Founder of Event Planning Platform Shares Her Top Party Essentials

Founder of Event Planning Platform Shares Her Top Party Essentials

BlogCoverPodcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh (Purplepass Marketing Director) and Philly Mackinnon (Founder of Sugar & Rind). Jump to the show notes below. 

 

The EventBuzz podcast: Sugar & Rind

presented by Purplepass

 

Show Notes

Topic markers:

07:34 - Top party planning essentials 

11:05 - What type of staff do you need at a party?

14:11 - Tips on tenting outdoor events 

18:52 - Hosting a silent disco

23:20 - Expert tips for first time planners 

 

Links:  

Sugar & Rind - Party Planning 

 

Quotes:  

Tips for party planners: 


"...a lot of people are moving away from that formal dining experience.
So makes for a really lovely relaxed party and create lots of different seating areas. And they might be stalls or they might be low table, low chairs, or, you know, to still kind of seating areas rather than people having to sit and eat in one place for a long fixed period of time. I think that that's quite a fun, nice way to go at a party."

"And then my other top tip really is just making sure that you get the number of guests that you have in relation to the space of your venue. So for example, if you've got a really massive house, you need to make sure you're going to fill it up or put them all in one room so that it feels full, because it's better to be too crowded than it is to be too empty. And even if it feels a bit too crowded at the beginning, people will peel away and then the numbers are about right. Because the worst kind of party is where you've got a really big room and you haven't got enough people in it."

 

 

Podcast Transcript: Purplepass + Philly Mackinnon

Savannah (Purplepass):

Hi everyone, this is Savannah McIntosh, your hosts for the EventBuzz podcast presented by Purplepass, a show connecting event professionals around the world by sharing real life experiences, tips and planning advice.

Philly McKinnon is an event expert of 20 plus years who recently set up a new event and party planning business, Sugar & Rind. Her goal is to make throwing parties ridiculously easy for anyone and everyone involved. The website even has a Build Your Party tool to order everything you need in one sitting. That's wild, right?

Today, she will be sharing her inspiration behind starting a party planning business and advice for other planners out there. Hi Philly, thanks for coming onto the show. How are you doing today?

 

Philly (Sugar&Rind): 

I'm good. Thanks for having me.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. So I went ahead and introduce you briefly starting the episode. But I still want to learn more about your event experience who you are and kind of the inspiration behind your new party planning business?

 

Philly:

Sure, sure. So I've been in the events industry for about 25 years now. I started in sponsorship sales, really. So selling packaging up and selling sports rights. And then over the years, I've worked in all sorts of venues like Wembley Stadium, and, you know, I worked in horse racing for a while. And always just selling, managing and running events and partnerships, basically.

So when the pandemic hit last year, I was working on a contract with the Economists as their head of client services. So I was sort of as soon as, as soon as the pandemic hit, I was kind of like the clock was ticking, and people were peeling away. And I was just kind of waiting for that call to say, Oh, I'm really sorry, we're not renewing your contract. And then, and then thinking, what the hell am I going to do when that happens? Because you know, no one's going to be having any, any events.

And I'm just going to be in a massive long line of unemployed people. So for so long, I've been wanting to do my own thing and but I've got three kids. So you know, contracts would come along. And it's always quite hard to say no, because it's, you know, we've got a big family. So I just knew I was going to have a bad year. And I couldn't face it, I just really wanted to do something positive and exciting. And I also figured that there was going to be a lot of pent up demand following, following the pandemic. So I came up with this idea to put together Sugar & Rind, which is my party planning website, where people can just come online, basically shop for a party.

So it's quite a novel approach, really, in a way because normally, if you call a party planner, and you say, I want this, this and this, and they go away, and they put together a quotation for you, and they charge for their time. And you have to be really, really wealthy to use a party planner normally. So I wanted to create something that was a little bit more cost effective for people who want to have a really nice party at home, but don't want to do it themselves.

