For the last two Christmas season's I've hosted a neighborhood party for girlfriends - the theme that you come, have some wine, visit, catch up with friends, make new friends and - shop! The last event was such fun that I decided to host a garden party with the similar theme - but I opened up the guest list a little bit more to a bigger group of friends and not necessarily girlfriends from the area - but some that I've met because of work, the blog, and encouraged those invited to bring a guest. Because it was in my garden, I knew that I could handle more people and I also invited my friend Stacey to take part. I wanted to share this party on the blog because obviously it was fun, but it's also I think a great idea should you have a business of your own.
LoveFresh - she's been an amazing mentor to me for me and has become a friend since I met her last Christmas. I invited her to come and bring her products to the garden party because I knew that if I loved her line, my girlfriends would too. (I was right - they loved it as much as I do.)
With regards to the food, Aubrey comes from a restaurant background (his family owned a restaurant / catering business when he was growing up) so he took care of the catering for me. He's amazing, he can whip up a cheese plate like no one else. I took care of the desserts. The bottom were simply two bite brownies with some icing, a hint of mint and a sliver of strawberry. The top was cake in a cup. I swear that is the best thing ever. It deserves its own post. Food can get costly, so we kept it pretty simple but put a lot of effort into presentation.
Set up things so it's easy for people to touch and feel. You don't want to have to help, so make it easy for people to browse.
Globe lights lit up the event.In my mind, they are what made it look so beautiful. I hadn't taken down the ones from my Ikea shoot awhile back, and as you can see my cucumbers in my garden have latched onto the lights and created the most beautiful backdrop.
I bought a huge tent (below) because renting one was going to be just as expensive. We like to host parties so this kind of purchase is great. I searched Craigslist and Kijiji and you can find companies selling tents for a few hundred dollars.
If you have your own business, this is great thing to host. Even if no one buys - which is what I always assume when I'm planning it and my budget - it's a word of mouth event. It gets people infront of your products.
As the owner of the shop, and the host of the event, I make a point to not be the person accepting any money at the party. I hired my sister in law to come and do that for me, so that I can be free to mingle, and so there is no awkwardness about accepting money from friends. And, also, it means that it doesn't appear that I'm noticing who buys and who doesn't. To me, it's not about the selling, it's about the experience of the night. So bottom line - if you are going to host a night like this, get someone else to handle transactions - I personally think it helps eliminate any weirdness.
- Be a host! When people arrive, invite them in and show them where everything is - bar, different tables of product, and point out baskets that they could use to put things they like in it. (I stock up on dollar store baskets that stack) When they are ready to buy, should they like anything, point out who they go to, to make a purchase. Avoid any presentation of products, unless people ask you about something.
- Make your role at the party to be host. Not a server, cashier. This allows you to have fun.
- Ask family to help - be a server / bar. Or, hire a server to help. Expect $20 / hour for a server and consider a tip.
- Don't be the one accepting money - get someone else to help you accept payment - This avoids awkwardness with friends. I have no idea who bought what and I'm 100% happy with that.
- Encourage people to bring a plus one. It's much more fun walking into an event when you know someone. It also means your shop or products will be shown to someone who may not know you. So if you have the room, allow for plus ones.
- You can cater your own event. It's much more economical, just make sure nothing is major work and nothing needs to be in the oven. No one wants to be hanging out in the kitchen.
- Price things out so people aren't asking you what things cost. Have a big sign with prices, or, price things individually.
Anyhow, this kind of event is a great way to get together, connect, share stories, build new friendships and bond. Life gets so busy that sometimes we need nights like this to just chill out. I won't lie that throwing an event like this isn't easy. It's a lot of work, and I may have fallen asleep fully dressed, with my iphone in my hand on the bed after everyone left. But I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Here is a wee video from last night. :)