Small business chat updates – Maxine Johnston

27 Oct
Official theo pic.jpg

Maxine meets Theo Paphitis!

Welcome to another Small Business Chat update, with the lovely Maxine from Personalised Parties.

Maxine’s original interview was published on 22 October 2011. Where did she want to be in a year’s time? Maxine said, “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”. And I’m pleased to say that she’s one of our big successes. Not only has she met Theo Paphitis (at an event he held for his Small Business Sunday Twitter feature winners). Let’s see how she’s doing …

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

The business has moved forward in leaps and bounds over the last year and when I look back at all the achievements, I feel really proud of myself. The Life’s A Celebration brand is starting to gain some fabulous recognition, not only in the UK but also across the world. The party concept that we’ve come up has been accepted and all my customers feed back on the ease and simplicity of it all. This year has been particularly good, as we’ve had the Jubilee and the Olympics, which have been really great things to celebrate. In fact, the Jubilee party boxes we offered were so successful that I had to pinch myself!

This time last year I thought I would perhaps be in a position now to be looking at dedicated office space. Well this was achieved long before I could ever have imagined, and we moved into our own premises on 1st April. Getting out of the house has been great, and it’s great to be able to meet with customers and chat about their parties (plus I feel like I’ve got my home back!).

In March this year I met Theo Paphitis as he celebrated with all the Small Business Sunday winners. This was a brilliant day from start to finish – what an inspirational man. He said that it’s incredible that the harder he worked the luckier he was. This is so true! I have worked incredibly hard this year and I really feel that this is starting to pay off.

On 1st November the Life’s A Celebration website will be a year old, and all kinds of celebrations are in the pipeline throughout November to mark this.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The Personalised Parties branding and website has been changed and I now solely trade under the Life’s A Celebration branding and website.

My mindset has probably changed a bit too. If I’m being honest I think I thought it would be easier than it actually is. I thought I’d launch my Life’s A Celebration website and the hits and customers would automatically follow. This is definitely not the case! You have to promote your website daily and never once take your eye off the ball in terms of your promotion.

That said, I absolutely love the promotion angle of the business, and really love chatting with people via my social media feeds. I have also launched a Skype button on my website and I regularly chat to customers via this medium so they can see me and the quality of my party boxes. As we deliver all over the UK, most of my customers can’t just pop in for a coffee, and I feel that people buy from people, so once they’ve chatted to me via video link they can see how passionate I am about their party and can see just how much affordable quality our party boxes offer.

The party boxes have also changed and continually evolve. I regularly assess my product offering and tweak boxes to make sure that the customers are always getting the best possible product.

In terms of what has stayed the same, I would say ‘the boss’ – my daughter. I am constantly asking her opinion on what products should be put into boxes and she never fails to be honest! Now she’s getting older, she is always keen to help out and I regularly have her putting party bags and party boxes together for me on a Sunday (all under my watchful eye of course!). I think it’s great to build that work ethic from an early age!!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I have learnt loads over the last year most of which would not have been possible without asking for help and listening to experts.

I have really started to push the blog aspect of the website, and enjoy many guest bloggers talking about a variety of topics. In fact if anybody reading this wants to guest blog for me then please get in touch for a chat. The learning curve in terms of the technological aspect of the blog has been huge and I am still learning.

A year ago I wish I’d known just how little sleep you get running your own business. I also wish I’d had a holiday before the Life’s A Celebration website launched, as I haven’t had time for a holiday for a while. In fact a day off would be nice! I sound like I’m complaining and I’m really not. I absolutely love doing this and wouldn’t swap my life with anybody.

Any more hints and tips for people?

This is a difficult question to answer because I think in a lot of ways, if you’re thinking about starting a business, to a degree, you need to jump in with both feet and work out for yourself what works and what doesn’t. What works for one business doesn’t work for another.

However I would say if you are in a position to start a business, don’t underestimate how hard it is, how demoralising it can be on days, how little sleep you’ll get and how stressful it is. But, on the flipside, it is the best thing you could ever do and the rewards are fantastic.

Make sure you listen to people, take advice from everybody, but ultimately trust your instincts, and you won’t go far wrong.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

I have no idea is my honest answer. I feel blessed that I have achieved last year’s objective. At the moment I’m taking one day at a time. But I’d like to think that Life’s A Celebration is still going and is collaborating a lot more with potential partners. Perhaps I’d like to have somebody helping me and maybe be pushing and achieving more international sales.

So maybe that’s enough of a goal to be working towards.

I’m genuinely thrilled to see how well Maxine is doing. I’ve watched her grow in confidence as she grows her business, but she’s stayed true to herself, valuing time with her family and that input from her daughter that started the whole process off, and being generous with retweets and guest blog post spots. I’m sure she’ll have come on in some more leaps and bounds by the time we check in on her next time! How’s she doing? Her 2013 interview is up now!

Here are Maxine’s contact details: Phone: 07852 955 800 Skype: celebratelife11

You can find her on her website and blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page and Pinterest.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.


Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Business, Small Business Chat


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2 responses to “Small business chat updates – Maxine Johnston

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