Feb 25, 2011
What one piece of advice would you give?

Our monthly column is devoted to what works and what doesn’t – for our readers, from our readers

“What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out in this industry?”

Bob Kelliher
Party For Less Inc.
Kirkland, Wash.
Build a great relationship with your landlord. When times get hard and you have a great relationship, you will be pleasantly surprised on how your landlord can and will help you with ways to reduce, offset, forgive and or reallocate your rent owed.

Tawnya Curry
Party Outlet, Inc
Murphy, N.C.
Pay yourself a salary from day one and advertise, advertise, advertise.

Adriane Brandenburg
Fun Party & Wedding
Shawnee, Kan.
You really need to like people. In this industry, you get all kinds. We have some of the most amazing customers who have been with us forever and then there are the crazies, but they both make for good stories!

Lisa Myers
Mt. Pleasant Rental Center
Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
My one piece of advice would be to become a member of the Party Club of America buying group and attend the annual meetings. The people are full of information that will help you get started and the vendors offer great deals to PCA members. The staff are always willing to help with any problem or question you have and the members are very willing to share experiences that will make a transition into this market a successful one.

Lee Abrahamian
Party Planet
Surprise, Ariz.
Have a good location. Negotiate a good lease. Know who your competition is. Be ready to match your competition’s prices. Go to the industry shows. Join a buying club.

Betsy Ross,
Betsy Ross Costumes
Clarence, N.Y.
Start with a large amount of disposable income that you are willing to lose. Our business is purely entertainment and when the economy is bad, costumes are the last thing people will spend money on. After almost 30 years in business, I’ve discovered that you can stock almost every licensed and non-licensed product available and customers will still come in and want what hasn’t been available for 20 years.

Jerry Bradley
Warner Robins, Ga.
Be sure that you educate yourself on your chosen endeavor. Read periodicals regarding the costume industry, peruse vendor catalogs to learn what is available, visit other costume shops to see different ways your merchandise can be displayed and what other shops deem worthy of stocking.

Shop smart when making purchases. If your initial business plan involves rental costumes, strive to build a foundation of must-haves (such as ’70s wear, storybook characters, clown costumes, etc.). Know that a small business requires a majority of your time and energy, so make sure that you are emotionally and physically able to make this critical investment.

Visualize what you consider to be your dream business, share the vision with your employees and family and work daily towards your dream business. Lastly, do what you can to limit debt. This will lessen your stress during the lean times.

Kim Martell
Party Pizzazz!
Manitowoc Wis.
I think if I look back on mistakes, it would be to not listen totally to the reps’ suggestions on what to order. They may tell you it’s “hot” or a “must have,” but that only means retail stores are ordering it. It doesn’t mean they are selling it. You are not ordering on consignment, so if you don’t sell it at retail, you will either be sitting on it, have to sell at drastically reduce pricing or be giving it away. Either way, it will take its toll on your bottom line.

Second piece of advice-have fun! Focus your efforts in a positive way and don’t stress too long about the negative. If one thing didn’t work, something else will. Try it!

Denise Hagopian
Heavenly Choice
Montebello, Calif.
Work full time in a store similar to what your dream store would be. You must work a minimum of one year (a full cycle of holidays) to gain experience and observe the rhythm of our industry. Try to learn on someone else’s money so you don’t lose your own. Remember that most people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.

Estelle Chaikin Salen
Discount Invitations by Estelle
Rockville, Md.

Believe in yourself, work hard every day and take it one day at a time!

Kathy Dalton
Simply unforgettable Party Shop
Ocala, Fla.
I would tell them not to get into it because it will be “fun”. Yes, we make our living on fun, but just like any retail business it is a lot of hard work. I also found that in the last 19 years that I have been in the party industry that I rarely have time to party.

Remember being your own boss means that you only have to work half days, whatever you do with the other 12 hrs is up to you!

Cheryl A. Rupple
All Occasions Plus, LLC
Defiance, Ohio
Get a good accountant! Think you can’t afford one? You can’t afford not to have one. This advice was given to me and I didn’t take it. After all, I could muddle my way through doing my books and at the end of the year I’d just take the info to our family accountant. Well, as the years go by the information that I could have been accumulating would have played a key role in helping my business growth and decision making.

Do it right from the beginning. It will pay off down the road.

Sterling Smith
Rudman’s Gifts
Metairie, La.
Do your homework and assure you have a niche that the major chains don’t want since the major manufacturers prostitute themselves to the big box retailers and it is impossible to be an independent just starting out.

Les Brooks
The Party Store
Lexington, Ky.
Find a mentor who can talk about business 101, what has worked and what has not.

Pat Schwerman
Huntsville, Ala.
First, keep good records. I have a record of what I bought for each holiday/season for the last 24 years, what sold and what was left over. Also make a note of what customers asked for that you did not have. It makes it very easy for ordering next year.

The second thing is not to worry about your competitors. Each store has its niche and will serve certain customers. You can’t have it all or do it all.

The third thing is to be on friendly terms with your competitors so you can refer back and forth to each other. It’s nice to be able to work together. If you know another store has something and your customers ask for it, tell them where they can find it. If necessary, call the other store to make certain it is in stock. Your customers will remember. And if you keep getting the same requests, then try to find out what it would take to carry that item.

Daniel Hazen
Ozzie Dots
Los Angeles, Calif.
My advice to anyone that wants to start into this business is to beware, make sure you’re far better than the competition and do it with a smile on your face, because the competition will not. Put pride in your selections, because they will not. And go that extra length to please your customer, because their goal is not the same as yours. The old days were a lot more fun, but it seems it has changed to “big business” versus the “small friendly business”.

Nancy J. Bauman
Wally’s Party Factory / Card & Party Factory
Ennis, Texas
Join a buying group. As competition from Dollar stores, general merchandise retailers, and national specialty chains grows, it is becoming harder to compete as an independent retailer, especially a start-up. But if you join a group like Party Club of America, you can level the playing field significantly. You get to be your own boss and an entrepreneur, yet buy product like a much larger operator. You therefore can price your goods competitively and still make great money. PCA has allowed us to stay profitable in these challenging economic times.

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