Wish Upon A Party Op Shopping for my Business
Can you tell us a little bit about you and how your love of op shopping has helped with the businesses Wish Upon A Party?.
In 2007 I began a children’s party business which was primarily made from sourcing costumes, fabric, jewellery, craft items and decorations from op shops. I have always been very passionate about upcycling as I saw so much wastage in what people consider junk. So I decided to combine my love of scouring op shops for pretty things along with upcycling to create a business. Finances were always a consideration so it was the only way I could slowly build on things.
Let us know about your two businesses and how they began?
In 2005, I began organising a rather elaborate party for my 11 year old. I had been previously studying at WAAPA for a short period in costume for staging but rather than sewing, I started looking in op shops for children’s clothing that would suit or at least be converted into genie style outfits. They were then co-ordinated and sent with an invitation for each child to wear to the party.
This occasion was the catalyst for the starting of my business idea for Wish Upon a Party.
While I was building my business I worked part time and when the company I worked for closed its doors in Perth in 2018 I decided to study Fashion and Merchandising at Tafe full time. I had to put my party business on hold temporarily and during this time finances were very tight. So when it came to Christmas during that period I looked at what I could make for family members presents rather than buying. I tried using what I had in my own op shop bought stash and decided to make mermaid crowns and dream catchers.
This was the starting inspiration of my shop WishTopia and I now create all types of headpieces made from a combination of op shop and store bought items. So I create during the week and parties on the weekend.
Could you tell us about the sustainable side of these businesses and why it’s important to you.
I really love the fact that my businesses are unique. It is a good feeling to give an item another purpose rather than it ending up in landfill.
Where are some great places to check for materials and props locally?
There is nowhere specific. The key is to be on the lookout over a long period of time. I would sometimes find things that I knew in time would come in handy but I may not use it for a few years. Every shop has potential for a special find.
I love my local op shop stores in Southern River. I have recently discovered around 9 stores in Kelmscott that I will also start frequenting.
What has been a favourite find?
Personally it has been my new French style bed and desk. They were the ultimate find on Facebook Marketplace. Also a pink painted buffet also from Marketplace that was very cheap and already painted. It houses all my secondhand china and party cake stands.
For my business I think it would have been a Barbie throne. Many a little girl has had a fairy-tale party because of it.
What has running your own business allowed you to do?
It allowed me to have more flexibility with regard to being more present for my children. They are grown now but I still have one that I need to drive out of the area for school and this would be hard to do with a 9-5 job.
Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out?
Give something a go.
Don’t wait for the perfect time, just give your idea a try. I started my party business at a time where there was hardly any way to promote it and almost no requirement for it. That sounds funny but now themed decorations for children has grown into an industry. I once had a customer tell me I didn’t know I needed you until I saw you.
Is there a big mistake you’re game enough to share about your journey or a challenge you’ve overcome?
Building a website was certainly a challenge. My initial site was created and held by the designer so I had to pay her for every update and then when her business folded I was left not knowing what to do and found it difficult to navigate through not being taken advantage of by other services. I also made a huge error in placing an advert. It cost a lot of money and I got zero work from it.
I have also always struggled with confidence. I often think my work is not as good as my competitors. Now I have a different outlook that it is original and I continue to improve.
Do you have any business tips you can share?
- I did the government NEIS program and now have a business mentor through Many Rivers.
- Check out your competitors’ work as to how they present on social media and don’t copy but emulate it.
- Social media is really hard at the moment as they limit any organic following to get you to do sponsorship but it is still important to post consistently.
- It is important to take good pictures like close up and teach yourself to edit the lighting with the Instagram tools.
- Reels seem to be the way to go these days.
- Check out short courses through the small business corporation.
I taught myself a lot of things but there are online courses for Canva, social media etc. that are cheap and only take an hour or two.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your businesses?
I think I would have to be most proud of the fact that I upcycle in most aspects of what I do both within my home and business.
Secondly, I actually do everything on my own. This can be exhausting and sometimes I would love to have business partnership but ultimately I have no one else to consider in decisions I make.
I am also proud that I have an attitude of not giving up and thinking long term.
Lastly, I also don’t place money as a means of being successful. I just find great joy in the process of creating.
Do you have any plans for 2023 you’d like to let us know about?
I have started another passion of mine which is flower art. During my time at Tafe for one of my assignments I made some small scale fashion from flowers and feathers. I had already started flower art previously as another means of gifting for Christmas when I was studying. Most of my flower books were found at op shops and whenever I can I use secondhand frames. I now grow my own flowers for this and am into seed saving.
I also intend on adding more of a sewing element to WishTopia. I would love to make children’s costumes from upcycled fabric or to revamp ones found at the op shops. I also collect books and patterns for costumes whenever I come across them. This is down the track however.
I sometimes have people ask to see some of my personal op shop finds so I started the page @throughpinkcolouredglass where I show photos of things I find, painted upcycles, things I make and personal parties I have put together. I may turn it into a store for my secondhand finds in the future.
Do you have any other small businesses you admire that you’d like to shout out?
Thank you so much Stella for sharing your journey with us.
If you’d like to find out more about Stella and her amazing businesses you can follow her in the following places.
More Secondhand Success Stories
If you’d like to find out about some other small businesses who shop secondhand as part of their business model check out these other posts.