Infinite Possibilities

Mardigras -- Chinese New Years -- Who Done Its -- Chuckles the Clown -- any theme, any time. The only restrictions are in your imagination and the client's budget. Party planners put together parties for newborns to seniors. Customers can be found in any arena: corporations, conventions and just plain folks. Magic, fantasy and entertainment are possible starting points and the sky's the limit!

Blazing New Trails

There are no-pre-set definitions for party planners and there are very few party planners companies in existence (perhaps as few as five hundred across the country). If you live in an area that lends itself to parties and/or conventions, there is probably room for you to join the fun. The background and experience needed to start a party planning business is as varied as the services it provides.

The Whole Ball of Wax

While some party planners simply provide their clients with the idea for their party, others plan and execute the "do". In addition to coming up with the basic party theme, they put together the entire party including creating the props, arranging the location, sending out invitations, hiring the caterers, picking the menu, and finding the entertainment, just mention a few.

When you're first getting started you will probably utilize the services of all types of subcontractors such as florists, balloon decorators and caterers. You can lease props from rental stores and hire a caterer who can provide servers and bartenders. It is also possible to hire free-lancers of all kinds. Again use your imagination. Hire local actors to be Keystone Kops and gangsters at a "Roaring Twenties" party. Use celebrity look-a-likes to M.C. an awards banquet. When negotiating the fees for your services make sure to ask for a large enough deposit to cover the what-ever- up-front costs you incur when contracting-out for all these services. Keep in mind, you'll have to meet the costs of deposits for all your subcontractors.

Broadening Your Horizons

As your business takes off and if you feel you have the know-how, you may want to consider handling some of the standard party functions in-house. Many party planners also have catering capabilities or own and store props, tents, flatware, or coffee pots, etc., in order to reap the increased profits derived from the rental fees. Whether or not make a conscious decision to accumulate any of the above, during the course of operating your business, you will undoubtedly begin to acquire some props and miscellaneous equipment. Eventually you will probably have to have some storage space and you will need office space. Each facet of the operation you incorporate into your own business will increase profits because you will be keeping the profits you had been giving to your subcontractors.

Of course you can begin operations out of your home, but eventually you may want to set up an office as your base of operations and a showcase for potential clients. If you can create an atmosphere of fun and fantasy, it can be a strong selling point for clients coming to your office and the setting may help them visualize some of your ideas.

As you grow, you will undoubtedly need vans to transport props and other accountrements to the party sight. These vans can be rolling billboards. One catering company in Washington, DC uses purple step-vans with their names written in distinctive script on the back and sides. Very few people in the DC area fail to recognize these vans on the road or at a party and the catering company realizes a huge amount of advertising from their unique color and design. Having a purple van parked at the kitchen entrance for a Washington, DC party adds a great deal of prestige to any event.

It's Not Always What You Know

One of the best ways to get started in this type of business is by extensive networking. By calling the types of people in your area who make their living supplying services to parties, you can not only garner invaluable information, you can begin to make the contracts you will need as you begin operations. You may be able to formulate quid-pro-quo arrangements with photographers, caterers and florists. You use their services for your parties, they give your name to their clients, and everyone ends up with nicely scratched back.

Many hotels have banquet managers so you can let these banquet managers know your available to enhance the services the hotel offers. Offer your assistance to convention planners or any of their exhibitors who may want to throw a party. Large corporations often hold private and office parties and may want to utilize your services.

You will be able to do a more comprehensive job and get better prices for your clients if you get commitments for parties several months in advance. Obviously, the larger and more elaborate a party will be, the more time and effort it will take to set up.

You will probably determine your fees by working backwards. First you will ascertain what each part of the event will cost, from catering to balloons. When you have determined that figure, then tack on the costs for your services and overhead (keeping in mind what the market will bear).

Think small in the beginning, and do a really great job. You will need excellent references and samples of your work before you begin to receive assignments to plan huge, expensive, elaborate parties. Accumulate a portfolio of pictures, letters of recommendations and samples of your work to show to prospective clients.

If you need more material for your portfolio, perhaps you could offer your services to a charity event or offer to plan an exemplifying your creativity and abilities. And if you are fortunate enough to be well capitalized when you start your business, you could plan a gala affair of your own and invite the types of business people mentioned above including caterers, florists, hotel banquet managers, convention planners, and affluent members of your community.

Moments to Remember

Fun is the name of the game and making sure your events aren't forgotten is the key to referral and repeat business. making your parties three dimensional and participatory will make your parties even more unforgettable -- having your servers dressed in the party theme -- serving drinks in coffee cups at a Roaring Twenties Party -- personalize the cups with the guests' names. Stir the guest's anticipation by soliciting their participation even before the event begins. Costume parties are one good way to build anticipation, but use your imagination and you will be able to think of others.

