Planning Your Child’s Party, Made Easy
Claire Gilvar, founder of the Chappaqua-based party planning company, on the origin and growth of her niche business.
Photos Courtesy Of Booked Parties
From high-powered corporate work to the challenges of motherhood, Chappaqua’s Claire Gilvar has always been adept at juggling multiple issues. However, when it came to ironing out the intricacies of her children’s birthday parties, Gilvar noticed a dearth of simple options. Her solution: Booked Parties, an online planning tool for children’s parties that she started in November 2014.
“I came from a corporate background, and when we moved to Westchester with my children I took a couple of years off to settle them and try to figure out what my next steps would be,” says Gilvar. “Having hit the party circuits on a regular basis with my children, I had this thought that I could build a platform that would help parents when it came to booking their children’s next birthday party, aid them with the necessary brainstorming, and create a one-stop-shop for all birthday party needs.”
It was the frenetic pace of modern life that confirmed for Gilvar the necessity of such a platform. “People today are always on the go, so I was really hoping to create a seamless planning tool for parents,” says Gilvar. “I noticed as well that on many Westchester mother’s boards and social media sites the main topic of conversation revolved around what to do for a child’s birthday party. That’s why I wanted to build it as a single platform—so there would be one resource to go to.”
Gilvar knew the idea was a sound one, but actually establishing the company was another issue altogether. “I started researching, putting lists together, and then going door-to-door meeting with businesses and seeing what works for them. Everyone was really receptive,” she says.
A 60-hour course at the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) in White Plains helped Gilvar finalize her plans, and the Booked Parties website officially launched in mid-July 2015. The site currently allows customers to directly reach out to party planners and view options for venues and vendors. “My goal with the site is to build it out as a one-stop-shop. Right now, parents go to multiple platforms for e-vites, shopping, and researching their venue,” says Gilvar. “We will eventually encompass it all.”
One of the site’s greatest strengths currently lies in its ability to broaden parents’ awareness of just what is available. “As a new Westchester resident three years ago, I kind of followed what everybody else was doing,” recalls Gilvar. “But there are some really cool venues and vendors out there that you really wouldn’t know about unless you used this platform.
“For instance, there is a lady who runs Make a Movie, where she comes to your house and creates different scenarios and videos involving children; and provides you with a DVD of the performance along with little Oscar trophies,” adds Gilvar. “It is really cute.”
With Booked Parties already proving to be a success, Gilvar has numerous designs for the company’s future. “Next year we will be launching a shop section for the site and we are planning to build it out as a Booked Marketplace where different merchants can have different stores, similar to Etsy, but exclusively for birthday gifts and party favors. We also hope to launch a wish list system, which is where we will go above and beyond what Etsy provides.”
Should the site’s rollout go as planned, Gilvar hopes to expand her business beyond Westchester. “I just launched two and a half months ago, but I already see the business as being a platform that is very useful nationwide,” she says. “This model would work in any area, and I plan to continue to build the website out. Right now, it caters to the 1-13 age category, but I will be adding Quinceañera and Sweet 16’s shortly.”