Lots of you know that I’ve been super involved in the babywearing community since I had Mathias. To give a little background information – I’m the oldest of seven kids and I have strong memories of my mom babywearing my siblings while I was growing up. She had one ring sling that was “super ugly” (her words) that she used for all of us (she likes to bring this up when she sees my sling stash). When I was pregnant with Mathias I knew I wanted a sling because I remember my mom being hands free, slinging and nursing and doing the dishes at the same time. Basically, being Wonder Woman.
In a nutshell: Instagram led me to find Wildbird Co. and I’ve been hooked on babywearing ever since.
Since I’ve been involved with Wildbird, I’ve co-planned two events with my friend Kiera Joujoute (@mrsjoujoute on Instagram). Last year we planned a “One of Every Color” shoot of every sling that Wildbird had released until that point and this year when Wildbird reached out to Kiera about hosting their first “Flock” event outside of California, Kiera asked me if I’d co-host with her.
In case you’re wondering why Kiera asked me, it’s because I’ve been working in the events industry in Boston for 3 1/2 years! I’ve worked as a jack-of-all-trades at Warehouse XI in Somerville and have gotten to know (and love) a lot of people in the industry. Working for a venue means that I’ve learned so much about event planning even though that hasn’t been part of my job description (thank God, because it is a LOT OF WORK! Props to all of you event planners out there!).
The Flock event that Wildbird had asked her to host was simple in theory: throw an event where the attendees could pick up limited edition slings (purchased in advance).
The things we had to problem solve:
- How many people should or could we comfortably host?
- How large scale of an event would we plan – and how many vendors would need to be involved?
- How would we pay for everything?
Regarding the number of people, Kiera and I decided right away that we didn’t want to have to offer tickets lottery style. The original event that Wildbird held in California was opened up to everyone in the Wildbird VIP group on Facebook (which has around 30k members) so everyone could enter but only a few would actually be selected to go (via lottery).
But here’s the thing – Kiera and I wanted to hold a community event for the women in the New England area. The fairest solution, from how we looked at it, was to open it up to our local babywearing Wildbird off-shoot group which is composed of women from the New England region. We wouldn’t offer a plus-one option until after we knew we could hold more than just these mamas and their babies in the space.
The maximum capacity at Warehouse XI is 150 but with our setup we would really only have space for 100-115. Which, FYI, is a LOT of people.
We were not given a budget from Wildbird. They didn’t ask us to go all out and throw the event we decided to throw, but throwing a big event in February in Boston meant that we needed an indoor space, we needed to decorate, feed the attendees, etc…
We added $10 per adult ticket, $7 per child (over 12 months) and $10 per plus one, because we knew we would have to at least pay for the following:
- Venue Fee
- Food + Beverage
It did not add up to a lot, considering. But we wanted to make it affordable when the slings themselves already cost $90 or $120.
Here’s the breakdown of our budget.
Half went to food + beverages. We decided on donuts + hot chocolate because it felt appropriate for a winter event (Kiera came up with the name “Frost + Flurries”, which was perfect after the California event which had been titled “Salt + Sand”). Could we have ordered Dunkin Donuts and saved money? Yes. Does anyone like DD donuts? …. I don’t. Maybe I’m not a real Bostonian yet. But if I have the choice to order from Dunkin or Union Square Donuts, I’m picking the fancy, fluffy, fresh donuts. We got a 10% discount because they’re down the street from the warehouse and we’ve worked with them before, but they were not cheap.
Kiera took on the task of gathering together all the hot chocolate supplies; everything was purchased at Costco or Target. The platters/decor for the bar mostly came from my house.
Let’s talk about the venue + vendors.
Because I work at Warehouse XI (and have worked for my boss for a long time, built the website, did all of her branding, etc…) we only had to pay a utilities fee. This was extremely generous of her because typically an off-peak 8 hour Saturday rental is $3,000.
Obviously, finding a free space is ideal. If you live in a region with beautiful weather, take advantage of that! That’s what Wildbird did for their first event. However, if that isn’t an option for you, here are a few tips:
- Venue fees are always lower during the week. Usually that means Monday – Thursday. Saturdays are typically the most expensive day of the week, with Friday and Sunday falling right behind, if they aren’t all the same price (weekend rate vs. weekday). What that means is that venues are more likely to have flexibility with pricing during the week.