Pick You Client's Brain

The bottom line for any event is what your client hopes to achieve. Use their interests, hobbies, goals and even pet peeves as the foundation for the event. Intermingle ideas. Perhaps one client's most outrageous idea, while not suited for that client's party, would be perfect for the next client.. Keep records and don't discount any possibility. You want to mesh with your client's needs, be wild and crazy when the occasion calls for it, but quiet and discrete under other circumstances.

A Juggling Act

Since no event ever goes exactly as planned and there are always unexpected glitches, you'll have to be able to improvise and think on your feet. You'll be dealing with a myriad of details and many different organizations and personalities. It could rain on an outdoor wedding, and the souffle could fall when a delivery man slams the door, so you will have to be able to keep 100 balls in the air at the same time. So remember ... flexibility and creativity are absolutely essential for a successful party planning enterprise.

if you break into a cold sweat when you are faced with planning your only child's fifth birthday party, then party planning probably isn't for you. But if you find the idea of planning a Golden Wedding Anniversary, a graduation, a daughter's wedding and the Democratic Convention all on the same day, challenging and exciting, you are probably destined to be a party planner. Relax, have fun, and let the good times roll.



Special Events Magazine, 2048 Cotner Ave.,Los Angeles, CA 90025 (213) 477-3963

For additional information helpful in setting up your new business, information about licenses, permits, the legal structure of your business, taxes, insurance and much more refer to the

Business Start-Up Fact Finder Manual

The Time Has Come

In seven out of ten households in America today, no adult has the time it takes to go shopping during the day. Consequently, junk mail isn't so "junky" anymore. People who used to hesitate before purchasing large ticket items via the mails are now ordering everything from artichokes to zip lock freezer bags and there is nothing to indicated that this trend is going to change.

People are also beginning to realize that mail order can be the least expensive way to shop. The cost of merchandise purchased through the mails can be considerably lower because the mail order distributor isn't paying a high price tag for overhead items such as an expensive sales force or a fancy showroom.

Stand out In The Crowd

one of the ways to make a profit in the mail order business is to find a way to stand out -- to get a gimmick -- find a unique product to sell -- find a product that isn't being sold in every store or on every street corner. The question is not so much "What can be sold by mail" as it is, "What can I sell by mail?"

After you've decided on a product (s) or particular line of products, do your homework. Make the rounds of stores, street fairs, flea markets and trade shows. Check out advertising in magazines and pay close attention to the "junk mail" you receive. If this product you're interested in seems to show up everywhere you look, you may want to rethink your choice. If you have a strong sense that this product will sell and there is a market for it, Then you can begin to consider how to market your product.

Competing with the Big Boys

Now that you've decided that every household in America really wants to own one of your pink furs and you are pretty sure that not many other folks are selling pink furs, you need to decide how to go about letting all these potential customers know that you have the best pink furs on the market. How?

You could put together a beautiful catalog with gorgeous models wearing your pink furs. But keep in mind that the cost of shooting, printing, and distributing a catalog may be prohibitive and may require an investment of $100,000 or more... You will also have to have enough stock on hand to meet the demand inspired by your catalog and a place to warehouse all the pink furs you know you'll be selling. When deciding how much product to stock, remember that the Federal Trade Commission requires you to ship products within thirty days of an order so you don't want to advertise a product you can't readily supply.

You may wish to pursue a slower and less expensive path as you begin your mail order business.

Remember, the Tortoise Beat the Hare

You may want to begin your mail order business as part-time venture. You could stock just enough pink furs so that you can store them easily in your garage or basement, set up a distribution area in your basement with boxes, wrapping paper, and shipping labels so you can do your own shipping. Or, you can even have your product dropshipped. In this way you can keep your overhead low and your initial investment to a minimum. This type of business often takes two years or more to really get going, so beginning in your spare time, while you continue to bring in money, may make you one of the winners.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Many consultants to the mail order industry suggest you begin with a small classified advertisement, strategically placed, in a publication with similar mail-order ads. This allows you to begin selling your product and tests the validity of your product choice. This is also the place you can start to collect the names necessary to begin compiling your mailing list. Those in the know say you need at least 10,000 to 12,000 names (people who have actually purchased products from you) before you begin putting together your catalog.

Pick your advertising media on the basis of their value in reaching the type of inquiries that would be interested in your specific offer. Go over the classified advertising sections of the magazines or newspapers that seem suitable carefully. In short, explore any evidence to show that your ad has a good chance of producing results.

