Mompreneur: Laurie Wrigley
Company: Birthday in a Box
At Birthday in a Box, busy parents can find everything they need to host their child’s birthday party. We offer over 100 themes, emphasizing classic themes such as farm, pirate, princess and sleepover. Almost all of our themes have a selection of personalized products such as printed invitations, banners, and buttons. While we offer parties for parents of children 1-13, our main niche is children 1-6. We also offer holiday themes, Santa letters, and baby shower products.
What inspired you start your business?
I hit upon the idea for Birthday in a Box when my kids were 1, 3, & 5. My daughters had been invited to a friend’s party at an indoor “fun center”. The party seemed chaotic and impersonal and my friend was getting very frustrated with the staff. So I asked her why she didn’t have the party at home, and she replied that she didn’t know what to do with the kids. I thought, “I know what to do with the kids!” I did some research about what was already in the market, put together a sample birthday box for 8 children, and included partyware and an 8-page “how to” guide based on an ocean party I’d thrown for my children. I took the “birthday in a box” to my playgroup and asked what they’d think if it was priced at $55. Luckily, they loved it! Because my children were still little, I needed something that could start small and would allow me to stay at home while it grew. The Internet was just taking hold and it seemed to be the perfect solution. My best friend put up our first site in 1996.
What did you do in your past work life?
After college, I worked in traditional retail for the May Company, then in technical recruiting for six years, and consulted on the side in database programming, technical writing, and floral design.
What is your ideal workday like?
My children leave for school by 7:15, so I start by checking our site and sales statistics for the previous day, and send an update with notes to my key managers. I aim to get to the office by 8:30, and spend the day working on longer-term marketing and technical objectives, meeting with managers to resolve issues, reading blogs and stories on e-tail trends, and communicating with our parent company. On a good day, I’d be home by 6:15 to make dinner and chat with the kids. I get to a tennis match by 8:30, and end by taking a peek at sales and emails, and then a long bubble bath with a book.
What have been some of your major successes and challenges?
I feel we’ve been successful at carving out a niche in our industry by catering to suburban mothers who lean toward classic party themes and look for items that are unique and personalized.
Technology is always a challenge. It requires you to sift through trends and fads and pursue only those technological advances that will provide return on investment and make sense on a long term basis. Owning our proprietary software platform has allowed us to adapt quickly when necessary and allowed us to shape our user interface.
On a personal note, I think one of my ongoing challenges is keeping up with the volume of email that I receive on a daily basis without sitting on my Blackberry 24/7.
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
My staff and the comments we get from our customers. I have terrific, supportive managers, and we laugh a lot.
Do you have a motivational quote?
My creative director, Heidi, says a phrase that always makes me smile. When she was running the warehouse while we were searching for a new operations manager, she started saying, “Have fun, ship stuff.” And we’ve sort of adopted it as an internal motto. Children’s party supplies are all about fun, and above all, I want what we do to be successful and fun for both our staff and our customers.
If there was one piece of advice you could give to your children about running a successful business, what would it be?
Find something about which you feel passionate, something that appeals to your personality, and surround yourself with smart, interesting people.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
I’d love to say that I’ve found it. I think it might be a mother’s curse to feel that you’re never giving quite enough to one or the other. For me, I have found that above all, I have to carve out a bit of time for myself either to exercise or take a class – something that makes me feel sane again. If I feel rested, physically and mentally, then I’m better able to balance everything else.
Do you have a favorite business tool and/or resource?
I’m addicted to my Omniture statistics. I check our site performance throughout the day. I like checking shop.org articles and other news bite emails for trends and relevant stories. I watch what moms and industry leaders are saying on Twitter. I like Fast Company magazine for cool stories on entrepreneurs. Also, I try to attend at least 3-4 industry conferences a year such as eTail, Toy Fair, and Shop.org.
What advice would you offer to aspiring mompreneurs?
Seek advice from those in business already. There are endless networks of people willing to share their thoughts and experience if you simply ask. Also, consider the impact your business might have on your family, openly discuss with your spouse, and weigh the risk/reward.
What is next for your business?
We are looking to expand our personalized product line as well as partner with other retailers to expand our product line with some great, new products.
Your two cents sales pitch?
Birthday in a Box packages and ships award-winning children’s party boxes, placing an emphasis on high-quality, imaginative favors and activities. Whether it’s a complete party package, party favors, or a craft kit, our website delivers exactly what our customers need to make their children’s parties successful! Shop, click, party!
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