How Katie Cunningham Is Shaking Up The Party Planning Industry

I truly believe most people innovate for the positive, to enhance our lives, health, make life easier, but when you have new technology or innovate new things there is no way to build every edge case of what can go wrong. You can read about unintended consequences all day long, the most worrisome is our […]

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I truly believe most people innovate for the positive, to enhance our lives, health, make life easier, but when you have new technology or innovate new things there is no way to build every edge case of what can go wrong. You can read about unintended consequences all day long, the most worrisome is our children and being absolutely desensitized to sharing everything and putting themselves at risk.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Cunningham. Katie is the Founder & CEO of LYFETYMES and Hostessy. LYFETYMES is an innovative One-Stop Celebration Platform and Market Network transforming the Celebration Industry. Prior to founding LYFETYMES in 2018, Katie spent 20+ years in Banking and Finance leading large organizations responsible for client acquisition, revenue strategies and digital innovation.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I spent 20+ years in executive roles for supporting large organizations with streamlining and implementing business strategies. This ranged from improving complex processes with several parties involved to acquiring more customers to improving experiences for both internal staff and clients. I missed a ton of time with my family travelling and focused on my career so I would overcompensate for every Celebration, which is most people’s favorite times and memories. Needing to organize a baby shower on a plane last minute — I realized outside of weddings after searching and searching, that there was not a platform for anything outside of weddings events for streamlining the planning process for parties, showers, graduations, and Holidays from ideation to memories. Most you can find are invitation apps that underscore the 20+ hours moms spend on planning one party. So we built LYFETYMES which was a digital party planner from ideation to memories.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We realized quickly not only did we need a DIY option for party planning like LYFETYMES, but users were wanting some SEMI-DIY help with their events. They wanted party decor ideas, vetted quotes, personalized options to really their parties apart from a big box store option. We are in visual and sharing world and people love to show off how they celebrate their milestones on Social Media but they usually don’t want to spend the average price of $750 for a planner so we decided to streamline the process, using our own LYFETYMES platform to collaborate with clients and provide a service that could get styling assistance without breaking the bank and launched Hostessy — an on demand party planning and styling service days before Covid hit the United States. We quickly pivoted to Virtual Parties and Safer Social Celebrations successfully. What became important to consumers were contactless pickups, deliveries, and creative and fun ways to safely celebrate.

Then we started getting requests, mostly from women, wanting to join Hostessy to start turning their passion and talents (Home Bakers, Balloon and Party Stylists, Event planners) to a profit to generate some additional income for their families. At first, I was thinking to put them on a waiting list and as we get more parties we can hire more based on demand. As I watched the economy situation turn more dire and people wanting to still celebrate supporting local small businesses options and contactless options, I started thinking how we could help them start a business without having a huge expense of infrastructure that it really takes to run it. Most are not needing a store on Shopify, they don’t have large inventory, most are selling a service or provide custom quote, which is normal in the industry. They can’t afford the cost to hire someone to build a site or just don’t have the tech or design background to create what they want. They have either have not started their home business and needing the support to start or just have a facebook business page and want a webpage to appear more credible.

It became clear that people needed a platform, support, and community. A huge gap in the market exists to 1) Start a business with low costs and no inventory 2) Streamline tools, tech, social media, training, and software to get started quickly 3) find a community that would answer questions with be helpful.

That is when we decided to launch Hostessy Pro. It made sense that this would be the next natural step in our celebration ecosystem. Although the technology is advanced, it still needs to be pieced together, and is a barrier of entry still for a lot of people. With Hostessy Pro you pay a low monthly membership fee and we are the support team to help them focus on building a celebration business.

There are many Direct Sales companies, which have starter kits or pressure to keep selling to friends and family. We decided to extend to a Direct Service company where we could provide what they need in-house, a supportive team and the flexibility to run their business and schedule that meets their families needs. With the economic downturn and unemployment rates many are looking at gig economy open up and becoming a significant way to bring income in.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we did one of our first virtual zoom parties, we didn’t include a time limit in our description and it went 4 hours over. I have learned with any service offered you have set expectations with the client up front and then over deliver an experience.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My parents. I think because they have lost all their sons and been through the worst possible situations of losing children, there is literally nothing I can throw at them that seems impossible. As long as I have a beating heart and air in my lungs, I need to keep moving. They have dried my tears from birth to a 45 year old woman running a startup. And hell yes, I’ve had those days.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

That’s a loaded question. I truly believe most people innovate for the positive, to enhance our lives, health, make life easier, but when you have new technology or innovate new things there is no way to build every edge case of what can go wrong. You can read about unintended consequences all day long, the most worrisome is our children and being absolutely desensitized to sharing everything and putting themselves at risk.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Don’t confuse effort with results.” If it isn’t contributing to forward momentum, don’t do it. If i see something working organically I pour gas on it. If i don’t, I keep it moving.

“They put a man on the moon” anything is possible. Whenever I get frustrated, I check myself on how far we have come.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”– Maya Angelou

I think that quote explains why celebrating milestones are so important to me. I have lost all of my brothers at young ages and some of my most precious memories when I reflect are of those of get togethers where we were celebrating something or together. These moments are anchored in my happiest memories.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We have plenty in the works. We are in the middle of launching our first version of our app in August 2020, which is exciting. We hope to revolutionize and reimagine the entire party experience and all the planning verticales within it. From the DIYers to hiring and bookings vendors, or a hybrid of each, we will continue to streamline the whole process of planning a party or shower. We believe that celebration can be planned with less stress and more efficiently.

We also have a podcast coming in September which will be hilarious!

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

We are underestimated. I have been told by male investors “I don’t plan parties, my wife does it all, I don’t understand the problem.” And if they don’t have any women in their ranks — which we know are under represented in the investment community — then you have an uphill battle from the start.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer.

It’s a book about mindfulness and your thoughts and emotions that limit your consciousness. Really about using mediation to look in the present moment — ignore that voice in your head that isn’t always helpful — how to let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from being happy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Giving women the confidence to start a business. To make an investment in themselves at any age. To know on their hardest day of feeling defeated, they have a team in their corner to pick them up and on their best days, they have a cheering section to help them celebrate. My mother was a stay at home mom and started her business in her mid 50’s and grew it into a six figure annual business. It is important to me, I have seen it done first hand.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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