Once you've decided where you are going to run your classified ad, the nest step is the ad itself.. It should be specific, direct and honest. It must ATTRACT ATTENTION, SECURE INTEREST, PRODUCE BELIEF OR CONVICTION, and finally GET THE PROSPECT TO ACT. When writing the copy imagine yourself talking personally to the person at whom your message is directed. The advertising must get read - get action. Make every bit of space count. Before placing your ad, compare it with those of your competitors, and make sure that yours is better, or at least just as good if you expect to get a good response from your advertising.

Tracking Your Advertising

You will want to be able to easily ascertain which of the advertising media you've chosen get the best results. The simplest way to track your advertising is to "key" your ads. Put an indicator in the name or address that will immediately alert you to the publication which elicited the positive response, i.e., Suite 1-A (1-A indicated which publication the response came from). By this means, you will be able to eliminate your advertisements from unproductive ad media, and reinvest the savings in more fertile publications.

The Secret to Success

There are six words that pack a terrific wallop in mail order copy. These words are "Free,"New," "Amazing," "Now," "How=To," "Easy." All successful classified advertisers use one or more of these words in almost every advertisement they write. The first few words in any advertisement are all-important. Give this matter Careful study. It your ad gets off to a good start, you are on your way to success.

While the word "Free" has been greatly abused in the past, it still is mail order's biggest drawing card.

Always remember to incorporate that magic word "guaranteed" into your sales literature. It gives the prospective buyer confidence to know that he can get his money back if he is dissatisfied with his purchase, and consequently makes the order much easier to obtain.

Other Alternatives

Mailing Lists or direct mail offer a convenient method of securing business quickly by reaching a concentrated audience within a very short time. This method features broad coverage at low cost, but like any form of promotion, it should be used smartly and the pit-falls must be avoided. Only when the campaign is well thought out, and when the selectivity of the prospects or "mailing list" is such that each name represents a potential customer, can direct mail be considered an economic form of promotion. The mail order industry considers a 1% response rate average, 2% to 5% is amazing. This equates out to just 500 orders from the first 50,000 names you contact via a mailing list.

Newspapers: Although the most widely read publications in America are the local daily newspapers, this medium has decided limitations for mail order use, especially for the small operator. A newspaper is usually only kept for one day unlike a magazine which may be saved for months, possibly gone over carefully by other members of the family, loaned to friends, or is on file at the public library.

And Sundries

Find out about postal rates and services. You may be able to send your products via third class or bulk mail. A postage meter may be of use to you.

Finding a good printer is another area where you should really watch your pennies and the quality of the service provided. The quality of your sales literature is a very important factor, and can easily determine the difference between success and failure. You can't very well expect poor quality literature printed on cheap paper to produce satisfactory results. And, not only will you need a printer for you catalog, but you will need to have brochures, business envelopes, letterhead and a number of other basic supplies. Shop around, get the best possible price.

Don't Drop the Ball

To build up a really successful mail order sales operation, it is smart to have a well organized and planned follow-up system. Once a customer has been established, you have a valuable asset that should be utilized to the fullest extent. The easiest person to get a sale from is someone who has already purchased your product.'s an Adventure

Yes, it does take a while to get the ball rolling, but once a mail order business hits its stride, it can be much more lucrative than a retail store. It's not as labor or capital intensive as a retail store and should net 15% to 25% after taxes.

While the mail order business is not a walk in the park, it is a great adventure calling for initiative, integrity, good judgement, lots of courage and determination. You probably have some or all of these qualities or you wouldn't even think about starting your own business. There will most undoubtedly be some ups and downs, but if you stick with it, you could find yourself with a truly lucrative enterprise.


Industry Associations

Direct Marketing Associations, 6 E 43rd St.,New York, NY 10017 (212) 689-4977

National Mail Order Association, 5818 Venice Blvd.,Los Angeles, CA 90019 (213) 934-7986

Regional Associations (check with Direct Marketing Association, above for a group in your area.


Direct Marketing Magazine, 224 7th St.,Garden City, NY 11530
(516) 746-6700

NonStore Marketing Report, The Catalog Marketer, The Business to Business Catalog Marketer, all at 731 N Cascade Ave.,Colorado Springs, CO 80903 (303) 633-5566

Direct Response, The Digest of Direct Marketing, 25550 Hawthorne Blvd.,Ste 114, Torrance, CA 90505 (213) 373-9408


Michaelson Direct Marketing, 307 E Chapman Ave.,Orange, CA 92666 (714) 538-2368

J. Schmid & Assoc., 3209 W 68th St.,Shawnee Mission, KS 66208 (913) 236-6699

Siedlecki, 2674 E Main St.,Ste C170, Ventura, CA 93003 (805) 658-7000

For additional information helpful in setting up your new business, information about licenses, permits, the legal structure of your business, taxes, insurance and much more refer to the

Business Start-Up Fact Finder Manual