As I begin this post I am still not sure if I am actually going to hit “publish”. Although, if you are reading this at some point either I changed my mind willingly and thoughtfully or I had a momentary lapse in judgement and that little hot pink devil wearing a spikey but blingy tiara sitting on my left shoulder made me do it. I’ll leave that for you to decide.
My name is Kylie and I am…a lot of things. I am a wife, mother of two (my son is 10 years old and my daughter is 21 months going on 21 years), a daughter, sister, friend, worker bee, and owner of Made by a Princess Parties in Style. I am also an accountant nurse, housekeeper, chef, drier of tears, stuffed animal fixer, seamstress, and many not know this, but I also hold a degree in Toy Archaeology. This is a degree that few choose to pursue because it means you are always on call to hunt for that elusive artifact, critical to your client’s (i.e. your kids) most recent and pressing project, no matter the day, time, or other work you may be doing. The pay is pretty great though when you do find said artifact…usually a giant hug and kiss and squeals of excitement and, “Thank you Mommy! You’re the best!” My whole point (I swear I do have one) is that I am a full-time working mom trying to create the best life possible for family and have some fun along the way. Why is this important you might be asking? Well, I am going to lay it on you…
I am going to start by saying I LOVE my party business. Parties are my passion, my creative outlet, my obsession even sometimes. I love creating them for my family and friends and I love being a part, even a small part sometimes, of my client’s parties. I am grateful and so appreciative of my clients and all of my customers who choose to shop with me over the hundreds of other options out there. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s always tiaras and tea, sometimes clients, or potential clients, can really take the sparkle out of my step and I am going to tell you why. More and more lately clients want, and some expect, deep discounts or something for free. We small shop owners are very accommodating of this more often than we should because we don’t want to miss out on a sale or we don’t want negative feedback. If you are on Etsy you know all about feedback and how unjust it can be. That is a whole other topic… Anyway, we reserve the right to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t take 50% off”, or “I’m sorry there is an extra fee for custom designs” and you reserve the right to stay and shop or move along. Most of those requests end with, “Thank you for your time, I’ll think about it and get back to you” knowing you never will. However, sometimes you get something like this, “I don’t understand what the big deal is. It’s just a few lines and it won’t take you very long.”, “You’re going to charge me to change the size?!!!!!!”, “It’s not my fault that the theme changed for my friend’s baby shower. I haven’t used the invitation yet so I don’t understand why you won’t just send me another design. This is terrible customer service!”, and the one we love the most, “I’m not paying that. That’s outrageous!!!! I can make it for way less than that!” Button.Pushed.
Can you really make it for less? Sure, you might be able to purchase the supplies for less but can you really re-create the item or design for less? Not likely and I am going to tell you why with a little story. I had a potential customer ask me how much I would charge to make the flip flop favors as seen in my friend’s 40th birthday party set. I only sell the printable set in my shop but I am happy to take special requests and custom orders. I told her they would cost $5ea. She went nuts. She told me she can get flip flops at the dollar store, that paper was cheap, and that I was just in business to rip off innocent hard working people like her. Hold the iPhone. What? Believe me, that is not my company motto. To be clear, I am in this business to make money but not to rip anyone off. Taking this example of the flip flops, let’s break down how much it would really cost for you to make a dozen flip flop favors for your friend’s birthday party…
Flip flops, provided you can find them at the dollar store in the color you want and sizes: $1.10ea
Ream of cardstock, depending on brand and type: $40
Ribbon, tiny skinny ribbon from Michael’s: $.55 roll
“Bling” for each pair, this is a seasonal item and subject to availability at Michael’s: $15
Gas to travel to dollar store, paper store, and Michael’s: approx $10
Mini hole punch: $10
Paper trimmer: $40
Toner for color printer (provided you already have a color printer): $90
Design flip flop tags, print, cut and trim, hole punch, and assembly time based on $60/hour: $120
Cost per flip flop for you to re-create with the same supplies and tools: $27.22
Even if you take out the design, print, assembly time it is still over $17 per pair. Now, I know you are thinking, “But I don’t need a whole ream of paper for this project, it isn’t going to take $90 worth of ink, I don’t need a paper trimmer I can just use my scissors and $60 per hour? I don’t think so!” Well, you can’t just buy three sheets of cardstock you have to buy the whole ream, you can’t just buy the ink you need for that project, you have to buy the whole cartridge in all six colors, and yes you can use your scissors but you aren’t going to have nice clean straight edges. So, if you want to re-create it and make it look like the ones in my picture, and that is what you expect, then yes, these are the supplies you need…and yes, I charge $60 per hour. With that you get my time, experience, knowledge from the classes I take to learn new things and to keep up with current technology, the software I buy which isn’t cheap, emails, phone calls, research, graphics, in some cases shopping time, going to the post office, the countless (unaccounted for) hours in finding the perfect font to convey just the right feel for your modern, traditional, rustic, country/city chic, Asian/western fusion bridal shower invitation. That was a real request from a client. After 26 emails back and forth and three design samples, the bride decided she wanted to go with the one that brought her to my shop in the first place. Aces. That was three+ hours I couldn’t get back. You also get creativity. You stopped by my shop for a reason right? You liked an invitation or a shower game or you saw My Favorite Things party online and wanted to buy the printable set for your own party with girlfriends? Perfect! I would love love love to work with you and thank you for finding me! If you only knew how many hours really go into designing one invitation or a party package you would fall over. Truly. We can’t charge for our real time because nobody could afford a $90 printable invitation but spending an hour and a half on one design is not uncommon.
I’m really no different than any other working mom running her own business and trying to manage all of the things Life throws at me. Whether it’s family problems, financial problems, house chores, bills to be paid, runny noses to wipe, homework to check, emails to answer, or a husband to remember needs attention too, we all have stuff. All I ask is that the next time you see something on Pinterest and think, “That’s really cute but I can do it cheaper!” please keep in mind that someone else thought of that. Someone was sitting in their car waiting in line to pick up their kids or driving to work in traffic for the 5000th time and came up with a brilliant idea that you love, bought the supplies for, put it together, took a lovely photograph, posted it online, and somewhere along the way it got pinned for you to enjoy and maybe put a smile on your face. It is so hard to be original anymore, or at least be acknowledged for being original, and with the advent of technology and forums like Pinterest (which I love by the way as evidenced by my 3,471 pins and 109 boards) it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. I guess my whole point is, “If you like it…buy it.” If you think you can create a candy buffet for $2.50 per person with all the supplies, containers, tablecloths, decorations, food tents, signs, time to put together and take down…go for it. You might save a couple dollars here and there on the actual product but you will wish you hired someone to do the shopping, table-designing, set up and clean for you. You think you can make your custom wedding invitations with response cards, directions (with a map), matching return address wraps, and a belly band for under $2 each…more power to you.
If you want great service and a beautiful finished product like the ones you have been mooning over for months, more than likely you are going to have to shell out a few bucks for it. If you don’t want to that’s fine too, just please don’t tell us you can make it for less.
Thank you for taking the time to read this to the end. I know this was a long one! I would love to hear your constructive thoughts. I will tell you up front I won’t allow any comments with profanity to slide in. I am open to meaningful dialogue and will answer your questions. Don’t be mean, no one likes mean but tell me your thoughts on the subject…