Monday, December 13, 2010

In Good Company {Exclusive Interview & Feature}

When I first discovered In Good Company, my jaw dropped to the floor. WOW! And their In Good Company Newsletter? Spectacular!!!!

Julie of In Good Company contacted me last summer about featuring my Woodland Fairy Party, and I was so ecstatic it was a jumping up and down YES! The feature was lovely, and included a highlight of the darling printables by Paper & Pigtails, too!

Now I am here to share with you an INCREDIBLE interview with Julie, and introduce you to In Good Company in one truly spectacular feature, thanks to the help of Julie!

{Question} For those who are unaware, what is In Good Company, and tell us a brief history of how it developed and where it is now?

{Answer} In Good Company is a South African based online store that specializes in the sale and hire of linen, tableware, decorations and party favors. We have a wide range of goodies suited to all types of events from weddings and bridal showers to baby shower and kids parties.

Alex Royston (my business partner) and I, love entertaining and parties, and we started In Good Company mostly out of sheer frustration.

We would find lovely things when travelling overseas or surfing the internet but could never get our hands on them all the way down in SA. So we figured that many people felt the exact same way as us, and so we started to bring the world of party goodies to SA in an easy and affordable way.

In addition, I for example would host an Italian dinner for friends, and then next week one of my friends would borrow all the goodies, and then later on she might have a ladies tea and I would borrow her goodies, so the idea of being able to hire a party theme was born.
So, just over a year later, we have an online store and showroom with over
1,000 party products and it just keeps on growing! So much so, we are on the lookout for party premises.

 {Question} Tell us about your e-zine...what sort of content do you look to feature and of your readers in each issue?

{Answer} Our Good Newsletter, is as you suggest actually an e-zine. It started out as just a newsletter but we just had so much content that we wanted to share that it just kept getting bigger.

 We love being able to share party themes each month, but even more so being able to say to our readers where they can actually get the look. It is one of our pet peeves reading magazines and the items availability is not listed or worse one item would blow your entire party budget!

And then of course, our next favorite thing is to be able to show our readers real, and realistic parties that they too can replicate. Sometimes, we think magazines take themselves a little bit too seriously, and it can be quite disheartening to see their lovely spreads (and we do love them) but can not help but feel it is just not possible or too pricey.

 {Question} You obviously are very polished in children's party planning. What are your favorite children's parties you have seen recently, and what was it about them that stood out to you?

{Answer} That is a very kind compliment! Not so sure about the “very polished” part! I love children’s parties, especially since I think there has been a growing trend to steer away from “commercialized” characters. I cringe when customers ask us if we sell “x”, “y” and “z”. It is not that I dislike kiddies’ characters, I just prefer to be a little bit more creative, in fact for my daughter’s 2nd birthday we did Hello Kitty, but in a discreet manner and more of an Asian Afternoon Tea.

So my favorite children’s parties? Where do I start! Off the top of my head here are a few of my favorites and why:

Kim from The Tomkat Studio did a Vintage Carnival Party – and what stood out for me was the color scheme, I love how she used pink and yellow (so much so I actually copied the colour scheme for a pink and yellow ice cream and pickles baby shower). It just proves that the theme needn’t be original, just change the colour scheme.

Genevieve LeBel’s Little Red Riding Hood Party – I love how she took something classic (and not party typical) and turned it into a whole party theme. So original, creative and memorable.

I am still gushing over Cakewalk’s Strawberry Soiree – I think it is because it proves that simplicity can be stunning. An amazing cake, some cookies and a few decorations here and there and you have a party! Also, I love how everything was not all neat rows, and one for one. Proving that casual is just as classy!

Okay, and I am not just saying this, but Kate Landers' Mermaid Party – and really because I was getting “blog tired” where I felt that every party was looking pretty much the same, and  nothing was really inspiring – and then WHAM! Kate blogs about her Mermaid Party, no sneak peek or major build up – just one day the whole beautiful thing pops up in my inbox!

I loved, loved the colour scheme, the attention to detail and the ruffles! I love the fact that I am green with envy that I could never dream up something like that, but sure as anything am going to work in all her ideas into upcoming parties.

I love the idea of the small guest list, bringing the outdoors in (sand and all) and the special outfits for each guest.

{Question} You offer a variety of products, many of which I find to be of outstanding taste. Is there a certain process you go through in selecting the lines you carry?

{Answer} One of the main reasons that I look at party blogs all day is to try and see what is the next big thing! And then to get it into our shop. I want our customers to see something online and then be thrilled that it is in our shop. This is after all why we started IGC in the first place. Plus, I also love it when our customers drop us mails and suggest products – you can be sure that I am then out the door making a plan to get it on our shelves.

{Question} What can In Good Company subscribers look forward to in each issue of your e-zine?

{Answer} We have a basic outline to our mag, but each month we try to improve on it. So our main focus is to develop the party themes, and especially base these around the products that we have to offer. That way our customers can see it and get it! We are also always trying to include tutorials showing our customers that you can make party goodies yourself and you do not have to be “super crafty” and so our free downloads go along way to help with this. {free downloads here}

{Question} Tell us a little more about you, Julie! Your background, and how your career developed into what it is today!

