How to Start a Kid-Focused Business

Days in the Life of..

Kids' Party Planning
Event planners typically find themselves performing a whole range of tasks, particularly when they first start out. For many planners, this variety in their working life is part of the job's appeal. From phone negotiations and computer data inputting to shopping around for that perfect site and brainstorming the ideal party theme, planners wear many hats-sometimes even an emergency rescue one!

Yvette Jackson and Tiffany Brown own Wow! Special Events in Huntington Beach, California; the company specializes in high school events such as proms. Jackson recounts the time a deejay forgot to bring the coronation song for the crowning of the prom king and queen. "One of our coordinators ran home, downloaded it from the internet, burned a CD and ran it over to the venue," she says.

If your company provides one or more vendor services, such as décor, floral treatments or entertainment, your day will include even more variety, since you'll add painting, construction, flower arranging and talent scouting to the list of possibilities.
Whatever you do, your day will be filled with people, so make sure you enjoy working with others! Solid time management skills and the ability to multitask are also important. All in all, planning parties involves a delicate balance of the practical and the creative.

Kids' Gift and Bath Products
Eleanor Keare, president and co-owner of Santa Monica, California-based Circle of Friends, a children's bath products company started in 1995, says her day is split between the present and the future. She spends a significant amount of time approving orders, maintaining accounts, dealing with customer service issues, checking inventory and supplies, and making sure that production is moving forward. To develop new business, she oversees accounts, looks into acquisitions and works on developing new products.

Kids' Educational Toys and Games
If you sell ready-made toys and games, your day-to-day activities will be similar to those of other owners of inventory-based retail businesses. If you develop your own toys and games and then sell them, your primary activities will depend on what stage of development your toys and games are in and how you decide to develop and sell them. In general, however, you'll add research, design, testing, manufacturing and packaging to the general activities common to most businesses.

Andrea Barthello and her husband, Bill Ritchie, started ThinkFun, originally named Binary Arts, in 1985 in the basement of their house. They started out making brain-teaser puzzles based on binary-code concepts of the kind used in computers. "We evolved into calling them mind-challenging games when we came up with Rush Hour, a multilevel game," says Barthello.

Once they finished their design and development, they found their time sharply divided. "We were trying to sell [our games] during the day and making them at night," says Barthello. They looked for local target markets, phoned business owners and provided product samples to prospective specialty store customers.

These days, ThinkFun occupies a large two-story building. The company's award-winning games are sold in most educational toy stores and also in huge retailers like Barnes & Noble and Target. While Ritchie and other company executives head up operations and product development, Barthello handles corporate development and sales and marketing. You, too, can expect to be involved in a variety of different activities, many of them concurrently.

Kids' Plus-Size Clothing
If you're starting a retail business, then your day will probably be similar to that of any retail store owner. You'll approve orders, sell to customers, supervise employees, check inventory levels, deal with customer service issues and do a host of other tasks as well, depending on your sales venue.

MerriBella Fashions owner LeRona Johnson spends a significant portion of her time on research. She looks for wholesale clothing online at www.fashiongo.net and www.lashowroom.com . She checks out the competition in local malls. She also keeps a close eye on her customer database. "I want to know who my customers are, who's shopping with us on a regular basis, and how much they're spending," she says. She sends customers coupons and information on new clothing lines. She also stays current on building plans in the area, especially since she's planning an expansion within the next two years.

Johnson also feels it's important for her to spend time on the sales floor. "No one should know your business more than you," she says, "and [you should] know what your customers are asking for."

If you're creating custom-made plus-size clothes, then you have a service business rather than an inventory-based one. Most of your day will be spent at your sewing machine, with additional time allowance for consultations, fittings and paperwork. "Sometimes I go fabric shopping with a client," says Mary Stevens, a Cincinnati-based entrepreneur who started creating custom garments in 2004 under the shingle Majestic Sewing and Apparel.

A designer's day includes reading current fashion magazines, newspapers, and other media that reflect current trends and tastes. You might attend fashion shows or meet with customers and contractors. You are constantly on the look-out for new ideas, whether you do that by sketching new designs or scanning the net.

Kids' Cooking Classes
Just imagine it: You tool through the farmers' market in the morning, picking out the freshest produce and the most tempting cheeses. You stop at the coffee shop, where you sip your favorite brew while researching French history on your laptop. At the bakery you buy two baguettes. Then it's onward to pick up four aprons donated by a local gourmet shop.

Back at the office, you collect the recipes you'll need and put the finishing touches on your lesson plan: Dinner in Paris. Then you open mail, collecting several deposit checks. After school, the kids arrive. They make a perfect tarte a l'oignon (onion tart) appetizer, followed by an equally wonderful boeuf bourguignon, salad and crepes. You send them off and leave the remaining cleanup to your assistant while you answer messages and book four more 6-year-old girls into your Eloise in the Kitchen summer camp.

You'll probably do at least some of these things, although you'll also undertake many other less glamorous tasks, like testing recipes, mopping up assorted spills and figuring out a last-minute substitute for that burned tray of hors d'oeuvres.

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