So that was why I decided to do it in a more sort of e-commerce style, which is that you can just go on the website and just shop for a bar or a waiter or catering packages or you know, silent discos or whatever it is you want. I'm trying to, you know, in new business, I'm trying to add cool stuff. So that was kind of how I got to where I'm at this year, I launched in April. You know, things are really getting starting to get busy now, which is exciting, because our regulations have just changed. And it looks like from the 19th of July in the UK, we're going to be able to party properly.

 

Savannah:

Yay. Yes, I actually went through your site and I love it. I don't know there's something about you know, shopping, adding to cart. It's nice. You can go through be like wait, I need this. And the other thing is, like, you don't think of something's and then you'll see it on your site and be like, Oh, yes, we need that. And let's add that. So yeah, make it really nice.

 

Philly:

Exactly. And then it's also that thing of knowing what things cost, because you could spend like two hours on the phone to a party planner saying, Oh, I want this and I want that and you just don't really know how much it's going to cost whereas with my site, you can just see immediately what you're in for. So people don't just add to basket and check out. Obviously I spend lots of time with them chatting in through. But what I encourage people to do is put absolutely everything in the basket that they want. And when you know, and then strip it back from there, it's looking like it's too expensive.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, getting excited.

 

Philly:

Yeah, exactly build, build your maximum capacity party. And then perhaps if it's looking like it's going over the top and just pare it back a little bit and take it from there. But I'm spending lots of time chatting to people before they get to that stage, because inevitably, there are lots of questions.

 

Savannah:

And when did you officially launch the business? I don't think I asked you.

 

Philly: So I launched in April, I started working on it home, in November last year, trying to my husband created the brand actually, because he's a creative director. And we juggles, homeschool and, and putting the business together, everybody in the house. We're all by us packed in. But it was it just kept me it kept me alive, really and excited and something to focus on, you know, and trying to turn a negative into a positive area.

So and now it's really fulfilling because I've just started to, you know, get customers on board. My first few customers were friends. And now I really am starting to find people using the website and enjoying the experience. And then you know, they don't know me from Adam. So it's really exciting.

 

Savannah:

And it's exciting. Good for you guys. It's a really nice website and going through all you guys offer a lot of stuff that I would have thought about. Yeah, I just wanted to learn a little bit more of how how you got to where you are today. And of course, it sounds similar to a lot of people like especially because of COVID, you know, you're on a pause and then you kind of figure out different a different thing to do to kind of get through it and you made it work. I love that.

And so to jump in, since we have a lot of, you know, different planners that listen to our podcast promoters. I figured I'd ask you a few questions and kind of pick your brain since you all you have so much experience in the event world. And the first question I think I wanted to ask, especially like, if I was going through your website, and I'm trying to put together my own party, what are some essentials, you would say every party should have like the basics, what you need, you probably can't get by without, if that makes sense.

 

Philly:

Sure. So the well, I always put drink first. Yes, my friends would laugh at me saying that. I think you need a great bar. And a lovely cocktail. That's, I know that when I go to a party, if there's a bar and there's a cocktail and there's a barman, or we have these fantastic flair bartenders and mixologists actually, as part of our service, who were just making a big thing about the drinks. And the very, very fact of being able to walk up to a bar and get a drink, you know, proper bar and get a drink without pay for it surrounded by your friends.

It's just such a luxury. So we always try to encourage my customers to think about you know, the drink service and how that's going to be and where it's going to be and how it's going to look.

And then you know foods really foods really some people find that foods really important and that they really want to serve amazing food. That's probably for those that have got a few more quid you know, that I'm more wealthy, whereas others will be happy with sharing platters that are put on the side and, and they're still gorgeous or sharing platters, we have sushi and we have mezzi.

 

Savannah

I saw those they looked really cool.

 

Philly: 

Still absolutely delicious in their premium quality. But there's something that you don't need a chef in the kitchen for them, you can have them delivered on the day and then you just need to make sure that you arranged them nicely. But if you really enjoy your food, then our chef services great because they come and they cook in your kitchen or in your venue and they and they make it seem really you know, really posh basically.

