There’s no “cookie cutter” CEO or Founder. I had to figure out who I was as a person transitioning from a Founder and doing things by myself, to more of a true CEO role, overseeing the many aspects of the business from investors to team members and customers. As someone who started a business in her twenties, it was easy to get caught up in what a typical CEO looked like and feel like I didn’t fit that mold. However, I can save anyone a lot of lost sleep and share there’s no one way to fill this role. Everyone is different, just like every business is different. What works for one business may not work for another. The most important thing is to stay true to you and your vision.
I had the pleasure to interview Jordan Jones, the Founder and CEO of Packed Party. Founded in 2013, Packed Party is a woman-owned lifestyle gifting company that creates a variety of thoughtfully designed, whimsical products out of Austin, Texas. The company started as themed party packages and has since evolved to include cheerful, colorful and bold products including accessories, bags, drinkware, home and office supplies and more. The playful products and collections radiate the same love and joy poured into them from start to finish to make life a little more fun.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Of course! I really fell into my company, Packed Party. In 2013 I moved to San Francisco without knowing a soul, was working in Silicon Valley at a tech company and feeling lonely commuting back and forth from my tiny apartment in the city to my job. Not knowing many people, I called my mom one evening complaining about my situation, and she immediately told me I was having a “pity party” and to head to bed. Luckily, I listened to her and woke up a few hours later with a dream about sending myself a physical pity party package. That’s when the idea for Packed Party was born. We initially started selling themed “party for one” packages, like pity parties, with curated full-sized items in them, such as self-therapy flash cards and other funny, kitschy items. The brand grew quickly on Instagram, and six years later we’ve evolved into designing and manufacturing more than 80+ products that all make life a party — from drinkware to tech accessories, novelty gifts, and more.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Where to begin? There have been so many crazy instances since starting my company at 23. I’m almost 30 now, so looking back there have been so many “shake my head and laugh” experiences. I once dressed like a disco ball on the TODAY Plaza to get my Disco Drink tumblers on Kathie Lee & Hoda and, well, it worked! We sent each of them one of our tumblers and they sat on the desk the entire show. Pretty surreal moment. Looking back, I was fearless in regard to getting my brand out there and willing to do whatever it took.
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 I started, I would always refer to the Packed Party team in plural as “we” when I spoke about what I was building and doing to give the company validity. At that point though, the team was just me. I laugh so hard thinking back to all the customer service names I made up when answering emails. I was legal; I was marketing; I was every department those first few years. Wearing many hats early on taught me both the importance of flexibility, as well as the importance of surrounding myself with an awesome team of people who are experts in their areas and letting them shine.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Packed Party is authentic in its approach to products and customers in a space where a lot of companies aren’t owned and managed by the founder, and decisions aren’t necessarily made with customers in mind. I own the vast majority of my business and am very involved in the day-to-day. I’m able to pour my passion into several areas of the business — from the designs of each product we create to the way we communicate with our customers. We don’t miss details, and if we do, we own it and fix it. That’s who I am as a person, and that’s molded the brand I created. I have never pretended to have it all together or figured out. You can raise money with your hair in a messy bun. You can walk into a global retailer and recognize a problem and walk out with a solution to fix it. I am honest and real in my approach with anything related to Packed Party, and that shines through our business.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! We just launched in Whole Foods Market stores nationally and have taken over their party aisle as the exclusive party resource — from plates, cups and napkins to confetti and cupcake toppers. So many of our customers were using our existing line of products as favors and gifts, so entering the party supplies space was a natural next step. Now, we’re the entire party! The idea that people don’t have to wait for our products to release each season and can now use our line of party supplies everyday over and over again is so exciting. Whether someone is celebrating a bachelorette, new baby or just a girl’s night at their house, I’m so honored and excited for our brand to be a part of it all. It’s fun to continue to grow with our customers into different areas of their life.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be relentless. Find what you’re passionate about and run with it. Many doors will close, but it’s how you respond that will make you and your business. I’ve had to pivot so many times to find my footing in a sometimes-crowded space full of plenty of naysayers. Being confident and knowing no one can execute your vision the way you can is key.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
