Sunday, June 8, 2014

10 Tips For Turning a Party Planning Hobby Into a Business!

Well hello! It's been a while! (Have I said this before? It sounds eerily familiar...)

As some of you know I've recently graduated a program called Women's Economic Ventures in Santa Barbara, Ca. It was a 14 week intensive business class where the end result required turning in a business plan. After meeting with my WEV Mastermind group this week (we'll get to what a Mastermind is- no I haven't joined a cult) I realized something about getting this here blog post together. I was doing what I do best and playing the part of major perfectionist- not wanting to blog about what I've learned until I was sure EXACTLY what I wanted to convey. I've had so many people (particularly my fellow party planning mommas) ask me to share what I've learned that I was trying to find something down right profound to write!

Well- I can assure you profound isn't happening. While WEV taught me some awesome business practices that helped me get out of a major rut with Miss Party Mom- they are nothing break frame- just basic business disciplines my very much right-brained self formerly never cared to think about. In this post I've put together 10 (ok, I lied- 11) of my biggest take-aways from WEV. Some of you may say, "well duh!" to all 11, some of you may never have thought of any of them... And some of you may have 10 more things to add to my list! Whether you're starting your business or in the same similar rut I was, my hope is that this post may help you shape something in to being or help fix some things that aren't currently working.

"You have to give up on the life you have to get to the life that's waiting for you." -James Hillman

Although the class I just finished was for business owner's in general, I'm going to specifically zero in on my own industry of Party Planning. I know from experience that party planning is a vast industry with a lot of vagueness to it- which makes it down right hard to get properly started in. In 2012, when I launched MPM, I found myself getting lost with pricing, time management, financial organization, etc. Even a simple task like becoming an actual business was daunting to me. I am convinced I was so overwhelmed by the amount of things I needed to research and find answers to that I was paralyzed to do any of them. I'd talk a lot of talk about trying to figure out profitable pricing, accounting and market research but then I'd be so confused on how to "get there" that I'd just do things unprofessionally and pretty much be working for free... For years. I didn't know how not to work for free! Can anyone relate?!

Taking this leap to go back to school was my husband's strong encouragement that I look in to some business classes in order to run MPM as... wait for it, a business! Crazy thought. I stumbled upon WEV and the rest is history. I gained the knowledge and the confidence I really needed to move forward with Miss Party Mom Event Planning and now I'm excited to try this thang out in Santa Barbara. I just started passing business cards out and we'll see what happens next!

My expo booth at the WEV graduation this May...

Lastly, while I'm aiming this post at helping my fellow Party Planners- most of these ideas work across the board if you just tweak the language to your own industry. Here we go...

1) Get Organized With Your Business
We're going to start simple. a) Buy a notepad. b) Start making some lists. Make a daily list keeping it to less than 5 things (so you don't get overwhelmed) and a weekly list with bigger goals where you can aim to tackle one per week. While a notepad app is fine for this as well, I learned that most people get more out of physically crossing something off of a list... There's like research behind it and everything! Once you've finished with your list, toss it! If you don't get to something on the list for a few days in a row, consider moving it to the weekly list!

2) Do Your Market Research
Market research entails answering A LOT of questions that all start with, "Who is your target market?" Are you trying to be a budget, moderately priced or a high end party planner? What is the economic makeup of where you live? What is your competition charging? If you're living in a middle class area, can you honestly be profitable in this business? For me the answer was no! The town that I recently moved from couldn't grasp paying $1000.00 for a party- they just couldn't. As much as I wanted to do it, MPM wasn't a reasonable business to be running there- and continually doing $400.00 parties wasn't profitable for me- unless you consider $5.00 an hour profitable? When we moved to Santa Barbara I decided to restructure my pricing to a high end market, because I knew it was a possibility here. In the past 6 months I've been working on upgrading the overall "feel" of my business starting with easy things like printing my business cards on a shimmer stock, having my website overhauled to be more user friendly as well as my logo updated to give me the feel of a boutique-style children's party planner- the niche I'm desiring to be! I made the very hard decision to start wearing makeup to preschool drop-off- simply because I'm now trying to present myself as someone who throws high end parties... Not a sloppy last minute mom... My former (and closeted) self.

Figuring out who your clientele is will also help you in deciding where to put your advertising dollars. Obviously higher end planners would want to put their dollars in to private school yearbook ads and fundraiser booklets whereas a more budget planner might find clients simply through a Craiglist post. Go where your client is!

"The only people who never fail are the people who never try." 
-Ilka Chase

3) Get Your Logo Designed
There's a number of ways to go about doing this. If you don't have a friend or family member who can help with this (who's aesthetic you like) a place like Etsy has a plethora of talented graphic artists. There are also people who sell entire branding kits who you can pay to do everything from your logo, slogan, business cards, website and more, it really just depends on how much you want to invest upfront in the business. I personally had a talented friend design my logo as a trade for some design consulting- and after she was too busy to continue I hired another graphic designer to turn the logo in to marketing materials like postcards, business cards, etc. Make sure to stay consistent once you nail down your logo- you want one design to represent you so that your always recognizable.

