Children’s parties have come a long way since my childhood when a spot jelly and ice-cream and a game of pass-the-parcel in my parents’ living room was the norm. Nowadays, it’s become commonplace to hire a hall and invite the entire class – that’s a lot of jelly and ice-cream and a lot of time spent turning a tiny tub of Play-Doh into an oversized package with wrapping that Santa’s elves would be proud of. Luckily, Nalini Mathew has brought her bespoke children’s party planning services to Hertfordshire. Parents can now celebrate their children’s birthdays without the hassle and stress of trying to style everything themselves. So, is life as a party planner just one big party? I caught up with Nalini to find out…
Please tell us a little about your family.
I used to be a stay at home mum and I still call myself a stay at home mum. I’ve got two little boys who are six and four and I’ve got a lovely, very supportive husband who works in Slough. We’ve lived in Welwyn Garden City for the last nine years. I came from India on a six month holiday to stay with my husband who was then working on a project – and the six month holiday turned into a nine year stay in the UK.
Who were you, or what did you do before you became a mum?
I come from an advertising background back in India and then in London for a little bit where I was working in above the line advertising and shopper marketing.
How would you describe your business?
So, Party Genie started off from me doing my kids’ and my friends’ kids’ parties. My son turns seven this year. From the time he was one I’ve always planned amazing parties for him. I always wanted to plan parties as a full time career but I just wasn’t very confident with it. Last year I quit my job working in London, thinking I’d start it up then, but just couldn’t gather the courage to do so. Then, over the last six months, I gave it a lot of thought – and I thought to myself – It’s either now or never. I decided to create a Facebook page and that’s how Party Genie was born.
Whilst I was doing my research I realised that Hertfordshire did not have any children’s party planners. When you google children’s party planners in Hertfordshire, you come up with soft play cities, you come up with entertainers, but you do not get one single person who you can call and say, it’s my child’s party – can you do it from start to finish? So, if you call me now and say I want to have my child’s party in July, can you do it? I can. I can do everything for you from selecting your venue to doing the party bags and sending out your thank-you notes. I can do your cakes, I can do your themed decor, I can do an entire tea table set up for kids, I can do a desert table – everything, balloon arches, balloon decor, everything can be done that’s related to a child’s party.
On the other hand we at Party Genie also offer cookie decorating parties in the comfort of the client’s home. We bring the entire set up (chairs, tables, all cookie decorating equipment) with us and also clear up after we have finished hosting the party. We can also provide food at the parents request.
So, why did you start your company?
I’d be lying if I said I noticed a gap in the market so decided to start it – I didn’t. I only noticed this gap when I started researching. The reason I started Party Genie was that I could have joined a bigger party planning company somewhere in London, but it wouldn’t give me the flexibility that I have now. I was very keen to work with local businesses, especially women connected to this profession in any way.
What would you say are the key elements to a successful children’s party?
You need to make sure you send out invites in plenty of time so you can be sure of your number of guests plus an extra sibling or two. I think a cake table is important as it gives the room the ‘wow’ factor and balloons are wonderful because children love balloons and there is so much you can do with them. A theme is a really good idea that you run through your party from the decor to cake pops to the stationary – it might just be as simple as a particular colour scheme or it might be more elaborate but a theme is essential. And lastly some entertainment… so that mums and dads can enjoy the party like every other guest without having to stress about anything.
What are the current trends in children’s parties?
Superheroes will always be popular but the unicorn theme seems to be a currents fave among the little princesses. As summer approaches, I’m also doing more colourful themes at my parties – like lots of bright, vibrant colours, rainbows and I’m also excited about the Moana party I am currently working on.
How do you manage childcare and (if it exists) a work/life balance?
As mentioned before I have a very supportive husband who helps me at every step. When I first moved here I knew no one, but now I have a network of friends and we help each other where we can. I tend to do most of my work when the children are in bed and this is also the time when I can prep dinners for the next day to make life that bit easier.
Self-care: what works for you? Any tips?
I like going to the gym. I go to the gym five times a week as exercise makes me feel happy. I think if you’re a happy mum then you can have happy children, but if a mum is not happy then her children will have a harder time being happy. I’m also a member of Slimming World. I’ve been a member for years and that helps me to stay on track too.
What has been your biggest challenge in business to date?
Getting people to understand the concept of a children’s party planner. There are lots of planners in London and you’ll often see their skills displayed in magazines; but in Hertfordshire there aren’t many of us yet, so parents don’t always understand what we do or how we can benefit them. A party planner is different from a children’s entertainer because we can organise the entire party from start to finish, making it stress free for the parents. They get to enjoy their children’s party, just like a guest would. We can even take charge of all the tidying up afterwards! An entertainer wouldn’t do that.
Your proudest achievement in business so far is?
Receiving feedback from my clients. I’ve had some lovely testimonies and they make me feel proud of what I can achieve with Party Genie. I’m really happy when I know that the birthday child, their families and their friends have all had a really enjoyable time. When a child runs into their party space for the first time, sees the balloons, the decorations or the cake table and say’s, ‘Wow!’ then I know we’ve done a good job.
What are your future hopes and aspirations for Party Genie?
I’d like Party Genie to become synonymous with children’s party planners – for parents to automatically think of Party Genie when they have a birthday to plan. I’d also like to build more links with local businesses in Hertfordshire as I think there is a huge pool of talent around here and people don’t always have to go to the big companies to find what they need. You could go to a bigger company and pay more, just because the company is bigger or because they have to travel further. Or, you could come to me and get the exact same thing but because you are using skills and talents from within the local community the cost is less.
What advice would you give to future ‘mumpreneurs’?
Believe in yourself.
Finally, please share some sparkly words of wisdom that motherhood has taught you…
You have to learn to multitask – let’s just say that!
Thank-you for talking to me Nalini. The Fairytale Mum wishes you and Party Genie every success for the future.
If parents are interested in finding out more about your services, they can contact you via:
Phone: 07908 195000
Rainbow Party Images Courtesy of Tony Bruce Photography