Drink and then and then I think that some one thing that people often forget is decoration, you know. And if you have created a vibe with system lanterns or some bunting or some festoon lights mmediately people kind of get that feeling as they walk in like, Oh, look at that house never seen it looked like this. It's sparkling. You know, it's twinkling. I love it. You know?

I think those are my three main things.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, Yeah, I would agree. And I always think it's fun to kind of personalize your party. If you can do like a signature drink, you know. 

 

Philly:

Exactly, we're hoping to have a Sugar & Rind cocktail.

 

Savannah:

That's a good idea. Cuz you always need that one.

 

Philly:

And then I'm going to be, once he knows I'm going to feed him lots of business, I'm going to annoy him and say, what's that Sugar & Rind cocktail?

 

Savannah:

And going through your website, you have also an option, again, something like, I like wow, this is great. Something I would never think of is to select your staff, you know, you can basically pick the people you want to attend and help out your event, which is awesome. And so when it comes to staff, I wanted to ask as well, um, like, the different roles and jobs, if we, if someone was also at a minimum, or maybe people just don't think about it, like the essential people they might want at their party to kind of get by and help out.

 

Philly: 

So essentially, by recommend, you know, one member of staff for every 20 people that you have at your party. So you don't have to run around pouring drinks. If you have, you know, if you have one of the chef's packages, then we that comes included the food staff, but I think really, you know, I would say, you know, waiter, if you're having a bar, get a bartender behind it, you know, and a waiter for every 20 people that you have at the party.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, and this is a personal question. I was thinking about it. A lot of people. I here like use day of coordinators. Do you think those are necessary for parties? I don't know if you use them?

 

Philly: 

What sorry?

 

Savannah:

Oh, we might call differently. We call them day of coordinators. It might just be a coordinator.

 

Philly: 

Okay. Yeah. So you mean, yeah, we call them if you need like an event manager? Yeah. So that's a really interesting question, actually. Because when I was first putting the business together, I was thinking, you know, maybe the way to go on this is, you know, we bring the party, you throw it, and, and we'll deliver everything. And you could you can put it together.

But increasingly, I'm finding talking to people, but, you know, the people who, who have the budget to throw a really nice party really don't want to bother with the detail at all. And they tend to be you know, sometimes they're a little bit older. And they're like, they just want you to do it for us. So we have event, so we haven't been managers that we send in basically. Sometimes that's me. And if I'm not available, it will be somebody that I've worked with, in contrast.

And yeah, so absolutely. Yeah, I think it's, I think if that's what people want, we provide it. But if they don't, then I very much caveat it with them and say, hey, look, if you're not going to have one, that's totally fine. But just you know, you just need to be sure that you want to supervise where the bar is going to go. How's it going to go and you want to cover?

 

Savannah:

Yes, yeah, I think I would think that person would be, at least for me, a top essential if I if it's in my budget, I would definitely want that person there helping me out.

 

Philly:

Yeah, like a week on Saturday, I'm going to a guy's house he's turning 50 and he's ordered all these lovely decorations. He's ordered, like festoon lighting in London's and he's just don't want to put it up. So as I said, Well, I'll just come over the day before and, and help. Yeah, make sure that we get it sorted. So.

 

Savannah:

I like that. And then also, I was thinking about it, because I saw that you guys also offer like tents outside. Which is a night again, another thing I wouldn't think about, but for venues outside.

 

Philly: 

Probably because you're in Texas.

 

Savannah:

I know. Right? We eat bad weather, but, um, for venues outside, do you have any tips for when it comes to planning those because I know you there's a lot to think about people don't you know, we we don't just don't think about bad weather. Texas here is wind. We have to deal with wind all the time. And that, you know, planning an event outside with wind. It's not fun. So if you've any tips when it comes to preparing for an outdoor venue.

 

Philly: 

So I would thoroughly recommend the stretch tent in nips, certainly in the UK because it's really versatile. So what we, at the moment, a lot of people are planning garden parties, particularly in July we have been, because you can only have 30 people outside post 19th you can have as many as you like outside. And you know, people generally don't tend to have enough space in their house to have everybody inside. And the weather is just very, very unpredictable here.

