Rebecca Gardner of Houses & Parties Wants to Make All of Your Occasions Memorable
Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs-as well as their quality, handmade goods-and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.
Rebecca Gardner, the founder of Houses & Parties, has been planning events for as long as she can remember—as a child, she designed and threw her own birthday bashes. From there, she hosted everything from barbecue socials to fashion shows with stand-in MCs. She continued to hone her party planning skills in college: While studying art history, she threw mini get-togethers in her dorm room. She has always believed that creating a unique celebration is special. "I always thought that a party was a great way to, first of all, mark occasions so that life is not just a mush of workdays," she says, adding that if you are going to stop and celebrate, you might as well make it special and memorable. "It is a great way to give people a thoughtful gift of a new friend; there's nothing more generous than taking the time to make beautiful occasions to introduce people." Here, she shares exclusively how she has taken this outlook and turned it into a flourishing small business.
Becoming a Business Owner
Post-grad, Gardner worked at an art school for 10 years. But she "always had an entrepreneurial spirit" and wanted to create something that belonged to her and fit her lifestyle. Anyone could throw a party and make a nice dinner for friends, she thought, but she also knew that she could bring a distinct touch to the party-planning industry with her eye for design, which she gained from her art background and even a family member (her uncle who worked as an antique dealer). Cue Houses & Parties, which she launched in August 2011. She aimed to create a business environment that was conducive to creativity, where she could play with various design elements, like patterns and color, while creating stunning events people could look back on with joy.
In addition to her party-planning expertise (earned from years of hostessing) and interior design skills, she credits her success to her support system; they helped her transition from an employee to a boss. "To do anything big, you have to have a lot of people around you that serve different purposes of greatness (like an encourager, nurturer, someone who knows other people)," Gardner says. In fact, it was one of her close friends who facilitated a connection that helped get her brand up and running. "When I decided to start my own business, he said there are some people you should meet," she recalls. "One of them was getting ready to launch a major e-commerce site, called Moda Operandi. That one wonderful client appreciated new talent—it was an incredible gift."
Growing the Brand
A decade in, Gardner just added a new element to her business: an e-commerce site. It was always a dream, she says, but the COVID-19 pandemic put her vision on hold; her party-planning and interior design brands were impacted by the novel coronavirus spreading worldwide. When the time was right, she acted quickly to piece the tabletop- and interior design-centric site together, which officially launched in October 2020; it features stunning accents for a party, like Marbled Ceramic Dinner Plates ($218, housesandparties.com), a Green Floral Tablecloth-to-the-Floor ($2,600, housesandparties.com), and a set of Vintage Plastic Snails ($54, housesandparties.com).
Houses & Parties, she continues, is a space where customers can shop for creative pieces and stock up on premier-quality items. "China and silver cost a lot of money, and I often think that people should invest in things that are timeless," she says. "We sell heritage brands, like Hermes, but I wanted to have things at a lower price that are just joyful that you can add to your existing plates or make a whole party around it without spending a substantial amount of money." One of her favorite products on the site? The Marbled Party Crackers ($98 for six, housesandparties.com). These add beauty to tables thanks to artisan paper and dip-dyed silk-ribbon. Plus, they are a fun parlor game, as they feature icebreakers and prompts, like "perform a drum solo with your fork and knife" and "choose two guests to perform a duet of 'You're the One that I Want' from Grease."
Expanding the Legacy
Prioritizing hard work and building relationships with vendors, colleagues, and clients are Gardner's biggest priorities. She does this by writing handwritten thank-you notes to customers and partners; answering Instagram direct messages and providing advice to those who are curious about how to create their own event with pieces from Houses & Parties; completes custom orders; and shares gratitude for those who work for her operation. "I have an incredible group of people that I really adore and that work really hard in the same direction that I do," she says. "I think if you're a good boss, friend, and more, then you'll get that in return. Because honestly, the best projects come with the best clients."
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