{Answer} I, would you believe it, am actually a Chartered Accountant, but since moving to Switzerland and having our two little girls, was suddenly in a situation where my husband and I could both not do the same job, it just would not be fair on our family. And in the end we both landed up with our dream jobs, as I have always been planning parties on the side from our Church’s fundraisers to the Deloitte Year End Functions.

 {Question} There are many busy moms trying to get a business off the ground, and have found it to be a juggling act to manage their family, home and business. What advice do you have to offer, based on your personal experience, in finding a good balance?

{Answer} I am most probably not the best one at this, as you must see the laundry pile that I have to do – it is embarrassing!

The best advice that I can offer is to not to procrastinate. Just do something. And more importantly the thing you don’t want to do. I kind of try to do one easy thing and then one hard thing each day. Also, try and make it fun – I get my kids to help with keeping the house clean and I watch TV while I iron.

{Question} What are some trends you have observed lately in children's party design that you are loving?

{Answer} The best thing must be the small guest list. It really allows for so much more. There are a few people that can throw a designer party with the designer price tag. I like the idea that you can have it all, if you are willing to cut your guest list down. It makes sense – seriously does anyone – let along your child need to have 20 plus guests; surely five of their little friends are far more memorable?

I especially like the idea of having the kids dress the part. It makes each child feel so special (like it is their birthday too) and it takes the agony out of trying to come up with party favors (that more often than not are lots of bits and pieces of useless goodies).

Whilst it is not the newest trend, it is definitely here to stay, I love the idea of printable parties. It allows for one to really have a personalized party! And for me it is the little details like customized straw flags and thank you tags etc. that say this party was made especially for you!

 {Question} I know this is hard, but if you had to select your 3 favorite girl's party products in your shop, what would they be and why?

1. Paper Daises – I love these as they come in a whole range of colors, can be strung up in minutes and make for great party favors for guests to take home and decorate their rooms. And if you have any left you can fold them up and use them again and again.

2. Heart Chalkboards – these have been proven to be such a hit. They are a great way to “sign post” areas. And also make for great gifts afterwards.

3. Doilies – I am totally besotted, from decorating place settings, to tiered tea trays, invitations, making garlands, the list goes on and on.

 {Question} How about your 3 favorite boy's party products in your shop, and why?

1. Rocket Balloons – Before I had kids, the idea of balloons seemed so old fashioned and dare I say, “cheap”? I never really understood how much kids genuinely are crazy about balloons and how much joy they bring. Plus, it helps that nowadays you get cool ones like giant balloons, polka dot ones and a sure party pleaser – rocket balloons. Seriously, don’t agonize over party favors – balloons are really a good choice!

2. Skull Tattoos – We keep selling out of these. They make for super party favors, but also can be used to decorate stationery, linen and a “Tattoo Parlor” is always a hit! I wish our suppliers would make all different kinds of tattoos.

3. Meri Meri Centerpieces – I find it easy to come up with “pretty centerpieces” for girls’ parties but with boys I get a bit stuck. Not anymore! The Meri Meri Centerpieces are just brilliant and well priced. From roaring dinosaurs to a counting down rocket ship – there is just nothing that can compete. Best of all they make for a great party present for the birthday boy, or a big prize.

 {Question} Any themes you predict will be popular in 2011?

{Answer} I think there will continue to be a growing trend for parties to be based around classic childhood storybook/fairytale characters – I like the idea of a specific Nursery Rhyme for a baby shower (like Humpty Dumpty Breakfast or Mary had a Little Lamb Luncheon) and a Fairytale for little girls (like Sleeping Beauty Sleepover or Rapunzel Hair Dressing Up Party). And also, developing an entire party theme from your child’s well loved book or toy.

Then there is the growing trend to make it about the activity, this is always a good idea as your d├ęcor and fun and games budget can be merged – and even your food and drinks one too. Think “paint your own picture” or “make your own cupcakes or cookies” or “sew your own fabric heart/doll” etc.

Lastly, I think we will continue to see typical themes but with a vintage feel… and possibly then a complete spin on it with a rock glam kick-back to the 80’s neon type style – especially for older kids.

 {Question} For those of us that are BIG fans of In Good Company, can you give us any sneak previews of what to expect in the coming year? Any new products, publications, treats to look forward to?

{Answer} There are actually quite a few things in the pipeline, some too much in the early stages to even hint at. But, we are definitely bringing in a whole new bunch of suppliers and all their lovely party products that go with it – think lots of polka dots!

And naturally every month we are going to have a Good Newsletter and our Good Guide catalogues throughout the year.

Other little treats include more free printable parties and downloads.

Our next big thing will be some GOOD WORKSHOPS where our customers can actually come and spend a morning or evening with us and actually kick-start their seasonal parties and other celebrations.

 {Question} A few fun things about you we'd love to know

What is your favorite color?   I would usually have said blue, but I find myself being drawn to pink a lot. But more so when it is combined with unusual colors, like I am planning to do a baby pink and coral red Christmas! Crazy, I know but I saw the combo in an H&M catalogue and my kids’ outfits are such, so I will work it around them – why not I say?!

