I'm going to be a little busier than usual. As much as I love my blog- time tracking has also taught me that blogging is a huge time sucker... a low paying time sucker. I will never desert my blog, but you must be patient with me as I try and build what I started off to do: plan parties while being a mom.

xo Party or Die xo


  1. Loving this! I'm gonna have to buy that book.

  2. oh my gosh, i NEED to get this book. everyone knows the reason annie rexic failed was because i didnt treat it enough like a job, and that is NOT happening with poverty luxe...

  3. That is so awesome! I need to check out that book.

  4. Ha! I'm 90% sure that the denim jacket belonged to my DAD. He probably thought it was a good thing that it matched my capris. Oy.

  5. Congratulations on your business growth and all of the exciting opportunities coming your way! Good for you for figuring out how to actually make money at it. Thanks for sharing all of this. Best of everything!

  6. Crazy story about Jamie!!! love that you're working through making money - you work so hard, you deserve it! Looking forward to seeing what's next. :)


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