guest post | How I Added Party Plan Sales to my Biz

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how you could add a party plan or direct sales component to your biz. One of my readers decided to do just that! Kerry Dean is the owner of Callie's Palace. She already has a website and facebook page and is now planning her first 3 parties. Here she shares with us the steps she took to get started doing party plan sales.

Wow! What a journey I have been on in the last 3 months! I can’t believe it has only been that long since I opened Callie’s Palace.  Callie’s Palace is a little girl’s boutique with “All things girly for your little princess”.  We stock everything from tutus and boutique clothing to jewellery, hair accessories, books, trinkets and much much more. I feel like I have achieved so much in that short time!  After finally getting Callie’s Palace up and running in April this year, I recently decided to enter the party plan scene.  I love having an online business but I think it is really hard to try to explain or show people how gorgeous my products really are in real life. I was also finding it hard on Facebook to market my products without feeling like I was being too pushy. 

Once I had my site up and running a couple of girls from work asked me if I ran parties for my products; this was the first time I had even considered it. I then had a friend tell me that the dance school where her girls went were really interested in some of my products. Once I knew the demand was there I posted my idea on Facebook to see what sort of feedback I would receive and I got a lot of good feedback with people offering to become party consultants for me and three people immediately said they wanted to book a party. This was definitely the motivation I needed to get started.

I was so excited about the thought of taking my products out to people to physically see and thought it would give me a chance to really showcase what I have, get my name out there and of course increase business.  So, I started planning my first party plan party.

My first thought was, ok what would my suppliers think about this idea? I really have a lot of admiration and respect for my suppliers, they are all very hard working women who run their own businesses and I want to represent their goods in the best way possible. So my first step was to check with each of them that they would be happy for me to sell their products via party plan. Once I had the go ahead from all of them. I got started!

My next focus was on increasing stock. I wanted to make sure that would be a wide selection of products for customers to choose from at a party. I really believe word of mouth is a fantastic way to grow a business so I want to make a good impression right from the start! I wasn’t exactly sure what types of products I needed to expand so I used an online survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com) and Facebook to ask my customers questions such as: What products would you love to see more of at Callie’s Palace? and What brands would you love to see us stock at Callie’s Palace? From the feedback I realised I definitely needed more variety of clothes for my store. So the last month has been spent on researching, shopping, researching, spending, researching, shopping and researching some more. I have literally spent hours and hours online and at the baby expo finding the perfect products to go with my girly theme.  This was definitely the fun part, shopping, shopping, and shopping!

Now, I tend to take on a little too much at times. I currently work part time three days a week, I have a 6 month old baby girl and now I have just started Callie’s Palace, not to mention a hubbyJ. I don’t know why I do this to myself but I always seem to have something occupying my time! So, I came to the conclusion that to run these parties myself I really would have no spare time at all! When I first mentioned my parties on my Facebook page quite a few mums offered to become consultants for me. Since starting my own business I have realised how beneficial it can be working with other stay at home mums; when everyone works together, you really can accomplish anything. I decided to email a few of them and found the perfect consultant to help me run my parties. Our new consultant is a stay at home mum who has previously run party plan parties so has a lot of experience in this type of thing. I found that she was as excited about my products and ideas as I am and she really believes that we can grow this party plan idea for Callie’s Palace. She was definitely the sort of person I was looking for, someone with passion who really believes in my products.

Once I found my rep, I had no idea what sort of payment or incentives I would offer her. I tried to find information on the internet but couldn’t really find what I was after. So, I asked some women I knew who previously worked for Avon what the pay structure was for the consultants. I found out that consultants were paid a commission on their sales at each party. As Callie’s Palace is only a new business I obviously don’t have the same reputation as AVON. So, I offered my new rep a flat rate per party plus a commission on a percentage of sales at each party. We agreed on an amount and also agreed to revisit this in the future once we know how the parties go.

