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Children’s parties: a winning formula for entrepreneurs
Gone are the days of the DIY children’s party at home with balloons and musical chairs. Parents nowadays are indulging their offspring with much more elaborate affairs, from movie-themed parties to speciality sporting events, and they are prepared to pay for it.
New research from investment management service Nutmeg found that parents spend an average of £191 on a party, which must be music to the ears of home based entrepreneurs running children’s party businesses.
Lauren Prentice runs Sense Parties, a provider of specialised themed parties for children aged three to 12 years. Popular themes have included the circus, princesses; superheroes, pirates; zombies, and Mamma Mia, with a team of trained performers on hand to bring the various themes to life.
From her home in Lightwater, Surrey, Prentice launched the business three years ago after graduating from drama school. Today she entertains at more than 50 parties every month across London and the south-east.
She says: “When I left drama school I was determined to work for myself, I started a children’s educational theatre company called Sense Theatre working in schools to provide them with their drama curriculum which we now run in 47 schools.
“A lot of the parents of the children we were teaching were asking if we provided children’s parties. There seemed to be a sufficient demand for innovative, fun and most importantly, stress-free children’s party entertainment, so I launched Sense Parties and it has thrived.”
It is a fiercely competitive industry, and success for home-based children’s party business owners rests with being both unique and up to speed with current party trends, which can change very quickly.
“Most recently we’ve had a huge surge in popularity for Frozen-themed parties,” says Prentice. “And we seem to have found the winning formula, with the Frozen sisters entertaining with games, stories and dancing plus a snow machine finale to round off the fun.”
She has also set a limit on numbers, with a maximum of 35 children at a Sense Party, which has been welcomed by parents who often feel pressured to invite the whole class plus cousins, friends and neighbours without wanting to leave anyone out.
One of the biggest challenges, she says, is finding the right staff, people with a wide range of skills, including the ability and energy to entertain and engage 35 children, become a convincing character, be well organised, and willing to work four parties every weekend.
“They have to have the whole package, and it can be quite tough to find people that tick all of these boxes, especially as we continue to grow and expand,” says Prentice.
Around a quarter of parents now plan their child’s party up to three months in advance, according to the Nutmeg research, with a small proportion, 2%, planning for up to a year before the big day.
Among the most popular types of parties were fancy dress, adventure playground parties, afternoon tea, mini bowling, and magician parties, with over a third of the parents surveyed saying it was important that their child’s birthday party was just as good, or better, than those of their classmates or friends.
While many children’s party planners offer a variety of themes in order
to meet increasingly challenging parental demands, some have based their businesses around a single unique theme. In the case of Longbow Events, the theme is archery, with a safe and inflatable Hoverball archery range that can be set up in virtually any environment.
The company was co-founded by Jason Powell, a graphic designer of 25 years, who originally started The Longbow Shop selling arrows he had made on eBay after becoming hooked on archery.
He set up the party side of the business from home having seen a growing interest from children in archery, and has developed his own patented SAFE archery arrow – making it an ideal and very unusual indoor or outdoor party for children as young as seven.
Powell said: “More and more children were wanting to try archery from a very early age and during my research I came across the Hoverball shooting range in the US that allowed parents and children to shoot safely together and have fun. There are other businesses offering archery, but it’s very age dependent and requires a lot of space. With the Hoverball shooting range we can set up an archery party in a small garden or even an office space.”
The archery party business is also completely mobile, enabling the Merseyside-based business to transport its event equipment to locations much farther afield.
Football is a perennial favourite with youngsters looking for a special way to celebrate their birthday, with interest driven this year by the recent World Cup in Brazil. It led Louis Amissah, founder of football coaching business Junior Ballers, based in Havering, Essex, to branch out into the birthday party business with Ballers Birthday Bash.
He says: “Through my coaching business, I’d built up a brilliant rapport with the children and their parents, who started to ask me whether I offered parties as a service. That was how Ballers Birthday Bash started. I did some market research and undeniably there is competition, but I came up with a party service concept that offers different packages and allows parents to tailor to their budget and needs. This is something that my competitors are not currently offering and it has proved popular with my current clientele.”
The four packages; Championship, Premiership, Champions League, and World Cup, are approximately two hours in length, and can accommodate up to 20 children, aged between two and 11, with one coach. The football games consist of football drills, football challenges, mini matches or tournaments, and a penalty shootout against the Birthday Baller.
As anyone who has ever organised a children’s party will know, there can be challenges, including the behaviour of some of the guests and on occasion, the host.
Amissah says: “Because their parents are present, some children will ‘act up’. This can be a bit challenging, but by keeping up a good pace and good behavioural management within the party, it can be easily overcome.”
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Category: Home business