People love to celebrate special occasions, whether big or small. However, planning parties are not easy and are often fraught with sleepless nights and logistical nightmares. It takes loads of creativity, close attention to details and mastery of logistics to pull off a successful party. For many, it makes sense to hire a professional party and event planner.
Patricia May Gonzalez runs a successful party planning business based in the Philippines. Her company The Party People https://www.facebook.com/thepartypeopleph does planning and decorations for birthday parties for the young and old, weddings, debut (coming-of-age) parties, and other celebrations. A trained economist and writer, Patty discovered her knack for creating festive party decor and setup when she organized her son’s birthday party.
Here is our interview with Patty on how to successfully start and run a party planning business:
Can you tell us about The Party People? What services do you currently offer?
The Party People (TPP) offers party styling services and candy buffet packages at very reasonable prices. We could also arrange for certain party-related services and suppliers as the client may require. TPP’s simple approach to styling is maintained on the premise that stylish parties need not be over-the-top nor expensive. Thus, we are fond of using inexpensive materials in executing our designs and usually engage in DIY projects which after all lend a rather heart-warming aesthetic to our parties.
How and why did you start your business?
In mid-2012, I decided to plan and style my son, Torch’s, first birthday party which was to happen in November that year. At that time, I did not know what was on trend in party planning but I knew that I was creative enough to make my son’s party unique, special and most of all, reflective of my own brand of party planning. The party was a success and the experience triggered my interest in doing party planning professionally.
In January 2013, after inviting my nephew and two other friends to join my team, TPP was born. Initially, we envisioned TPP to be a party planning group and plotted a business plan accordingly. However, in 2015, I decided to concentrate on party styling (with some assistance in party planning) as this seemed what I enjoyed doing the most.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in running a party planning business?
The first challenge was actually building a portfolio to market TPP to prospective clients. We initially had to do mock-up parties just to showcase our skills and talents in party styling. Luckily now, after having done more than a hundred parties, we already have a solid portfolio. But the task of coming up with new designs and fresh styling treatments remains our biggest challenge. And, balancing the business and creative sides of running TPP could be a problem as well.
Are there any pros and cons to being a woman entrepreneur?
I had never really thought about this until now, to be honest. Our work requires a lot of creativity and research which anyone who shares our passion can deliver, whether a woman or a man. I guess it is an advantage to be a woman in this business when I meet clients. Clients, for some reason, do expect the lead stylist to be a woman and I guess they are more comfortable with my being a woman (due, I guess, to stereotypical assumptions).
I had to learn, though, the basics in carpentry work since most of our decorative pieces are wood. Growing up and even as a young adult, I was never really exposed to carpentry as this was more for my brothers to learn. Thus, learning about carpentry tools and techniques for me to effectively manage design execution is something I was forced to undergo. Also, from a design perspective, it is always a huge challenge for me to style parties for boys. I am a woman and sometimes, I find it difficult to come up with party designs sans the girly stuff and which cater more to boys (or men for that matter).
How are you marketing your business?
Mainly via Facebook and Instagram. BUT, it helps, in a huge way, to be featured on popular blogs. Thus time and again, I submit our parties to party styling blogs here in the Philippines and abroad.
How has social media helped you spread the word out about your business?
In a HUGE way. Without Facebook and Instagram, we could not have come this far. But, the key really is to keep our accounts active. Thus, our accounts are constantly updated and improved. And, we make sure to distribute our calling cards in parties we do, so they could visit our social media accounts to check out our portfolio and packages.
How are you balancing your business with your personal life?
It has been so hard to do this since I am a single mother. Luckily, I have a few people who help me in keeping house and looking after my son when I cannot be physically present due to my work. My party set-ups are usually on the weekends so I set aside quality time for my son during weekdays. Plus, Mondays are usually reserved for “bonding” time with my son. For me, it’s really about MAKING time and always making a timeline and checklist (which includes time spent with my son and all other personal duties and social obligations) when my schedule gets overwhelming.
What lessons have you learned so far about being an entrepreneur?
That there will be setbacks along the way, for sure; but despite these setbacks, one has to persevere. That running a business is not only about making money but more importantly, the means by which the money was made. That one has to do continuous research; about how to improve the services being offered, about the market, and about the competition. That managing a business calls for a lot of people’s skills (in dealing with staff and clients). Without that, one can never be an effective and responsible manager and service provider.
How do you see the business 5 years from now?
Hopefully, in five years, we would be doing more parties and would have expanded to other related services. But I hope we maintain our brand of styling: simple, elegant and classy. Never over-the-top.
What lessons can you share other women entrepreneurs out there?
- Go with your instincts. It usually is the right route to take.
- Dream big, start small.
- Never stop doing research.
- Do not settle for mediocrity. Always strive to deliver the best you can deliver.
- Do not get discouraged by setbacks. Those are expected.
- Learn to delegate. Hiring the right and trustworthy people is key.
- Balancing business and your personal life is a matter of choice.
- You can learn anything. You are a woman.