Nicola Kay was disillusioned with her corporate job and was looking instead to become her own boss. She then stumbled on the idea for a curated children’s party business and started Elite Teepees https://www.eliteteepees.com/, which creates unique sleepover experiences for families.
Read Nicola’s story and her entrepreneurial journey with Elite Teepees, which she is now offering as a business opportunity to others who want to start and own a business from home.
What is Elite Tepees?
Elite Teepees creates exquisite luxury sleepover experiences in your own home. It was formed to recreate the essence of childhood, where the magic of friendships happen, bonds grow tighter and life-long memories are formed.
Our aim is to revolutionize the humble sleepover into something that is beautiful, comfortable, safe and magical. Making dreams come true is our mission.
The service is designed to be hassle-free for the party host: Elite Teepees sets up your chosen sleepover collection on the day of your party, then returns the next day to pack it all away. In other words; we bring the magic, you make the memories!
Each person has their own handcrafted Teepee – a personal luxury cocoon to dream in. Each handcrafted teepee starts with an exquisite fabric selection and features a full-size mattress, sumptuous European duvet and bed linen, sleeping pillow, soft handcrafted decorative pillows, fur rugs, bed tray, night light, and sleep masks. Then we add fairy lights, name plaques, party favors and a large sprinkling of magic. All the sleepover guests need to bring is their PJs, toothbrush, and a sense of adventure!
What inspired you to start this business?
Prior to starting Elite Teepees in February 2019, I enjoyed a successful career in the corporate consulting world, spanning 5 continents. I worked for my last firm for 16 years across New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore, before being transferred from New Zealand to the U.S in 2013.
Working in the U.S. was a real eye-opener for me – and suffice it to say that I became disillusioned with the practices of “Corporate America,” specifically the way that people are fired ‘at will’ and forced back into the workforce without any health benefits. I made it a personal mission to try to help those who, frequently through no fault of their own, find themselves in such a position. First, I had to prove that anyone, with the right mindset, can build their own business, earn a decent living, contribute to their community and take control of their own destiny. And have fun along the way!
The challenge was finding the right business. Then, a friend sent me an article about a new phenomenon in Australia – a curated sleepover business. It ticked all my boxes – I could build a business for women everywhere to replicate and earn a good full or part-time income; and it’s fun, flexible, rewarding work.
What are the biggest challenges you faced in starting this business?
Since leaving the comfort of the corporate world, I’ve had to transform my whole being to be able to succeed. At times, I would have given my right arm to have my old Marketing Team, IT Helpdesk, Finance Team and Executive Assistant at my beck and call. However, learning new skills has been both exhilarating and empowering.
The best advice I give anyone who is considering business ownership is to take advantage of the incredible services provided (often at no cost) across the nation by the S.B.A. (U.S. Small Business Administration).
The financial impact of starting a business has been much greater than expected. By far the biggest financial challenge has been marketing the business. It’s true when they say, “just because you build it, doesn’t mean that they will come.” I spent time and money on advertising and direct mail, then expected the phones to start ringing – they didn’t! In hindsight, the fact that it took 2 years to get my green card was fortuitous, as it enabled me to save my corporate salary which has given me the luxury of time to figure everything out.
And I have definitely made mistakes along the way, particularly when it comes to product sourcing. As well as designing several prototype teepees to create the perfect Elite Teepee, sometimes it’s the littlest of things that take time and cost, like finding an effective way to secure twinkling lights onto the teepee frame, or rubber feet for the frames to protect a client’s floors.
What are the best marketing strategies you have used so far?
Without doubt referrals from my clients are like pure gold dust. I’ve also been really fortunate to have been featured in a number of local publications and have been invited twice to be featured on TV.
As part of my give-back program, I’ve focused on local schools by donating Elite Teepees sleepover experiences to help them raise funds. As well as the feel-good factor of contributing to your community, this has brought great exposure and client referrals.
Investing in social media is essential for my business, and I fiercely protect my Instagram and Facebook accounts to ensure that they are flawless.
How are you balancing your business with your personal life?
That’s actually been really straight forward. I’ve always had an incredible work ethic and love being able to create a positive impact on everything I do. My husband is my “rock “– he built the beautiful teepee frames for me and assists with the setting up and packing down of the sleepover experiences. In my corporate life, I spent a lot of time traveling and was frequently away from my husband, sometimes for months at a time. So now we spend more time together than ever before in our 24-year history – and it’s been a true blessing.
What are the top lessons you have learned so far as an entrepreneur?
Courage, discipline, fortitude, and integrity are all vital. As is patience – but it would be fair to say that this is a work in progress! I like with many quotes from Richard Branson, and this one truly resonates: “ There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.”
