Hi Laura, tell us a bit about your business?
“Make It Pop offers a colourful collection of children’s luxury melamine party plates, cups and serve-ware. We also have beautiful decorations that are available to hire online. The first business in the UK to offer this service, ‘Make It Pop’ was launched to offer an alternative to single-use disposables that is affordable and eco-friendly.”
What was the catalyst for your business?
“The catalyst for the business was my husband’s 40thbirthday two years ago. We held the party at home and invited about 100 guests along. I went online to order party cups and plates and realised that buying a few single use glasses per person cost nearly the same as buying a glass mason jar for each guest. I opted for the latter as it was far better for the environment and would give a much nicer look and feel to the party. We hired a VW cocktail bar to serve drinks, and it was important to me that the glassware was on point!
My mind then turned to all the children’s parties I had hosted for my three children over the years and how frustrated I got when it was too expensive to invest in stylish and child-friendly tableware that complemented the chosen theme (most of which you’d not use again!), and quality decorations in the right quantities to make an impact in our home and local village hall which have been our go-to venues for many of the 18 children’s parties I’ve hosted to date for my own brood. Surely there were other mums out there who were trying to create the perfect ‘Pinterest party’ and thinking the same thing?!
I had searched for a children’s party supplies hire service online and couldn’t find more than bouncy castle and some tables and chairs that were only available to their local area, and you had to call for a quote. I couldn’t help but thinking that if I was the one to invest in the products and make the hire process super easy, other parents who enjoy pulling together children’s parties and events, would have a use for them.”
What was the ‘tipping point’ for your business when you knew you were onto something…?
“Having been shocked by Blue Planet II and hearing the announcement last July by the European Union that plastic plates, cutlery, drink stirrers and balloons feature in the top 10 items that account for 70% of all marine litter, made me think that that the business model had legs and the need to do something inspired me to get the idea off the ground. I spent the summer sourcing the products and working on the website and launched as soon as the children went back to school in September.
A few weeks after I launched, the EU voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use party disposables across the Union by 2021. This was the moment that confirmed to me I had done the right thing, and I was thrilled to have brought a solution to market that means that parents don’t have to wait until 2021 to start using an alternative!”
Offering eco-friendly party supplies is such a special USP, what processes do you use to ensure you keep to your eco-friendly ethos?
“Stocking durable products was essential for me as the tableware range needs to be fit to stand the hired market, and children! All the melamine tableware products are RICE which is a quality brand with products that are BPA free, colourful and appealing to children, with the added benefit of being dishwasher-safe for parents.
Whilst melamine is a plastic composite, the reusable nature of the products means that they have the potential to prevent an enormous amount of party waste during their lifetime. Local authorities in the UK struggle to cope with compostable party-ware and due to inadequate composting facilities, many end up on landfill. Biodegradable party tableware will break down faster than the plastic-lined paper cups and plates, but this process will still take a long time without the specialist facilities.
So many of the single-use party supplies we are buying as a nation are plastic-coated or non-recyclable, from birthday banners and balloons to party bags filled with cheap plastic ‘rubbish’ and copious cups and plates. I have given myself a strict purchasing criteria, whereby I only stock quality reusable products that can be packed away and used again and again, or on show all year round.
Where products are packaged (unfortunately it is difficult to get away from this until manufacturers take more responsibility), I ensure that it is recyclable packaging. All our dispatch packaging is recycled, and I have chosen a carbon neutral courier service.”
What has been one of the best moments in business so far?
“For me, it is the wonderful reception I have received from friends and contacts, in terms of the concept and seeing people actually using the service. I think it is still very early days and people are naturally slow to change habits, but it feels like the eco-community is growing strong and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”
How has social media helped to grow your business?
“Social media has allowed me to find and connect with the eco-friendly community and influencer network quickly and get my products in front of parents. Feedback has been crucial in the last few months as everything is still very much in its’ infancy and social media has definitely helped me with a few decisions with key tools such as polls, suggestion boxes and general comments.”
Have you got any exciting new concepts that you’re working on at the moment?
“I am looking to launch the first of the themed ‘eco-friendly party in a box’ packages in February. I had to get the main product ranged launched as a priority and an end-to-end eco-friendly ‘party-in-a-box’ is something I am keen to follow-on with. By that, I don’t just mean supplying a box of party tableware. Hosting a great party involves so much more than just styling a beautiful party table. There are children to entertain for a few hours, themed food ideas to consider, shopping lists, playlists, party bags and decorations. This solution helps parents pull off a stylish and perfectly executed party with ease, that’s eco-friendly and avoids runaway party costs.”
Have you conquered the work life balance?
“In a nutshell, no! But it is something I have definitely got better at in recent years. I have learnt to be more focused, which in turn helps my productivity. I used to find myself working all hours, but getting distracted because my brain had switched off, which is a classic formula for getting nowhere fast!”
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self now?
“Have more confidence in yourself and don’t be so self-critical. That’s easier said than done in your younger years, but it’s never too early to speak up and make your mark!”
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