So we, I really recommend these beautiful stretch tents, which, if it's sunny, you can have them open at the side completely. So it just creates a covering, in case it rains. And then if it's if it's windy, and really rainy, you can put the sides down and then it's like a proper, you know, it's it's like a sort of enclosed. So I think that the I that my main supplier is is is a company called Stretch Intensive. And we you know, we always recommend that our customers have those if they can afford them.

 

Savannah:

Okay, yeah, I thought that was a great idea. And I think, honestly a tent because even if it's cold outside, I feel like too if you put down the side, so it would be great insulation.

 

Philly: 

Absolutely. It's a really good way to go policy and winters is to, you know, if you can't fit everyone in your house, you just have a really lovely heat it stretched, and then you can light it. And then you basically turn your garden into another room. It's pretty cool. And actually, in smaller London gardens, it's great because it's like you sort of enclose your garden, and you can wrap the tent around, you know, we're about to build a tent around a tree. And then we'll put fairy lights in the tree, because it's a huge tree. So a friend of mine is having a party in September, and I'm doing it for her. And she's I don't know, I've just planted this tree. And we were like, no, it's fine. We just lift it up a little bit higher and put fairy lights in it, and it's gonna look beautiful.

 

Savannah:

Oh, okay. I don't think I've ever seen like a stretch one. Because I know there's, you know, you have this structure that's already pre determined. But that's really cool that you can kind of, you know, modify how these are?

 

Philly: 

Yes, we have to have a site visit first always have a site with it so that we know what we're dealing with and what we're drilling into. But yeah, they're pretty cool.

 

Savannah:

And, and our permits thing for I mean, especially for like out I mean, if there's smaller parties, I would not think so. But if you do big events, do you...

 

Philly: 

Yeah so so the bigger ones need something called a temporary event notice. So it you have to it's that's really the when you're up above 400 people. Okay. So anything that's 400 and over needs a temporary event notice to let the council know, and I think you have to pay them a little bit of money.

 

Savannah:

Okay.

 

Philly: 
Yeah. We don't often get events that are as big as that.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, yeah, I was just curious. People always forget about permits, and, and all that stuff because you don't think about it.

 

Philly: 

You need to be careful if you go if you go over that, then you can the police running down on you and stuff. It's quite easy to sort out. That's the thing. I'll give you one. You just got to fill in the form.

 

Savannah:

Okay, easy. And then the last thing I did want to ask about because I just honestly curious, you guys also offer silent discos like you are obviously partner with someone that sets that up, which is fun, and I've never been to a silent disco.

I've always wanted to go. I'm just curious. I've always wanted to go and I'm so jealous. Why, like what do you need for a silent discos is just the equipment? Do you have a DJ there? Or how does that work

 

Philly: 

Yes. So silent discos are like an extraordinary thing. When the first somebody mentioned silent discos to me about three years ago, and I said, that sounds so boring, who wants to stand with some headphones on listening to music, but I hadn't experienced it. And then I went to Glastonbury about two years ago, and I went past a tent. And there must have been about 3000 people in that silent disco. And I said to my husband, what are they doing in a silent disco? We just stood and watched all these people.

There is a DJ. So he's playing music or she and and they're wearing the headphones dancing around, and they can hear it, but you can't hear it, obviously. But then every now and then there was sort of 3000 people breaking into song. And you can't hear the music and it's absolutely hilarious to behold.

And then what happened was a client of mine is having a party in August set. Oh, I really, my wife really wants to silent disco. She thinks they're really funny. And I was like, Oh, well, they haven't got one of those, but I'm sure we can get one. So what they're doing is they're opening with a DJ for two hours. And then when it's getting later, and they're worried about the neighbors.

 

Savannah:

Oh my god so smart. That is the smartest thing I've ever heard.

