Focus On: Party Planning

Party plan is a way of promoting and selling products through hosting social gatherings and parties and dates back to the Tupperware parties in the US set up by Brownie Wise in the 1950s. The party plan agent usually hosts the party of friends and acquaintances in their own home or another venue and displays the products for sales in a relaxed atmosphere. Find out more….

What is party plan?

Party plan is a way of promoting and selling products through hosting social gatherings and parties and dates back to the Tupperware parties in the US set up by Brownie Wise in the 1950s. The party plan agent usually hosts the party of friends and acquaintances in their own home or another venue and displays the products for sales in a relaxed atmosphere. She then gets people to try them out or suggests they might also like to host a party. Mainly party plan is run by women for women and products include things like cosmetics, jewellery and lingerie. You can be paid either for the sales you make or for building a team of other sellers. The party plan agent receives commission on sales and a proportion of the commission on sales made by any people she recruits.

First steps

If you are interested in becoming a party plan agent, research what kind of product you would like to sell. Make sure it is something you are enthusiastic about and test it out. Research the market locally and with your acquaintances to work out how much money you are likely to make from selling. Approach a company direct to find out more information. You will normally have to pay out for products in the first instance and then you will receive a commission on any sales you make. The commission is usually a fixed percentage of the sales price, but can sometimes increase at specified levels. Some companies give party plan agents bonuses for achieving set targets and some have different levels of bonuses to encourage greater sales. Agents set the time and venue of the party and create the atmosphere. They may also market the event locally, for instance, in local shop windows. Some companies set a minimum of parties you need to host before they will give you the products to sell. Many provide back-up support and advice, if you need it.

Why is it good for mums?

Flexibility is the number one attraction of party plan for mums, especially those with young children. Roberta Jerram, director of the Linen at Home and a veteran of party plan businesses, says: “It works really well for mums. You can go out in the evenings when the kids are in bed. It gives you an opportunity to go out and stop being a mum for a few hours. You’re earning and there’s not so much guilt because the usual party times are 8-10pm when young children are in bed.” For her personally, this worked when her children were very young, but as they got older and were staying up later she preferred to work more in the school day so she would have time in the evenings with them. Others like to do coffee mornings or other types of parties and you can take your children with you, says Roberta.

For instance, she used to sell children’s books and took her kids along to parties in the holidays. She created the party around kids as all the people at the party had children. “We put on a daytime Easter egghunt, for instance, and did storytime. It’s about being creative and flexible.” Plus, she adds, “you can dip in and out and ramp it up when time allows”.

Susannah Schofield from Best in Glass agrees and emphasises the team nature of party plan: “Party plan allows people to work for themselves but never be alone. It allows people to be entrepreneurial and run their own business but for a very small initial financial outlay, plus it comes with the reassurance it will work, it is tried and tested and the business will make money. It is great for fitting in around individuals lifestyles, albeit kids, second jobs, whatever is required – you get to work the hours you want and build the business you have always dreamt of – the only thing I don’t understand is why more people don’t do it!”

Sue Ardley, Organic Group Leader of Neal’s Yard Remedies, says: “Party plan is an excellent way for a company to distribute it’s products in the most powerful way, ie; by word of mouth or recommendation, and for women wanting extra income to be successful working part time, and not just be ‘mum’. A ‘party’ can take many forms, generally direct selling is a hugely underrated industry, it is undoubtedly the most ‘mum’ friendly. In short, it’s a win win situation for all involved!”

How much can you earn?

How much you earn in party plan depends on how much time and effort you are willing to invest. You need to investigate from the off how much your start-up costs will be and whether there are any hidden charges such as mileage and postage so you can factor these in. Earnings can depend on the product you choose to sell and the market there is for it. Those who build up a team of agents will earn more. One piece of advice from a party plan agent is to calculate how much you want to earn on a monthly basis and divide this by how many days you are prepared to work and your average customer spend. This will show you how many customers you would need to target to reach this sum.

What skills do you need?

Party plan is above all about people skills, whether that it to do with hosting a party or building a team of party plan agents.

Roberta says anyone considering running their own party plan business needs to believe in the company and the products but most importantly in themselves. “Great people skills are essential for both sales and team-building, but something I’m happy to say most women can develop as their business grows. Being comfortable with talking to people you’ve not met before isn’t necessarily inherent in everybody when they first start out but it’s something that’s fun to develop as you go. Moving on from doing initial parties for friends to booking parties for new hosts and widening your network definitely helps lay foundations for success. Working in people’s homes in a relaxed setting is a gentle way to gain sales and business confidence.”

Roberta warns that party plan is not for everyone and it is important when building a team to ask the right questions to get like-minded people who will work well together. She acknowledges that leadership is not for everyone, many prefer to earn an income purely from personal sales which is fine. However, the team building aspect is where the bigger money is to be made, but this can take some time. It is important when building a team to ask the right questions and invest the time in building relationships,” she adds “women’s perception of success is “not necessarily about money.”

“Success in business is always values-based for women. A job well done, a sense of pride, connection with other women and to create our own flexible career path are as important to most women as providing an income. This type of business allows us to get the best of both worlds of work and parenthood and make a contribution.” she says. “There’s nothing else quite like it!’

Tips for success

To increase your chances of selling products, you need to think about creating the best atmosphere for selling, including the best way to display your products. As it is a social event, create a party atmosphere by providing refreshments and don’t be too pushy about sales. Party plan is about creating an informal fun atmosphere – it is not about hard sell. Be enthusiastic.

Paul Mackinnon of jewellery business LoveNoodle advises his agents not to be too pushy. “Party plan is about creating a relaxed social occasion. Your passion for the product is important, but it should sell itself,” he says. LoveNoodle suggests three types of parties – daytime events such as coffee mornings, early evening events and evening parties – and proposes different menus for each to create the right party mood. Paul says daytime parties tend to be more functional – “it’s like popping into a shop for a gift,” he says. Evening ones are more like girls nights out. “You need to make them fun and interesting,” he advises.

Further information

Direct Selling Association – www.dsa.org.uk





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