Host with the Most

The New Home Party
by Stevie Zvereva

While home parties have evolved into new territory, the act of entertaining guests remains an art.

They were the perfect “salesmen.” From retail to door-to-door to cold calling, the shift of sales into the home in the 1940s increasingly relied on women—housewives and stay-at-home moms—as the likes of Tupperware, Inc. discovered higher sales were possible from group parties in living rooms than from individuals. Armed with ample “at-home” time and often, an eagerness to fill an entrepreneurial void, these women wielded a not-so-secret weapon: an expansive network of girlfriends, whose friends had friends with more friends—a receptive audience for home and beauty products, in particular. Of course, working from home offered flexibility, and it was fun, too.

Tupperware pioneered the home-party industry, followed by a flurry of companies, from Mary Kay to Avon to Longaberger Party Baskets and more. While today’s hosts may entertain in new venues (like Facebook) and offer new products (like nail wraps), the idea of shopping from home in the company of friends remains quite appealing. Here’s a brief snapshot of trending parties in central Illinois.

Dinners Made Easy
The first party took six women over six hours. “It was fun, but it was brutal!” recalls Wendi Langstaff, founder of Prep Freeze Cook in Washington, Illinois. “We cooked all of our meat at the party itself, and it was all six of us women there, cutting all the onions, and everyone cried together. We’ve come far from those days.”

Langstaff calls her company “an accidental business”—as cooking with friends evolved into organized cooking parties, the business sort of launched itself, she explains. The idea is “to offer healthy and family-friendly meals to help ease the dinnertime routine.” Prep Freeze Cook does all the shopping and prep work necessary for ten freezer-ready, five-serving meals, bringing all the prepped ingredients to the host kitchen, where a minimum of ten guests help bag each meal to take home.

The parties typically last about two hours, and the menu spans a diverse range—with gluten-free, organic, Weight Watchers, paleo, clean-eating and allergy-conscious options—but Langstaff says the most popular items are the comfort meals. “The meals that make you think about what mom used to make seem to go over the best,” she says, “and they seem to be the biggest kid-pleasers.”

Prep Freeze Cook operates just off Washington Square, and while the storefront is quite new, business is booming. With some 40 parties a month and counting, Langstaff and her husband, Sonny, are looking into opening a second store in Bloomington-Normal. This rapid growth has also afforded the couple some opportunities to help their community. One of Langstaff’s favorite parties was a “Washington Gives Back” event, where more than 100 women came to the store to prep meals for the victims of last year’s tornado.

Langstaff calls her job “pretty fantastic.” “I own the business with my husband,” she says, “so the fact that I get to spend so much time with him is one of my favorite parts. And… I get to go to a party every night!”

Schedule your party at prepfreezecookllc.com, or call (309) 657-9990.

The Perfect Look
You can’t beat the price, explains Jennifer Martina, recent host of a Jamberry Nails party in East Peoria. “The sheets are $15 a piece… and if you buy three, you get one free… Compared to how much money you’d be spending to keep your nails that nice otherwise, you’d be spending a lot more than that!”

Jamberry Nails was founded in 2010 by three Salt Lake City sisters determined to find an inexpensive, DIY method to keep their hands looking polished. The decision to become a direct-selling party company was a natural fit, and the nail-wrap concept was an easy sell: the growing company has ranked among the Top Ten Home Party Businesses at homepartyrankings.com for the last six months.

While Jamberry offers low start-up costs and a generous compensation plan for its independent consultants, the company owes its true success to the product itself. The nail wrap has revolutionized the industry, offering a chip- and flake-free product that lasts longer than a traditional manicure. Plus, it’s customizable, easy and fun.

What drew Martina in were the cute pattern choices. Working with a consultant, she opted for an “online party” on Facebook. Though the company also offers catalogue parties and in-home options—great for product sampling—the online parties are increasingly popular, Martina explains, and easy to set up. “Basically, I just invited every single woman on my friend list!”

Jamberry offers an incentive point system, beginning with various samples to distribute to guests. “We turned that into a game,” Martina explains. “If you requested a sample, you got an extra point; if you posted a picture of your sample, you got extra points… The first person to place an order got 50 points… At the end, whoever had the most points would get a half-sheet of nails”—the value of two or three manicures.

Martina racked up nearly $450 in sales and estimates receiving some two or three hundred dollars’ of free products—her consultant’s best online party to date. “I know a lot of people,” she admits, “and I had a lot of women in my family who had always wanted to try [Jamberry]. I understood that half of [my guest list] was going to say no, but… I would invite as many people as you can. It’s Facebook… If they say no, they’re not going to hear about it again.”

Of course, it helps to be active, she adds. “I posted there every single day… and I sent out a lot of samples. It was beneficial because most [of the recipients] ended up buying something.”

For more information—or to host your own party—visit jamberrynails.net.

A Greener Clean
Four of her co-workers raved about the stuff: a green company with great products, they touted. “They loved it, and that’s why I kind of wanted to get an idea, too,” says Jordan Chism of Goodfield, who held a Norwex “party” this summer, even before trying the products herself.

A Nordic-born company that expanded to the U.S. in 1999, Norwex works “to improve quality of life by radically reducing chemicals in our homes.” With over 60,000 consultants worldwide, its home products are centered around the patented Norwex Microfiber System—a cloth knit of a unique material able to hold seven times its weight. The company also produces floor care systems, kitchen and bathroom products, and laundry care items, and has branched into personal care, offering face and body products certified by Ecocert, a European organization that sets standards for natural and organic products.

For Chism, her friends’ word of mouth was reason enough to host a party after she was approached by a Norwex consultant at work—and that’s not to mention the incentives: she received a dozen various items for selling about $350 worth of products.

Norwex parties can be held “anywhere,” including—you guessed it—Facebook, which allows the consultant or hostess to add daily descriptions of products, announcements, incentives and tips. Chism’s consultant added before-and-after photos of the products’ cleaning abilities compared to conventional products, making a convincing argument to those unfamiliar with the company.

Though successful overall, Chism believes she could have sold even more with additional planning. Among her tips: try to get an idea ahead of time if people are actually interested in purchasing, and push the “easy-sell” items like dishwasher soap and dryer balls.

For information on hosting your own party, visit norwex.com.

More Pampering, Please
Personal chef Bill More hosts a different kind of party. “I’m about pampering,” says the founder of Your Secret Chef, a personal chef service based in Brimfield. Frustrated by a stressful career in corporate sales, the self-taught home cook made the culinary career shift in 2006. “I started with some friends and advertising at places where I thought my clients—people who have great taste and disposable income—might go,” More explains. He now hosts up to three events a week.

Operating right out of the host’s home kitchen, More arrives with everything he needs—food, cooking and clean-up supplies—to host a memorable dinner party. These parties range from romantic dinners for two to large, interactive cooking parties, where small groups are assigned to assist with specific courses. Among his most popular offerings is Girl’s Night In, where a licensed massage therapist joins him to offer half-hour massages to guests between wine and appetizers. Other options include the photography/dinner package—a professional photographer provides a photo session while More cooks—and in-home wine tastings, where he suggests food pairings for high-end wines from WineShop at Home.

The best part of More’s job? “When my clients say, ‘I never thought I could have so much fun at home.’ It’s a great way to enjoy family and friends and not worry about running back and forth to the kitchen, getting food and clearing dishes… They can just offload the responsibilities they don’t want to do themselves.”

“I want people to feel special in their own home... and I even clean the kitchen when I’m done!” he laughs. a&s

To book Chef Bill for your next home party, visit yoursecretchef.net or call (309) 696-7049.

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