4) Secure Your Domain Name and Social Media 
Go Daddy sells domains for under $15.00, as well as a bunch of other web hosts. So once you come up with your name- be safe and buy the .com asap! To give you an idea... I initially wanted to be "Party Mom" but the website wasn't available, so I brainstormed and came up with Miss Party Mom. Don't be shocked if the original name you want is taken- just get creative! Once you've got your domain, secure your social media names too- keeping everything as close to the same as possible. For instance, on Pinterest- I'm Miss Party Momma because that's all that was available, it's close enough and it works- just roll with it and do the best you can staying as consistent as you can.

5) Get a Business License
If you're trying to be a legit party planner, then be legit! I can't tell you exactly how long I postponed getting an actual business license because their might be a warrant out for my arrest if I do... But let's just say I took some sweet time. When I finally realized that it's a pretty important for a number of reasons including IT'S THE LAW, I got my business license and fictitious business name (DBA) filed within an hour for less than $100. I put it on my weekly list, figured out where I needed to go, got a babysitter and checked it off within the week, it was REALLY that simple.

6) Get a Business Checking Account
Once you have a fictitious business name, you can apply for a business account. Keeping your finances separate from your personal expenses is HUGE and probably my #1 biggest issue as a business owner. Along with a checking (and possibly savings account) you'll need to link it up to a PayPal Business so that you can pay for party stuff online (which, if you're like me- is where you make most of your purchases). Consider also getting merchant services set up to link to your business account in order to be able to receive payments in forms other than the way out-of-style check. On a side note- try and find free business banking, they're out there- trust me, just shop around!

7) Breaking Even and Profitability
How much money do the types of parties you wish to throw cost on average? AND how much profit do you need to make on these types of parties to feel accomplished and be profitable? You will probably only know these numbers after doing a couple of parties and seeing what the break even number is on them- meaning the amount of money you will need to make in order to cover the expenses of the party. Using something like an Excel spread sheet will help you keep track of your spending... And just remember if Miss Party Mom can learn Excel, so can you my friend- no excuses, I've burned through all of them. To really have a grasp on the break ever number you can keep close track of your own children's parties or consider doing a couple of pro bono parties for family or close friends. Once you know how much goes in to a party (remember things like gas, mileage, vendors, insurance, taxes, etc.)

While we're on the subject of money... How much is the business going to cost you to start up, ie: Start-up Costs? Would it be better to throw a few pro-bono parties in popular themes to gain inventory? Will you be borrowing from your personal finances? If yes, will you pay yourself back once you are up and running? Lots to consider when it comes to finances! Don't be like me and just try and ignore the money aspect as long as possible- it will catch up with you so you might as well address it early on! Meet with an accountant to help you get set up properly if you have to!

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." 
-Anais Nin

8) Pricing Your Work
Figuring out if you're a Product Based or Service Based business is important for pricing. Are you charging for your services (an hourly wage) or your product (for instance, say you sell a "Party in a Box")... OR both your Service and Product? I decided I would price myself as both and give my clients pricing options in 3 tiers (think Basic, Middle and All-Out). However, many other planners give their clients estimates using the Service Based pricing method, taking what their clients party desires are (let's say the cost to throw their party is an estimated $2000) and billing it all to the client, then tacking on their hourly rate estimating how many hours they think it will take to plan the party (and updating their client as they go). So something like this: an estimated 20 hours of party prep at $50.00 an hour = $1,000 estimated paycheck for the planner. This hourly rate will range according to where you live... In Santa Barbara the going rate is $75.00-$150.00 an hour! Wherever you are, it SHOULD NOT be minimum wage! Remember you are offering a service most people do not have the skill set or desire to do! Charge for that!

9) Learn To Sell Your Business
Here's the thing: YOU are your best sales person. I hate this concept because I HATE selling things. When I started out in this industry I had the mentality that my product would just sell itself because it was that good. Newsflash, it won't. Or if it does- it won't last forever. You need to get comfortable talking about your business whenever you can (without annoying people of course). This concept has been really hard for me, but I will say- the more you practice, the easier it gets. And don't EVER leave the house without business cards. Because when you do- you WILL meet that perfect client, it's like The Law of Bad Luck, I swear.

More so than just simply passing out a business card- come up with a little schpeale (referred to as an "Elevator Speech") about your business- 20 seconds max. One that you'd be able to recite quickly in an elevator if you had a chance to chat up a stranger. It should be a captivating statement that introduces your business; shares the most important details; and gets your audience excited to learn more. Here's mine as an example, "Miss Party Mom Event Planning specializes in custom, boutique-style children's birthday parties for busy parents who actually want to enjoy their child's big day!" I try not to repeat it verbatim every time because I don't want to sound like a robot but the frame work for what I'm trying to convey is there every time: custom, high end parties for busy working parents.