My advice to any female leader is figure out what your strengths are and do just that. You’ll have to do it all for a while, trust me. However, if you’re playing into your strengths, your business will grow. As your business grows, you can put people in place to do the things you’re not the best at. For me, I realized that I candidly am not an amazing manger. I used to want to do it all since I spent the early years wearing so many hats. People need structure and I was not the person for that, running around in the early days trying to design products and bring on partnerships. I manage our product and design team directly, but otherwise I do not directly oversee each person here. I’ve since employed talented and smart people who love managing people to do so.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents. Since I was a little girl, they’ve always told me I could do anything if I worked hard enough and put my nose to the ground to get it done. I thought everyone had parents who were as supportive as mine. However, I’ve since realized how truly fortunate I was to have two people throwing me back in the fire when I was running in the opposite direction. I, no joke, was never allowed to quit anything as a little girl, even the sports I was awful at! I attribute so much of my determination to my mom and dad pushing me. Through their encouragement, I’ve learned how to always push myself.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I feel incredibly fortunate to have created such a fun company that brings so much happiness to people. From confetti letters to colorful pouches, our products bring the fun and truly make life a party for our customers. It’s surreal to wake up every day and get to design such colorful and happy products. I could be selling toilets or telephones — something I wasn’t passionate about, so I am eternally grateful I get to do something I love everyday. Additionally, I’ve been able to hire some incredibly talented people and allow them to grow professionally at a company that they treat as their own. It’s been special for me to see families that are being supported by Packed Party. It’s pretty cool.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- File design patents or trademarks on one-of-a-kind ideas. Good ideas pay for themselves, and I learned this the hard way early on in my business.
- Share your idea with the world. Before I took the leap, I was nervous about what people would think about the idea, the name of the business, etc., but at the end of the day, if you truly believe in what you’re doing, others will, too.
- Hire smart, not for the lower salary. The best people may cost a little more, but you can’t put a price on amazing talent that will lead everything from strategy to your sanity. I’ve made some bad and good hiring decisions and the best people sometimes can seem unattainable as a start-up. However, if someone believes in your business, they’ll find a way to come build with you, and that’s who you ultimately want next to you.
- Don’t be afraid to pivot. I was a five-product package company six years ago. Today, Packed Party is a full-fledged lifestyle brand that aims to make life a party. In addition, we just launched physical party supplies products inside Whole Foods Markets. Listen to your customers and give them what they want from you, even if it means pivoting a bit. The vision and mission have never changed — we just added more products.
- There’s no “cookie cutter” CEO or Founder. I had to figure out who I was as a person transitioning from a Founder and doing things by myself, to more of a true CEO role, overseeing the many aspects of the business from investors to team members and customers. As someone who started a business in her twenties, it was easy to get caught up in what a typical CEO looked like and feel like I didn’t fit that mold. However, I can save anyone a lot of lost sleep and share there’s no one way to fill this role. Everyone is different, just like every business is different. What works for one business may not work for another. The most important thing is to stay true to you and your vision.
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.
I’d absolutely love to create some kind of program to implement more special needs positions inside start-up consumer goods companies like Packed Party. This is something I talked about when we were first starting and still plan to implement here in the next year as we’ve grown. I have a few family friends in different cities that have adult children with special needs and it’s difficult for them to find jobs that pertain to their interest, so I think there could be really special opportunities for women that brands like mine could create inside their companies when they scale whether it’s in an office or warehouse. I’d hope this program could inspire other companies to implement these types of positions for people who are high functioning and interested in brands.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
What’s meant for you will find you. Packed Party was meant for me, and I find a lot of peace in that and knowing I am truly only competing with myself. This quote always resounds in my head when I start to stress about a big deal we’re working on, product, or even hiring someone. Nothing that is truly meant for my business will ever pass me. I believe putting out this sort of “arms wide open” attitude to the universe delivers you some of the greatest things.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
This is a tough one! Two people. My story has been so crazy I’d love to share it with Nancy Meyers. She’s the movie producer behind every rom com you love — from The Holiday to Father of the Bride to The Intern and more. Every time I share my story, people say “HAVE YOU SEEN THE INTERN?” or, “There needs to be a movie about this!” I can honestly say I’m here for it if Nancy Meyers is doing it.
I also admire Sara Blakely, the Founder and CEO of Spanx. I love the way she approaches business with so much humor and just plain fun. She’s had an incredibly impressive career, but more importantly, she’s a great mom, friend and person. Being more than your idea or business is important as a human-being — this stuff doesn’t go on our graves! She’s a great example of that to me.