Where is your favorite place to vacation?  As I live In Switzerland, it must be South Africa, I really miss home and it is so nice to actually physically be where my company is and to meet our customers face to face. My husband laughs because my idea of a holiday is to go to SA and work in our showroom!

What is your favorite dessert, ever?  This is tough, but if pushed I have to say Swiss Movenpick Ice Cream, it is like the Rolls Royce of ice cream. Trust me, when you are in Switzerland try it and see if you can bear to disagree.

What are your favorite places to shop online?  What isn’t? I am pretty much addicted to etsy. But my husband has caught onto it! And I pretty much lurk daily on the Kate Spade and Cath Kidston websites, I just need to figure out how to convince my freight forwarder to let me ship my personal shopping to him as well!

Your favorite birthday party tradition?  I never thought of us having birthday traditions when growing up, but I did like the fact that my mom was not so strict about only being allowed to open all your presents on your actual birthday. So I have kind of developed a tradition that my girls have one or two gifts to open before their birthday – a bit like an “birthday advent calendar” if you will.


{Question} How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

{Answer} It has been a bit of mix up in the past few years, as sometimes we are in SA and have a big party with tons of family and friends and other times it really is just my husband and I and the two girls. The only rule I have – is there is ALWAYS a party. I love our Company bookmark that quotes: One’s company. Two’s a crowd. Three’s a party! In fact, the one party I remember the most was when Zara turned two, and for her official birthday it was just her and I, so we had a Furry Tea Party and all her teddy bears (from her Build a Bear party back in SA) were invited. We just had tea and cake – but she loved it!

So I kind of think all you need are a few things and you are guaranteed to have fun: a party dress, cake and candles, juice and tea, pretty bunting or balloons – and good company of course.

{Question} For parents looking to create a more stylish celebration for their child's next birthday, what are some products you recommend and styling tips you can offer to make an event more classic than what they could create from goods from a local party store?

1- Avoid the party store. You will find tons and tons of stuff you think you need but you don’t and before you know it you would have spent a fortune and still won’t have what you actually do need. Also, you are better off buying items from home and department stores with a “long term” plan in mind. For example: buy fabric table linen over paper cloths, buy melamine cups and plates instead of paper ones, buy fabric bunting instead of paper garlands. Now it might seem “costly” but for your next party you will be thankful - think Quality over Quantity!

2- Practice the mantra of Save & Splurge. Decide upfront which “party aspects” are important to you and go all out (dare I say over-the-top in these areas) and in the other areas make every effort to save, scale back or even skip them all together. (Party Aspects: Invitations, Decorations, Tableware, Food, Drinks and Cake, Games and Activities, Dress Up, Party Favors). By doing this you have already laid the ground work for a party high in style, as the focus will be drawn to those items you have gone all out on, and no will notice the other lesser aspects.

3- Make it Personal. The great thing about this tip is that it usually doesn’t cost that much extra. Address the invitations, dressing up clothes, favor tags etc. by name; include photos of the guest of honor on the stationery and as part of the decorations; and buy a personalized printable party.

4- Do It Yourself. Decide upfront on something you will do yourself, it need only be one thing but nothing says style like a homemade cake/cupcakes, or handmade party favors. And if this is a bit “scary” have the guests make it themselves as part of a party activity.

5- Down Size. If it is style that you want – then design the party as if it was for an adult, only make everything miniature (that incl. the guest list!). Think miniature furniture, tiny tableware, little food etc.

{Question} What are your top 5 daily blog and website reads?

{Answer} The Pretty Blog If there was an SA award for best new blog, this would be it. Predominantly wedding related, but the best thing must be the Thursday free downloads and tutorials, world class I tell you!

Style Me Pretty. Whilst it is a wedding blog, it is here that you will find some great new party trends that are easily adaptable to kids parties. I am pretty sure this is where the great trends of photo booths and dessert buffets stemmed from in the first place?

One Charming Party. Every post is like gold! So inspirational – it is like the Donna Hay Kids Issue every day!

My Life-My Loves.  If I actually lived in SA all the time, I would want to be like South Africa’s version of Sharnel! She does the most amazing work and her shop is like 100% perfection. I get so excited when I see a new post pop up in my inbox!

Kara's Party Ideas. This  is one of the first blogs I ever started reading, and I still enjoy it so much. Mostly because it is showcases REAL parties – and it is so nice to see some super unique ideas from “real” people.

Many thanks Julie, for such a thoughtful, informative and FUN read!!!!!!! Loved every moment of it, and looking forward to seeing what you come up with in 2011!


Genevieve Le Bel said...

Kate!!! What an absolutely fabulous post! I too LOVE IGC and utterly enjoyed getting to know Julie! Thank you for for bringing us this exclusive interview! Plus, it goes without saying that I'm BEYOND HONORED to have been mentioned! My Little Red Riding Hood party is and will remain my most cherished event.
Genevieve =)

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