As well as being an art studio for kids, The Messy Artist is also a small business that has been growing for the past 16 years. Over this time we have learned a lot from creating a business and running it from the ground up. Responding to our customers’ requests is one thing we have found very important as we’ve grown – it’s essential to stay flexible and adapt.
The Messy Artist originally began as a place to provide art classes for young children, with just one class a week, running out of a classroom in a local church. Now 16 years later, our current location has two separate studios, and we run 29 classes a week! But along with the expansion of classes, we also had parents requesting something else – birthday parties on weekends for their children. We spoke with CEO Donna Bernstein about the addition and evolution of birthday parties at The Messy Artist.
How did you start having birthday parties at The Messy Artist?
The first party came about from a customer in class asking if I would do a party. I’m guessing it was about 20 children. For pricing, I just calculated supplies, rental fee (since I was in the church and paid by the hour), and I found someone to assist me, so then the salary was added in. I looked at what other places charged and made sure it was comparable.
I like to thoroughly think through all the aspects of something before starting it, and did that with the party format. I have to say that our structure has always worked really well. We haven’t changed it in 16 years! We do 3-4 art projects /activities first with the children, then transition into the food time.
We can have up to 8 parties a weekend, including our times on Friday. Sometimes we add extra weekday slots when a session has ended, or around the holidays when we don’t hold regular classes. Our parties are an hour and a half, with 55 minutes of art and 35 minutes of food time. Why do you think your parties are so popular?
I’ve thought about this a lot and I think there are three reasons. One is that we offer lots of age-appropriate, customizable fun for every age party. The parents get to choose exactly the activities that their child and guests will enjoy. Second, I am very lucky to have a great staff, who provide excellent service and have experience in art and young children. Finally, we have listened to parents over the years, and now offer lots of options for their involvement with the food part of the party. For example, parents can do all the work themselves, from bringing in the paper goods, decorating, arranging for and serving the food and cleaning up afterward. Or they can have us do it all: we provide and set up all paper goods and decorations, arrange for and serve the food, and clean up after the party. The family gets to arrive right at the party start time with all the guests – no work required.
Ensuring that all children are engaged and busy the entire time is my favorite part. At parties you get much more of a range of children with different interests and ages. It’s important to keep all children busy and happy. Our play based station program is perfect for that.
Also, getting great feedback from our customers always makes my day and lets me know that our parties are being well received. Here are a few – the first one is from just this weekend.
I couldn’t settle in tonight without sending you and your staff a heartfelt thank you for helping to make my daughter’s fourth birthday just amazing. She was so happy and so were we. Anthony, Jessica and Julianna did an incredible job. From setup, to greeting us, to making sure each guest had fun. The event went seamlessly and did not feel hurried or rushed. Olivia and her friends left beaming and many of my mommy friends were ready to sign up for their own events. It was truly well done. It’s wonderful how many smiles you helped put on the faces of children, especially mine.
“We absolutely loved The Messy Artist! It was something that was so different and unlike any party we have ever attended. All our guests had a great time and we even had a guest of ours book a party for their daughter’s birthday as well! Overall, this is a great place to have your child’s birthday party!!”
“Great staff, great facilities!!! Never seen a party before where all kids were involved and had smiles on their faces throughout the whole time! 🙂 Thank you “messy artist”!!”
“Just wanted to say thanks for a great party yesterday! The staff was fantastic… they really engaged the kids and made sure they were all having fun. I especially appreciated that they called them all by their names and encouraged them to get involved with the art. Amelia and her friends had a great time. Becky Lorig, NJ
Thank you so much for the fantastic and unique birthday party. The staff went above and beyond to make sure that each child was engaged and having fun. They really made sure everything went smoothly so that we could enjoy the party. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and attentiveness to all of our guests. Thank you! Amy Jernigan, Morristown, NJ
The structure is always the same but we do change the projects. About every year or so we add some new projects in to the mix so that the kids are always able to experience something new. A big change from our first South Orange space was that we just had one classroom, so we had to do a very quick clean up and turn around from art to food. Now, since we have two studios, we move from art in one room to food in another. We also offer many more options such as food, beverages, balloons and service.
This isn’t really a “change” per se, but recently my staff has started a friendly competition when setting up for parties. One of our more popular activities is tabletop painting, where we cover a table in white paper, and then put out trays of paint, accompanied by a fun variety of objects to paint with. We have cars, potato mashers, Legos – all kinds of stuff that encourages kids to explore painting, and they love it. So the staff has gotten very creative in setting up the tables before parties, with all kinds of designs.
Here are a few:
Do you see any changes coming for parties in the future?
We will keep things the same since our parties are doing so well, though we are going to start adding in a party favor option. This is where we can provide special takeaways for the birthday party hosts and child to give to their guests.
See more about our parties on The Messy Artist website.