 

Philly: 

In urban areas, and a lot of our policies are in urban areas. So you can have a pure silent disco, where you don't have any, you know, you can do it all the way through the night. Or you can open with two three hours of of music and the DJ and he brings the equipment so you've got, you know, your speakers. And then when it's getting late, you can flick on to the silent DJ, which then means you can you can carry on for longer without worrying.

 

Savannah:

Mm hmm. That is the smartest thing I've ever heard. My sister's getting married. And that's exactly it. Like you have to be quiet. It's in like a neighborhood. You have to be quiet at 10.

 

Philly: 

Yeah, definitely. Music with the headphones on.

 

Savannah:

Oh, yes. And I've never been to one. So I really want to go. So maybe I'll suggest that to her.

 

Philly: 

They're so funny. They really are.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. And then so they can just select that through you guys in the DJ comes with the equipment and you're good to go.

 

Philly: 

Yeah, exactly. So the Yeah, the I get the headphones from one supplier and they work hand in hand with the DJ agency. So he sends the headphones to him. And then the DJ comes with the headphones.

 

Savannah:

Oh, okay. My mind's blown. I love that. Awesome.

 

Philly: 

There's so many things, more things I want to add as well. As I go along. 

 

Savannah:

Oh well you just started like, I feel like I'm gonna jump, I'm gonna go visit it. And a few more months and it's going to be all these different small things you can think of and all these all the signature drinks you'll have.

 

Philly: 

Yeah, I want costume characters and magicians. You can pay kind of actors, and they come in funny costumes and stand at the door or walk around entertaining people. And I want magicians as well. And I'm actually talking to a band at the moment about their like, kind of ensemble of musicians. And we're talking about having a Sugar & Rind band, which I'm ridiculously excited about.

 

Savannah:

And then you have everything you need. And you don't have to go to any other websites, yet. That's the brilliant part of it.

 

Philly: 

That's the that's the plan.

 

Savannah:

I love that. Well, that's awesome. Um, so I love your story and learning about, you know, sugar and Ryan, everything you guys are doing. It's cool. And it's it's a brilliant idea. Because down in one place. And I mean, before I leave you, is there any other tips you want to put out in the world or for first time planners in general?

 

Philly: 

Well I think I think the one of the sort of trends that I'm seeing at the moment is that people are moving away from this. I've got two top tips for moving away from and some people don't may still want this, but a lot of people are moving away from that formal dining experience.

So makes for a really lovely relaxed party and create lots of different seating areas. And they might be stalls or they might be low table, low chairs, or, you know, to still kind of seating areas rather than people having to sit and eat in one place for a long fixed period of time. I think that that's quite a fun, nice way to go at a party.

And then my other top tip really is just making sure that you get the number of guests that you have in relation to the space of your venue. So for example, if you've got a really massive house, you need to make sure you're going to fill it up or put them all in one room so that it feels full, because it's better to be too crowded than it is to be too empty. And even if it feels a bit too crowded at the beginning, people will peel away and then and then the numbers about rights. Because the worst kind of party is where you've got a really big room and you haven't got enough people in it.

 

Savannah:

Yes, that's a good point. Yeah, you don't want a big area then you have like 10 people. 

 

Philly: 

That is absolutely key to to buzzing party is the size of your room in relation to the number of guests that you have.

 

Savannah:

And did you guys also like are people able to rent out furniture with you guys too?

 

Philly: 

Yeah, we have the furniture section. We've got pretty much everything there. Yeah and I want to build a bar of my own soon as well. My bars are really bad. I want to do a little I want to have a little one, and I'm going to keep it in my house. Quick, quick and easy.

 

Savannah:

So people are obviously they're renting it. And then they give it back when they're done. Right. I like that. Because that's event sustainability. You know what I mean? You're using things over and over again.

 

Philly: 

Yeah, exactly.

 

Savannah:

That's a great idea. Well, thank you so much. I didn't want to take up too much of your time, because I know it's a little bit later there. But this has been amazing. And I love learning about your business. And I just think it's a great idea.

 

Savannah:

Oh, thank you so much for giving me the time. Much appreciated.

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