Welcome to another Saturday business chat. Today we welcome Maxine Johnston from Personalised Parties. The business has only been going for a few months, but Maxine’s (sensibly, in my opinion) established a great presence on social networking sites like Twitter, and has started with a few ideas, gleaned others from her customers, and is building up the diversity of what she offers slowly and carefully. Like Sharon Hawkins, who we spoke to last week, Maxine has made sure to develop her business around her family, and in fact the idea for the business came from her daughter. What a great role model as her daughter grows up and sees Mum running a successful and fun business. Maxine’s seen a need in her own life and gone out there and developed a product that will fill that need – market research is important, and so is seeing that niche in the first place.
So, let’s meet Maxine!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Personalised Parties. The website is http://www.lifesacelebration.co.uk and was launched on 1st May 2011.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
It was actually my daughter that gave me the idea to set up my own business. She turned 6 last January and when I asked her what kind of party she wanted, she said a “Musical Statues” party. So I set about organising the party myself and it struck me that there is an overwhelming amount of work involved in a child’s party. I knew at the time that I was likely to be made redundant, so I established Personalised Parties as a business providing a ‘kids’ party in a box’. Everything that is needed at a child’s party is included in the box and it really couldn’t be easier. The parents receive tableware, games ideas with full instructions on how to play, wrapped up prizes, craft kits, filled party bags, music, banners, balloons, and much more. The products are designed to give busy working parents a stress free experience but the child a fun party. All the parents need to do to book a party is to complete a 2 minute booking form on my website and I’ll do the rest. I have pirate and princess parties at the moment, however if somebody wants a different theme, all they need to do is get in touch with me and I’ll work with them to provide them with exactly what they want. The aim of Personalised Parties is to make everybody’s lives much easier!
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
The likelihood of redundancy was a major factor in exploring this business avenue and I also enjoy organising children’s parties and sourcing ideas for a fun time.
Had you run your own business before?
Never! In my career I had more or less always worked in Business Finance and therefore sat on the other side of the desk! I am enjoying every minute of being self-employed but had never fully appreciated just how much hard work it is.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I actually launched the business before I got made redundant and spent most of my evenings working on the business once my daughter was in bed. However once I was made redundant in August I have been working a lot of hours on the business.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Make sure you are fully up to speed on the technology side of things.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Get ready for some very enjoyable but incredibly long hours!
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Nothing. I realise that sounds terribly arrogant, but I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time. The learning curve has been incredibly steep but I think that the business has been a better success because I have been prepared to learn and take advice and guidance from people.
What are you glad you did?
I’m glad I launched the website before I got made redundant. It gave me chance to make mistakes and get the business completely organised before I had to solely rely on it.
What’s your top business tip?
Trust your instincts. Take as much advice and guidance from people as you possibly can but ultimately trust your instincts and if something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it, or investigate it fully before you take the plunge.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
The business has grown phenomenally since the website was launched in May. I won the Theo Paphitis #sbs retweet* in August too which helped in raising the businesses profile and generating sales. I have also been approached by many customers looking for different products from just the children’s parties. As such I have a new website launching very soon www.lifesacelebration.co.uk This will feature all my new products, for example: milestone birthday celebrations, sleepovers in a box, Hen Parties in a Box, Pre Wedding Slumber parties, Wedding Activity packs (designed to keep the children entertained on your big day) and much more. The new website is all about celebrations and I look forward to its launch, which is anticipated to be at the beginning of November. I am always open for ideas on the site so if you have any celebration ideas that you would like me to turn into reality then please get in touch. The new website will also have seasonal products so there will be Halloween parties, Oscars parties, Eurovision Parties and much more.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I would love to see the new Life’s a Celebration website take off as well as Personalised Parties At the moment I am working from home but I would love to be in a position to be exploring small business premises in a year’s time.
*The Theo Paphitis #sbs retweet is a competition the Dragon’s Den participant runs on Twitter every week. Small businesses send a tweet about themselves to Theo, and he picks his top 6 each week to retweet. It’s fun thinking of an exciting way to describe your company every week, although I’ve not won myself … yet …
Here are Maxine’s contact details: Phone: 07852 955 800 Skype: celebratelife11
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how this young company develops over the next year – remember, we’ll be popping back to visit Maxine in a year’s time to see how it’s all going!