PartyWizz has the magic touch for planning kids’ parties

14 May 2018

PartyWizz founder Hamish Urquhart. Image: Neil O’Driscoll

Our Start-up of the Week is PartyWizz, a platform that allows you to easily book the best entertainers and key elements of a party in one place and in one transaction.

“It’s about bringing party planning and entertainment booking into the 21st century,” explained PartyWizz founder Hamish Urquhart.

“Ultimately, it helps make life easier. Web-based tools and mobile apps are how we currently organise our lives – hotels, flights, Airbnbs, taxis, handymen, cleaners. PartyWizz gives you the same convenience for party organising.”

‘The ultimate goal is to be the go-to method for all entertainment booking and party planning, by enabling people to actually enjoy organising and hosting the finest parties’

Future Human

The online booking platform allows the customer to choose from a variety of suitable party entertainers based on theme, location, price, and real-time availability.

Having spent 20 years working in the marketing industry and developing a successful advertising business in Dubai, Urquhart decided to return to his passion: magic and entertainment.

From his firsthand experience working in the industry, he recognised a gap in the market for a tool for easily booking entertainment and modernising party planning.

“As a marketplace, it’s also about making life easier for entertainers. It gives them additional business without the need for further marketing and helps them manage bookings.”

The market

Urquhart explained that the target is the busy parent who is constantly juggling multiple demands and facing time pressure, but the company is also targeting other party organisers.

“I’m initially starting with a focus on the children’s party market as this is a largely untapped area. This itself is a considerable niche, with the average cost for a kid’s party at €350 to €400, and an industry worth an estimated €1.5bn in Ireland and the UK alone.

“The concept will then be rolled out to other market segments such as corporate entertainment and weddings, which will further increase the opportunity.”

Urquhart said that the short-term plan is to increase the presence and offering here in Ireland and then roll out the concept in the UK.

The founder

Urquhart’s background is in marketing. “After working in advertising in London, I left to join a business partner to develop an advertising agency in Dubai which was recently sold. I then worked for a brand consultancy in Singapore.

“But, whilst my business has generally been marketing, my passion has always been magic and entertainment. I have been a part-time magician since my teens and more recently worked again in a professional capacity.

“This was in fact where the idea originated, as, talking to the people who booked me, I quickly realised there was a need for a better way to organise parties and make bookings. PartyWizz is therefore a great way to combine my skills and interests, as well as solve a real problem.

“Whilst I don’t have a co-founder as such, I have been lucky enough to work with a highly skilled developer, Eoin Mahon of Metric, who has created the platform.

“I also have a fantastic mentoring and advisory team.”

The technology

Generally, when it comes to party planning, entertainment is organised by word of mouth as well as Googling, and then checking individual pricing and availability directly through multiple calls and emails.

“Our research suggested that people would welcome a system which would save them time and hassle by giving them the ability to compare multiple entertainment offerings in one place; see reviews, pricing, and availability; and then book suitable entertainment instantly. Plus, the ability to order themed accessories in the same transaction.

“The challenge was then to develop the optimal solution for a booking system which would allow exactly that.”

The solution is a platform whereby entertainers can create their own profiles; detail their preferences such as working location, hours and set-up time; and then update their availability in their own login area of the system.

The system then matches the search criteria of end users (date, location, entertainment theme etc) with the availability and preferences of the entertainment partners, and then shortlists the suitable entertainers for each specific job.

End users can browse those shortlisted reviews, watch video clips of entertainers in action and choose the best offering for their needs.

The system then matches the entertainment chosen to items within an integrated shop, and allows themed accessories such as party bags, tableware and decorations to be purchased at the same time. Secure payment for both entertainment and accessories goes through the platform.

Strictly party business

“The ultimate goal is to be the go-to method for all entertainment booking and party planning, by enabling people to actually enjoy organising and hosting the finest parties,” said Urquhart.

In terms of the founder journey, Urquhart said that developing the platform was an eye-opener.

“It has been quite the journey to develop the platform and to build the network of entertainers, but things have got off to a great start. We are partnering with many of Ireland’s top entertainers, and the feedback from end users has been excellent.

“It is still an early-stage start-up and there are certain aspects of the business we are developing. A little further down the line, we’ll be looking towards applying for support from Enterprise Ireland and furthering our conversations with potential investors.”

Urquhart said that the biggest challenge was deciding which of his business ideas to develop.

“I have far too many ideas and not enough money or time. That was where rigorous, professional research came in to make sure that I’m looking to solve a real problem in an effective way, before spending time developing it.

“Now, the challenge is about how to make the most effective use of a limited budget to make maximum impact.”

Time and thought

Urquhart said that he has been amazed at how much support there is within the start-up world and how willing people have been to share their experience and give their advice.

“From a background in marketing and branding, I would say make sure you give as much thought and time to your brand (in its widest sense) as you do to your product – both are equally important.

“Remember that every point of contact a customer has with your brand has to be a positive one, not simply the user experience. And, especially at the beginning, you are your brand, so position yourself as the authority in your area.

“Secondly, to borrow a phrase, ‘just do it’. I for one got tired of seeing something launch and thinking, I thought of that years ago, but never having the courage to go and do it. And I think there’s never been a better time to start up in Europe.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years