"An essential aspect to creativity is not being afraid to fail." 
-Edwin Land

10) Don't Be a Perfectionist
One thing I learned in WEV is that being a perfectionist is debilitating. It fools you in to thinking everything must be perfect or else it sucks. I've had this exact thought about launching my business, my blog, website, business cards- whatever it is- I always thought it must be perfect from the get-go and if it's not, it's not worth doing. I've held back on promoting my business in perfect opportunities because in my mind it was not "totally perfect" yet. Well I recently learned a phrase in WEV that said, "90% is good enough." Even just repeating it the first time my insides were screaming, "FALSE! I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS!". However, the more it was explained that if you're always aiming for perfection- you're never going to actually JUST DO IT (someone should make this a slogan or something...) the more it made sense because perfection is fleeting. Sometimes you've got to just get yourself out there and get better as you go. No one starts as perfect, even you Miss Party Mom!

"The most successful way to do it, is to do it." 
-Amelia Earhart

If you know me or have ever worked a party for me, you know that I am the biggest perfectionist that ever walked the planet- possibly some undiagnosed OCD, who knows!? I notice errors that no one should notice... And then I point them out to anyone who will listen. I'm hyper critical to say the least (don't I sound like a blast to work for?! I am). I used to think that in the party planning industry being a perfectionist was actually a great trait to have, but in actuality- if you plan on making party planning your business, you have to let some things go. For instance, spending copious amounts of time re-glittering something because you didn't like the way your intern did it: not time well spent- you've just lowered your hourly rate- a lot. As Queen Elsa said, "Let it goooo! Let it goooo! That mistake never bothered me anyway!" (Just lie, we know it did).

"Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It as nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop... a debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what your are creating and lose sight of the whole."
-Julia Cameron


11) Networking and Mastermind Groups
Networking is probably my least fave word everrrr. It pretty much makes my skill crawl. The thought of standing around and hearing about other people's businesses and then talking about how awesome of a party planner I am... Ya, I'd rather be typing numbers in to an Excel spreadsheet. However, if you want to tap in to some serious free advertising, you've got to network. Imagine you're a party planner who's just met a face painter- you exchange cards. Face painter gets a call from a client about hiring them for their child's party. Now imagine face painter says, "Great! Would you be interested in talking to a party planner to help you with your child's party? I know the perfect person!" OR try the reverse. Party planner signs a contract for a party, "Would you like to have a face painter at your son's party? I know a talented one who can paint faces to match this theme!" It's a win-win. You can attend networking events (Contacts N Coffee is a big one) to specifically meet other like-minded business owners or you can just be intentional about meeting as many people in your industry as you can and try building your network that way.

Masterminds are groups formed for business professionals who want to help each other accomplish goals- kind of like an accountability group for business people. It is a very structured and time sensitive meeting that meets once a week, every other week or once a month. It is not the type of group that starts talking about Andi's choices on The Bachelor this week... It serves the purpose of personal business growth and it should be focused and have a facilitator who keeps everyone on track for maximum results. I joined one with my fellow WEV graduates and I'm pumped to continue my growth as a newly found business women!

Me and my fellow WEV ladies, I'm so inspired by this bunch!

So there it is, my Top 11 Tips in a nut shell.... Maybe at one point I will delve further in to a few of these, but I've got my daughter's party to plan which is happening SOON! Follow me on IG to join the woodland critter fun!

I hope at least one of these basic business principles caused you to think about your business in a new way!

xo Party or Die xo

Ps- I'm reading the "EMyth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Succeed" and so far, I'm loving it.


  1. Congrats on the course. Some great tips- thank you for sharing Kenna! Sounds like the course was fun and very informative.

    1. Thank you and I appreciate you reading it!

  2. Great post! I will definitely be implementing these ideas.

  3. These are awesome tips. Thank you so much for sharing Kenna.

  4. A lot of great, informative information. Will be filing this away for a repeat reading. Loved the tips about being a perfectionist (raises hand).

  5. Great article. I can already cross some of those to-do's off my list because I've already done them. The other tips I need to stop talking about and actually do. I love the idea of a Mastermind and will put some serious thought into starting one when I return from a much needed vacation. I'll also be checking into that book you mentioned.

  6. Love this post...Thank-you for all the great tips!

  7. I came across your button on Itsy Belle's website and started scanning. First, noticed we're both in The Purple Pug giveaway! ;-) Second, this was your next blog entry....the EXACT reason why I was online. I was researching some contract agreement templates (looking back, have NO IDEA how that landed me to Christy's site! LOL) I am making all the first steps in making everything legit now, and this was so perfect to read! Thank you so much for posting and I am a new fan and follower! ;-)

  8. Turning your hobby into a business is a great start, because you know everything about it and enjoyed doing it. Plus, you already had the information you needed to start your business right, since you finished a course related to just that. All the tools are available to you -- now you can focus your attention more on the marketing side of your business. Good luck!

    Stephen Curley @ Web Development Goals

  9. Thanks for your tips! These can be really useful for people who plan to start a business, especially those who had no prior experience on the matter. Anyway, number 11 is definitely a winner. Widening your business network could help strengthen the business itself. Never miss an opportunity that could help your business thrive. All the best!

    Marta Terry @ Canyon Marketing

  10. You can make your party more interesting with good dressing sense. Keep boho series of Berserk bags with yourself and feel the difference in the party.

  11. awesome post presented by you..your writing style is fabulous and keep update with your blogs.
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