by Julie Hughes Published 01/08/2004
As a small town, family-owned photography studio, one of our main interests is to drum up new and excited clients, as well as offer new services for the clients we already have. We have a large kids-friendly studio that sometimes sits empty during the week, and on the occasional Saturday. We thought that having tea parties and birthday parties was a great idea. We had no clue what a great concept this would turn out to be. Absolutely fantastic sales, and so much fun!
I have been collecting adorable clothes and teapots in a whimsical area of the studio we call "The prop room." These things I find in consignment stores, goodwill, and online on EBAY. Try punching in key words like Children's Vintage, teapots, costumes, wings, etc., and you will be amazed at what pops up. Most things on EBAY are very reasonable, and you can start building your collection like that. Even yard sales, and auctions can yield fun props.
Look for child-sized furniture as well. I buy very few "props" for photographers because of the tremendous expense. Our business was always run on a shoestring, and until just the last few years, we were often pinched for funds to buy things like props. At the end of this article I will supply you with the basics needed for a successful party.
How we got started was to send fun post cards to my entire database saying "It's My Party" with some fun dress-up images, and a picture of a tea party I had already taken for a client. We also now have a Yellow-Book advert, but once you get started, word of mouth will carry for you.
Remember the kids are going to spread the word, so make sure it's incredible FUN!!! Don't fret over the mess they make because with the average sale in the thousands of dollars for two hours of mayhem, you will be rewarded for your hard work and patience.
When you first make the reservations with the mum over the phone, do not conceal your enthusiasm. Get very excited for her, asking lots of questions about favourite foods, colours, games, toys, cartoon characters, stuffed animals, best friends, etc. Also make a careful note of dislikes and food allergies. Let Mum know there are usually lots of sugar, and check if she has objections to sweets. Take lots of notes because these will come in so handy in making a party for your young Diva.
Just as a side note, I have always insisted on catering to the children. My office manager Liz is naturally great with kids, so she is a valuable asset to our company. We are extremely kids-friendly here, and we have a toy room with dolls, and GI JOES, riding toys, colour books and crayons, and the legendary toy chest! We have a real chest filled with dollar toys and quarter candies, and lots of cool things for boys and girls.
You cannot believe the amount of cooperation we get out of our young clients with tried and true techniques, but then that is another story. Let's just say our young clients will actually beg to come back! You and I both know that if we get the children in our pockets, the adults will gladly follow.
After you book the party with the mum get her to pay all, or most of the fee, well in advance; if you have not photographed the child very recently, get them in for a photograph to make invitations with. The other mums see these and go wild! Where did you get these? Who made them? What a great photo, etc... Design the party totally for each child. If her favourite character is Barbie, make sure you use lots of Barbie themes in the party favours.
If her favourite colour is purple use purple cloths (dye them yourself) to cover the table and drape around the party room. Have a beautiful picture framed and sitting on an easel for all the Mums to ohm and ahh over. You can put it in a mat and have the children sign around it if they are old enough to make their mark. Of course all these add-ons add up, including a deluxe birthday album at the end. My advice is to keep the initial cost very reasonable, and offer the mums add-on sales.
The best part is introducing our wonderful studio to new friends and clients. The Moms are blown away, and the kids are begging to come back. This is a win-win situation. Make sure your studio is polished and pristine for the actual party. Put anything breakable or dangerous away from little hands. The children need to feel welcome and unrestricted.
Collect addresses and info from all the Moms so they can attend a private screening of the images in your projection room. Of course these mums are added to our mailing list, and most become treasured additions to our studio family.
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