Once I booked the first three parties I started to focus on how I was going to display all of my stock at these parties. I want to set a fantastic first impression so began my hunt for gorgeous display items like bowls, jewellery displays, card holders, clothing rack, pretty table cloths, and lots of other display ideas. I purchased items from eBay, Facebook, markets, cheap stores etc  and also asked a few Facebook stores if they would be willing to donate a sample of their gorgeous items for me to use on my display tables. For example, I approached one lady who makes personalised wall letters for children’s rooms; I asked her if she would be willing to donate the letters C and P for Callies Palace that I could put in the middle of my display table. I thought it would just add an extra little touch to my parties. To my surprise she was flattered that I had approached her and she agreed to make these two letters for me in my website colours pink, black and white! Wow, it’s amazing what you can achieve if you just ask for help.  I have finally found everything I need for a very pretty, shabby chic, colour co-ordinated display table.

I also wanted a little something extra at my parties. Everyone loves freebies, so after a friend gave me an idea of giving out a door prize to guests at these parties, I took that idea one step further and decided to give out little goody bags to every guest at each party. Now, how was I going to be able to give out freebies without sending myself into bankruptcy? I thought I might do a call out on Facebook to other businesses to see if anyone wanted to donate vouchers, samples or anything we could include in our goody bags. I was really excited by the response. People really do want to help you out, all you have to do is ask. I also have Facebook businesses who have offered me free samples and discounts of their goodies to give out as prizes for the first party! Freebies will include jewellery, dummy clips, keepsakes and even a photography session with a local photographer! To give back to these businesses I will promote them on my facebook page, do shout outs for them whenever possible and also display their samples at my parties with their business card in front of their items. That way, my guests can see the great quality work of these businesses and hopefully will tell other people about them and in turn increase their sales.

My next step was to organise invitations, brochures and business cards for the parties, and to give my rep everything she needs to help her run a party successfully. So I got together a list of all my items, with descriptions, sizes, colours, materials and supplier information so she can give our guests as much information on our products as possible. I also purchased some carry bags, garment bags, note books, diary, order books, calculator, pens and everything else my rep would need to run these parties. I really think attention to detail is really important and helps to portray a professional business image. I also decided to purchase a shirt for my rep and I will have Callies Palace embroided on it just to add the finishing touch. I managed to find all these extra small items at stores like Big W and cheap stores.

I found a business on Facebook that designs invitations for $20 and you just print them yourself, this was perfect for my invitations. These invitations will be sent out to the party host approximately 3 weeks before their party so they can send these out to their guests. I was really impressed with the design of the invitation and have now put in an order for matching business cards and a flyer for $25! Definitely a bargain!  I also printed up my own discount vouchers to add to our goody bags for future purchases and to entice the guests to come back for more at Callies Palace.

Finally, I think I’m ready. I have a great variety of stock, pretty display table, invitations, brochures, business cards, a fantastic rep (with a uniform mind you) and goody bags with freebies, discounts and samples. I can’t wait for the first party! A friend of mine decided to host the first party so we are using the party as our launch party. When you tell people it is a launch party, everyone wants to come. I offered invites to some of my Facebook fans and will have around 20 people at our first party. They will be able to sit back, relax, have some afternoon tea and view our fantastic range.

I still have one idea I would like to implement, which is currently in the planning stage. My store purely focuses on products for little girls but I thought wouldn’t it be great if I can find another work at home mum who runs a Facebook business and would be interested in allowing me to sell some of their goods at my parties also. That way, not only do our guests get to buy gorgeous items for their little girl but they might just pick up something stunning for themselves also. So, I am currently on the hunt for another work at home mum who would like some help selling their products. My thoughts are that I would make a very small commission from these sales and help to promote another small business.

The launch party is on the 15th August 2010, I will keep you all updated with how I go and post photos so you can see how fantastic our display and stock looked on the day. I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. I’m hoping my parties really take off and would love to open my first brick and morter store in the next 2-3 years. One day, if you ever visit Paris, be sure to visit the little boutiques. You will no doubt find a gorgeous little store called Callie’s Palace selling all things girly for your little princess, Paris style. Au Revoir for now!

Kerry will write another post for us after she has her first three parties. She will let us know how her first parties went, what worked well, what she has to change for next time, and any more advice she has for anyone wanting to try party plan sales for their little biz. If you have any questions for Kerry you can post them on the Callie's Palace facebook page, or leave a comment here on the blog or on the build a little biz facebook page