- Do your research! And I mean looking across multiple platforms – not just google and yelp. Yelp won’t usually have bigger event spaces; Google ranks via SEO and depending on the website and how much traffic they’ve gotten, if they are using AdWords, etc, great venues might not show up until three or four or eight pages into google. Wedding Venues in particular compete with big directories such as The Knot, Wedding Wire, The Venue Report etc. when it comes to google rankings and it makes it hard for local vendors to always land on the first page! The Venue Report is probably my favorite place to look and usually will have links to new places too. Instagram is also a great place to look; at least check to see if the venue has an IG and it’ll give you an idea of their space and what they do there!
- Send out inquiries EVERYWHERE, even if you don’t think they will be interested!
This brings me to my next point: how to approach vendors about your event.
If you’re active on Instagram, whether as an influencer or a “micro-influencer” or what have you, chances are you have approached brands via DM or email about collaborations. That’s what successfully planning an event on a budget comes down to.
Obviously I had an advantage here of knowing vendors through my venue – but I still struggled to find vendors who were available on short notice or vendors who considered it worth their time. If your event is during wedding season (May – October), that will limit your options because the industry is busy and people don’t usually even have the time – which is why styled shoots are often shot during our off-season (December – April).
This event is, in a lot of ways, a styled shoot for the vendors involved. In the events industry, a bunch of vendors will collaborate on a styled shoot with a theme (let’s say, “Modern Industrial Styled Shoot”) in order to create content for their website, social media, etc. Everyone offers up their talents for free (sometimes a venue will have to charge a small utilities fee). This is what your goal is: to convince the vendors that this is an opportunity for content creation where they can receive social media exposure, from you, and the other vendors (and in this case – Wildbird).
My other suggestion is to cast a wide net. Ask a LOT of people and don’t feel bad if you get rejected. I also suggest asking vendors who are newer in their industries and have a smaller following on Instagram. Those are the vendors who need content and will likely work just covering the cost of product.
Sidebar – there’s always the option of finding a vendor that’s an “extra” fee that your guests can pay out of pocket if they want to. Maybe there’s a local macaron cart or a nail artist that you’d love to bring on but you can’t pay for them. That’s ok! See if there’s enough interest from your attendees. That’s how I approached Ashley from Abode Beauty Bar – I asked her if she’d be interested in offering a braid bar at the event for any mamas/toddlers and she said she’d charge $10/adult and $5/child. I brought it to the group and we had so many people interested that we had to start braids early!
Photo Credit: Abigail Jean Photography
Finally – ask vendors who you can connect to on a personal level or who can connect to your event. That means if you’re doing a babywearing event, ask vendors who are also mothers! Connecting on a personal level is super important because it elevates the worth of the project from just a photo op to something more.
That’s really what motivated me to make this event bigger and better than what was asked of us: it was personal. Babywearing is a huge part of my journey as a mother – brands aside – and finding a community of other mothers has been super important in my life.
When I finished school I realized that I didn’t know where I would meet people. Most people make work friends, but I was working as an interior designer’s assistant in a small firm. Some of my friends stayed in Brooklyn after we graduated, but it was still hard to stay in touch. When I moved to Boston we had almost no friends here (Lucas did, but I didn’t) and once again I found myself working as an assistant and had no “work friends” in sight. And then I became a mother and my friends from college were all still single or working or nowhere near motherhood, so I didn’t even have those friends to talk to or vent with or ask questions.
And so, the memory of my mother babywearing led me to some research on Instagram and that led me to a small group of 5,000 or so women on Facebook, which would virtually change my life…
So doing this event as a celebration of motherhood, as a thank you to the women who have supported me in dark days, who have sent me unexpected pick-me-ups and comforted me when I received difficult news, as a reminder that motherhood is HARD but BEAUTIFUL – that mattered to me. I wanted to create something that represented who I am, who we are…what we represent, why a piece of fabric and aluminum rings matters…
I hope that we did a good job – that everyone enjoyed the event and that all of our hard work paid off. I was really happy with how things turned out, even though I burned myself out and came home and dry heaved for five minutes because I was 36 weeks pregnant and spent all day on my feet, didn’t drink enough water and barely ate more than a donut all day – honest motherhood, right?
Would I do it again? Not 9 months pregnant. But I would under the right circumstances. Until then, I’ll settle for my small group meetups at breweries (you heard me) and coffee shops and anywhere we can get away with bringing a small army of babies + toddlers.
Venue: Warehouse XIPhotographer: Allison Wolf Photography
Florals: Hafsa & Co.
Lovebird Installation: My Sunday Afternoon
Braid Bar: Abode Beauty Bar
Tables: Lighthouse Woodworks
Donuts: Union Square Donuts