Tag Archives: entrepreneur

Party decorations business looks good

Nancy Pfeifer of Gilbert has more than 11,314 Facebook “Likes” (as of yesterday afternoon) and more than 1,100 subscribers to her blog. She has used social media tools as well as networking in person at events around the country to promote her business, A to Zebra Celebrations, which she started two years ago.

A to Zebra sells party decorations, especially zebra-themed decorations, in the United States and internationally, through her Etsy shop. For Pfeifer, as with many entrepreneurs, the idea for the business came about because she couldn’t find what she wanted in stores. So she started making her own. Soon, friends asked her to create decorations for them, and then they encouraged her to sell them.

“I didn’t think I was that crafty until after I started throwing my daughters’ parties,” Pfeifer says. But she had exposure to it. “My mom is very crafty,” she says. “She owns a craft store in Mexico. I grew up watching her making just about everything.”

Some A to Zebra Celebration decorations.

Pfeifer started writing about her party decorations on her personal blog, along with family news. The blog attracted the attention of people looking for creative party themes and decorations, so eventually she started a separate blog for her business devoted solely to her decorations.

At this point in A to Zebra’s growth, all the profits she makes on her business go toward paying a bookkeeper and people who sew for her, her laptop, camera, Internet service, the cost to travel around the country to events and of course more material for decorations.

Pfeifer also has launched a new website, mypartyisover.com, where people can sell used decorations after their party. Currently it costs 49 cents to list items for sale.

The key to increasing the exposure of A to Zebra products, she says, is to submit her party ideas to other blogs featuring new decorating ideas popular with moms, who are always on the lookout for ideas for their next party. These provide links back to her blog and Etsy shop . She also features ideas and products she likes from other creative crafts people on her blog, to create the connections to spread the word about her and their business.

Pfiefer is sticking to making and shipping decorations rather than becoming a party and event planner, because parties and events take place mostly on weekends. She makes and ships the decorations before the party, allowing her to be home on weekends with her daughters Hannah (4) and Ashley (5) and her husband Steve.

She works at home in her zebra-themed office, formerly a spare bedroom, with many drawers, boxes and shelves for her supplies as well as doors she can close when she’s working and isn’t to be disturbed.

Learn more about A to Zebra Celebrations.

Story and photos by Daniel Friedman


RAK Mompreneur Jennifer Van Inwegen is betting butter is not just for bread

Jennifer Van Inwegen of Creative Butters.

Story and photos by Daniel Friedman

Jennifer Van Inwegen has learned a few things two years into her three-year plan for Creative Butters. Mainly, that “it takes a lot more time and a lot money than you think,” she says. And once one problem has been solved, it creates a new one. Part of her plan was to be in Whole Foods and AJ’s. So once she had a contract to supply her flavored butter to 13 AJ’s stores, the new problem was how to make enough flavored butter for 13 AJ’s.

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RAK Mompreneur Kenda Daria cleans indoor playgrounds with a mother’s touch

Kenda Daria found a real niche: Safe and Sound Playground Inspections.

Story and photos by Daniel Friedman

There’s been a lot of attention in the media lately about the cleanliness of indoor playgrounds at fast food restaurants. Kenda Daria of Queen Creek started a business six years ago called Safe and Sound Playground Inspections. Her company cleans and inspects indoor and outdoor play structures and cleans and sanitizes playground sand.

In the time she has worked in the playground industry she has found it to be far more complex than she imagined. Daria is a certified playground safety inspector, as are some of her employees. When her crew goes to a playground, they pressure-wash and sanitize the structure, remove graffiti and debris and look at the integrity of the structure to make sure there are no hazards from gaps, loose hardware, missing pieces or worn components.

There are standards for playgrounds relating to how easily a child might slip through a space or what height a child might jump from and onto what surface they may land. To Daria, the integrity of the structure is just as important as its cleanliness.

Daria has been getting a lot of calls lately from moms who want to know how she cleans and what she cleans and, mostly, where she cleans. Her website does not contain a list of her clients and she won’t say which playgrounds she has cleaned. She has an agreement with her clients to not disclose where she cleans. They trust her to keep their information confidential.

“They build trust with my company and they know they can call and say, ‘I have this particular issue and it needs immediate attention.’” Daria says. She feels its better to keep clients’ business so she can keep their playgrounds clean and safe.

Does her company clean all the playgrounds where you might take your kids to play? Nope, though with the traffic some playgrounds get, Daria hopes someone does. It’s logical to assume a fair amount of dirt and yuck gets left behind by so many kids. No one wants to find a dirty diaper in the ball pit or an obscenity scrawled on the inside of the climbing tubes, but Daria says it happens.

Her business is good and has only been increasing over the last few years, despite the recession. She chalks this up to more staycations (a restaurant with a playground is cheaper than going out of town) and a growing awareness among owners of playgrounds of the necessity of cleaning and maintaining playgrounds.

“My view is, playgrounds in an establishment are revenue-driven,” she says. “That being the case, the more revenue, the more feet through the play structure. The longer kids are there, [the business] is hoping a mother will go back to buy a coffee or a father will buy an ice cream. It’s free entertainment for customers but the revenue is being realized by the company who provided it, and the company should realize the need for maintenance.”

Public swimming pools must meet stringent standards for cleanliness, but playgrounds don’t face the same scrutiny. Daria hopes the industry will police itself. Many places already have removed their ball pits as they are very hard to clean. And even with a regular, frequent cleaning, there’s no guarantee that a child won’t pee in a ball pit or tear off a dirty diaper in a climbing structure the day after the playground was cleaned.

Daria says she lets her kids play in playgrounds. She obviously knows which ones to go to with her daughter Kaci (7)and 5-year-old twins Kyle and Sydni. When she’s out of town she looks at the structure to be sure that it’s safe. She has a trained professional eye and a parent’s diligence, so she is very picky about where her kids can play.

How does her company clean play structures? It takes high-pressure washers and non-toxic cleaners to get these spaces clean. Her crew climbs into every tube and works in every nook and cranny. They rinse off the detergent, extract the water and dry it. Of course some dirt will still remain. Strict construction tolerances leave minuscule gaps, so absent a complete disassembly and reassembly, playgrounds aren’t going to be 100 percent dirt-free.

To clean the sand underneath outdoor playgrounds they sift it, and, yes, they find all kinds of interesting, icky debris — as well as tools used to put the playground together in the first place.

When I took her photo for this article, we met at a playground her crew had cleaned the night before. It looked immaculate and I would have had to work hard to find visible dirt.

I assumed Daria got into the playground cleaning industry because she was an engineer, or because her family had been in industrial cleaning. But no, she has a communication and business degree from Oregon State, worked in sports retailing and eventually worked for State Farm Insurance.

She was involved in her neighborhood’s board of supervisors and there were ongoing safety and cleanliness issues at the development’s playground. Daria recalls thinking that for plumbing problems they’d call a plumber, for tree problems they’d call a tree trimmer, but it wasn’t so simple when they had playground problems.

The HOA property manager told her she thought Daria could solve the problem. She mulled the idea over for a while and started her business in 2005. She started the business at the same time she was working at State Farm. When she was on bed rest with her twins she had plenty of time to do research. Daria also realized she and her firefighter husband, Frank, faced daycare costs with three kids and long commutes to work. At that point she was driven to make the business work.

As a mom and a certified playground safety inspector, she combines her interest in kids having a safe, clean places to play with the advantages of being her own boss and making her own decisions.

Find out more about Safe and Sound Playground Inspections, Inc.

If you know of a Valley mompreneur we should feature, write to editorial@raisingarizonakids.com.