If you asked Kerry Cable what the ingredients for a great party are, she would say: great atmosphere, lots of family and friends, snacks and activities for keeping the children entertained… without forgetting party bags to hand out as a way of saying thank you for celebrating the special occasion. For the past four years Kerry and her partner Jason have run Party Bag World, a business that helps make parties memorable for thousands of children and parents by pre-filling party bags.
Like ships in the night
In 2011, Kerry and Jason both had full-time jobs; Jason worked in the construction industry, while Kerry had set up a small linguistic agency after the birth of their first son. Their hectic schedules meant they rarely spent time together: “We were like ships in the night,” she recalls. “We were working very long hours and didn’t get to see enough of the children. We started thinking about how we could change that and do something together.”
Inspiration struck after they organised a birthday party for one of their two sons. “One of the things I couldn’t avoid doing was party bags”, she remembers. Living in rural Essex, Kerry noticed there was no way for her to easily obtain sweets and other treats in reasonable quantities: “Buying individual items was expensive, and buying in bulk would leave a lot of wastage; plus, the quality wasn’t always high. It would have been great if someone had taken care of all that. And that’s when we realised this could be our opportunity.”
A sweet new business
“We had no experience in the world of online retail, everything was brand new to us,” Kerry says. After a lot of research to identify the best suppliers for bags and sweets, the couple opened their own website and orders started to trickle through, at first through family and friends. “We both still had our jobs, so we would fill party bags at our kitchen table, surrounded by sweets, in the evenings or at the weekends.” The children got involved in the family business, too: “They were perfect toy testers,” Kerry laughs, “but it’s been a torture for them, really: the house was full of sweets all the time, but they didn’t get to eat more!”
After a year and a half, sales had reached the right point for Jason to leave his job in the construction industry and dedicate himself fully to Party Bag World. That was a turning point: “The first years were a financial juggling act as we had to self-fund. It was a tense time. We sold our car and basically everything that wasn’t nailed down to buy stock and expand the product range,” Kerry explains.
Shortly after switching jobs, Jason read about how individual sellers could set up a shop on Amazon: “At the beginning it sounded scary, but once we started we realised the process was actually quite easy. When the first order came in, it was like an adrenaline rush: this was really going to work.”
For us it was never about making a fortune, but finding a way to spend more quality time with our boys while they are still young
During the first months, the couple continued to experiment with products and learn as much as they could about the new channel. “I found seller forums really helpful to face the new challenges we discovered as we grew. Amazon encourages you to constantly improve the level of service you provide to customers. We make sure we respond quickly to every enquiry, even late in the evening; it can be demanding, but it’s worth it.”
A full-time commitment
In the following months, orders received through Amazon grew to the extent that Kerry was able to spend less time transcribing and focus on Party Bag World, especially on customer service and managing the online store, while Jay would take care of logistics - a key aspect in the party business. Eventually, they were able to move their stock to a warehouse just outside the village and employ three part-time staff: “Being able to create opportunities in the area you live in is such a nice feeling. There is a happy atmosphere at work, as we’re always surrounded by fun products,” Kerry explains.
“Amazon has completely transformed our business, and we continue learning,” she says. They are about to start using Fulfilment by Amazon, and they are planning for their party bags to debut on the US website, Amazon.com, in the second half of the year.
More family time
“The best part is that we can organise our daily tasks around our children: it’s working brilliantly,” Kerry explains. “For us it was never about making a fortune, but finding a way to spend more quality time with our boys while they are still young. This is especially true for Jason: no more missing out on school events, sports days or fun activities. Most importantly, we have built the foundations for something that can expand in the future, as our children grow up. It is all falling into place and we feel very fortunate.”