We’ve been amazed by her colourful designs and exquisite taste. Let’s get to know one of our most creative artists on Parentville Parties, Joanne Kay, aka The Humble Hostess. You can now browse her fabulous range of personalised party supplies on our marketplace, with the following themes: Trains, Grey & Yellow Bunny, Animal, Dinosaur, Football, Rainbow & Unicorns, Superhero & last but not least Princess !
ParentVille : How did The Humble Hostess project start?
Jo: I first came up with the idea for packaging themed party supplies when sitting with my NCT group planning the children’s 3rd birthdays. It was the first time we had really held children’s parties and as we were all parents to 2nd children by that point and returning to busy jobs everyone felt a bit overwhelmed by the process and amazed at how time consuming it was and how difficult it was to find attractive quality items. When they had then ordered things from several different suppliers some didn’t arrive in time for the party, some were different sizes or colours than they had expected and of course there were endless parcels arriving at the door either while they were out or the knocks on the door woke the sleeping baby!
I then thought back to my work trips to the US where I had seen a huge range of baking and party accessories for sale which weren’t easily available in the UK. A quick browse of Pinterest US children’s parties shows some amazing ideas and the beautiful themed personalized parties are becoming increasingly popular in the UK following US trends such as cupcakes, cake pops and sweetie tables or dessert bars at weddings which are trends that had previously crossed the Atlantic and taken off in the UK. Themed parties, ‘cake smash’ photoshoots for 1st birthdays and baby showers are becoming more and more popular with many parents hiring party planners, professional photographers and uploading photos to their blogs or social media accounts. Obviously most parents aren’t interested in going to such lengths but still want to put together a beautiful party and knowing how busy life can get with young children and juggling childcare, running a home and working I felt that there was a market for a themed party box containing all the party tablewear of cups, plates, straws and napkins all colour coordinated. We then decided to make the kits unique by adding in the hand crafted items such a framed print, bunting and cupcake picks all personalized with the birthday child’s name and age. We then added party bags, water bottle wraps, stickers to personalize other decorations and so on so that you can easily put together a beautifully themed party really quickly and simply with just one website, a few clicks and just one box to take delivery of.
I then starting putting together a number of theme ideas, creating mood boards for the colour schemes and theming ideas, scouring Pinterest and party planners’ sites and putting together the best of the ideas available. Luckily I have a Pinterest obsession and am obsessive about attention to detail, even our delivery labels and boxes have to look pretty and be colour coordinated!
P: Tell us more about your own background prior to this venture
J: I set up The Humble Hostess at the beginning of last year when my maternity leave with my daughter was coming to an end and I was considering whether to return to work or to take the plunge and set up on my own. I previously worked for a large London University in International Development. This involved a lot of international travel mainly to the US and South America which I loved but with 2 small children it wasn’t feasible to continue with this amount of travel so I started to look into other options that would work around childcare and school hours. I’ve always loved anything ‘crafty’, baking birthday cakes and throwing Easter or Halloween parties complete with themed food and coordinating decorations so it seemed the obvious place to start.
P: What was your biggest challenge when you first started your own business?
J: I had all the ideas of what I wanted to produce, how it should look and how I would market it but am not the most tech savvy person so the logistics of how to put it all together really stumped me. Fortunately my husband works in IT so was easily able to put together a website and start with the digital side of the design work while I focused on gathering information from local parents, finding suppliers, networking with similar businesses and revisiting the marketing and social media side of my old career.
P: Who is your target audience?
J: I understand how time consuming it is to plan a party, that there are so many small elements to pull together and that it frequently gets left to one parent to organize on top of their usual parenting and working life. Our typical customer is a busy parent who is interested in fashion or interiors and typically has taken great care in decorating and styling their home and puts time and effort into searching out unique pieces of children’s clothing and room decorations and wants to throw a party to match their style. We try to make it as easy as possible for them to put together a stylish party that their child will love so that they can spend the extra time in the run up to the party making more birthday memories with their little one.
P: How do you maintain your work/ life balance?
J: My 2 children are in nursery 2 days a week so I have 2 full days to run the business supplemented with many long evenings and quick emails from the park or soft play! I try to avoid looking at emails on the days that I have the children for the day but usually find that I have the best ideas when I’m busy doing something else rather than sitting at the laptop waiting for the ideas to come!
P: The craziest birthday party that you’ve ever been to?
J: I’m not sure I’ve been to any ‘crazy’ birthday parties (not children’s parties anyway!) but I do notice that they are getting more elaborate, just last week I took my 3 year old son to a party where there was a manicurist booked to do the mum’s nails which I thought was a great idea. I am beginning to think that should be a prerequisite of every children’s party!
P: What has been your most successful marketing technique? Any advice you would give to a fellow entrepreneur?
J: Being based in SW London’s ‘Nappy Valley’ has been hugely important to the initial support the business has received. There are so many local businesses and online forums we can work with and my advice to anyone starting out would be to reach out to local businesses and anyone who might be interested in what you are doing. I’m learning about a whole new community of similar small businesses and bloggers thanks to Instagram and love all the comments from people about how easy it is to put together their party or how their child had a great time.
P: What are your future plans?
J: In the near future we plan to add personalised invitations and thank you cards to match all the party themes and have recently started offering a bespoke service after requests for our party designs in different colours or from people looking for something unusual or unique. We are also getting an increasing number of requests for christenings or naming ceremonies and baby showers so will start designing them later in the year.
P: What are your favourite weekend family activities?
J: With 2 active toddlers we find ourselves spending a lot of time at National Trust properties.
We were gifted a Family membership when our oldest was born so we take every opportunity for family days out, meet friends from elsewhere in the country at a property halfway between us and often break long journeys with a quick visit for lunch and a chance for a run around. I feel that living in London the children don’t get many opportunities to run as far as the eye can see, make dens or roll down hills so I love taking them to places where they really can roam free!