My vision for Elite Teepees has always been to set the standard for exclusive sleepover experiences and to create a replicable model to empower others to reap the benefits of business ownership. I’m very fortunate to have rekindled my passion for sewing, and truly believe that this type of experience business should be in every corner of America, if not the world! The ability to bring pure beautiful joy into people’s lives is a rare gift.
How do you envision the business 5 years from now?
In 5 years I dream that there will be many successful Elite Teepees businesses – each one, with owners who have taken the concept and turned it into something even more magical. This, in my opinion, is one of the benefits of licensing my business which firmly puts full control in the hands of the new business owner. The ability to add revenue streams to their Elite Teepees business is limited only by their imagination: from family sleepovers to beach teepees, to corporate team building, to kids corners at weddings, to complementary services, etc. etc.
What made you decide to license and offer Elite Tepees as a business opportunity?
As you can see there’s a common thread in all my responses; my personal mission and ensuing vision for Elite Teepees has been to create an alternative employment opportunity, particularly for women. To empower them to be the best version of themselves while providing a model that offers them the opportunity to balance the demands of home-life, family, career, community, and own-time.
I have purposely kept the business opportunity license price really low (a fraction of the cost of a franchise, and without the controls ) so that it is accessible to all, and ensures that new business owners are making all their own decisions about their business.
How can moms and women entrepreneurs join and buy into this business opportunity?
All the information is on my website here: https://www.eliteteepees.com/jointhetribe. There is a one-time fee of $995 for the educational investment which provides new owners:
- A comprehensive Quick Start Guide to help them set up their own Elite Teepees business
- Use of the Elite Teepees trademarked name, logo and other intellectual property
- A listing on the Elite Teepees corporate website so that people can find their business in their area
There is also a license renewal fee of $600, which is payable annually for the continued use of the Elite Teepees trademarked name etc., and the business listing on the corporate website.
We recommend opening an Elite Teepees business with 3 full collections – each consisting of 6 teepee frames and 9 themed teepee covers and all the accessories. If you make the frames and create the majority of soft furnishings yourself, we estimate that this will cost between $2000 and $2500 per collection.
In many parts of the country, you should be able to cover the costs of opening a business for around $2500, keeping the initial investment required under $10k. The cost maybe a couple of thousand dollars more in coastal areas to pay for website development, marketing materials, legal fees, etc.
Why is the industry of children parties a good business for small businesses?
Industry analysts estimate that spending on children’s birthday parties is the largest consumer category with Americans spending over $38B on birthday parties every year. This growth has been sustained during periods of major swings in national and local economies. It’s no surprise that parents continue to seek out higher value and differentiated options for their kids’ birthday parties, each and every year. There are more than 72 million children in the U.S. today and this number is projected to reach 80 million by 2050. Luxury sleepovers are a fast-growing global birthday party trend. A trend that is already exploding in Australia, New Zealand the UK. Although this type and style of luxury sleepover experience in new to the U.S. it is expected to grow very rapidly. So now is the time to get in at the ground level.
There are many benefits of an Elite Teepees sleepover business. Kids get to make bonds and strengthen relationships and they learn vital life skills such as: adapting to different social boundaries, building independence self-esteem. The face-to-face interaction at a sleepover helps to develop empathy and compassion – competencies which in today’s age of technology, many fears are lacking. And importantly, sleepovers with friends are fun!
Parents love Elite Teepees for peace of mind, knowing that their kids are safe. Listening to kids chat and giggle is one of the greatest pleasures of being a parent, and knowing that they are providing a unique experience for their kids, makes it extra special. Elite Teepees is a full-service provider which means that the whole experience is hassle-free for the party thrower. Finally, an Elite teepees experience can boost social identity. As the first generation to come of age in the world of social media, there’s no doubt that millennials, who currently make up 90% of all new parents, are extremely identity conscious.
Elite Teepees lends itself perfectly to a small business as each sleepover in delivered and set up in person. As a business owner, you become an integral part of the community you serve.
What advice can you give other entrepreneurs?
I remember when I first started Elite Teepees – I had no clue where to even begin! The Quick Start Guide for licensees documents my entrepreneurship journey – it is designed to be a thorough, practical aid to help people get up and running as quickly as possible and avoid many of the trials and tribulations I experienced along the way.
In a nutshell, my top tips would be:
- Start with a vision, then take action. Don’t procrastinate – get started!
- Focus on creating a business with a solid foundation, setting up your business properly, with the systems and tools for success is critical.
- Never settle for second best. (With a healthy dose of pragmatism!) You are the product of your business and you should be proud of what you do.
- It’s far too easy to get caught up in your business rather than working on your business. Schedule time to reflect and prioritize.
- Women typically lack confidence in their ability to please everybody all of the time. The fact is, unfortunately, you can’t. Remember that this is your life, your choice.