“Hiring is about finding smart people who are good for the company. Sometimes that means the best fit for the job shakes things up a little…”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sari Mintz, the Founder and CEO of ForYourParty.com, the leading digital destination to create personalized products for any party need. An avid party hostess herself, Sari launched ForYourParty.com in 2004, becoming the first online social stationary company to allow users to create custom designs online with real-time preview. As a result of her guidance, work ethic and continued commitment to providing users with the best experience possible, notable brands like Crate & Barrel, Marc Jacobs and rewardStyle and celebrities including Rihanna, Lauren Conrad and Ali Fedotowsky have all created one-of-a-kind party accessories for their events using ForYourParty.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
Would you believe it if I said my success in the wedding and stationery industry started at my own wedding? When you approach life with an entrepreneurial point-of-view, it’s funny how intertwined life and business become. In short, I befriended the wedding planner hired for my first wedding, fast forward to when that marriage dissolved and she introduced me to my now husband and business partner, Gary Morrison. At the time I was in PR and advertising and Gary was running his family’s wholesale company that created personalized party accessories like foil stamped cocktail napkins, matches and wedding stationery.
We were married in 2002 and by 2003 I was working with a web developer building ForYourParty.com. After getting to know Gary’s business from both my communications and my female-party-host consumer perspective, I knew the rise of online shopping was a fantastic opportunity. At the time, hardly anyone existed online in the social stationery space at the retail level and no one had the kind of technology I envisioned. I wanted to offer brides and party hosts the ability to design their beautiful, personalized product online and see it in real time. So that’s what we did!
When we launched ForYourParty.com in 2004, we imagined this little side job I would have at home, processing orders and offering customer service in my free time. I’d print off orders in the kitchen, hand them to my husband (my wholesale provider) on his way to work and we’d be on our way. Within weeks, the company outgrew my kitchen counter, was exploding from my home office and eventually made its way to a makeshift office on the factory production floor. Nearly 15 years later, my fun ‘side job’ is nowa leader in the industry and still growing.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
A few favorite memories will always be those early days of the business when we were just in such awe and shock that people actually found us online, let alone handed over credit card information and made purchases. Looking back at how amateur the site looked, how there was no business address, no phone number even — and yet, within hours of launch we had actual orders. It was unbelievable at the time.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The holistic experience and vision of positioning the company as a party accessories boutique has always been something I’ve prided over. We offer customers top-quality, gorgeous products that give any wedding or party of any size or in any location that New York, high-end feel at an affordable price. I’ve always hired graphic designers to fill the role of customer service so that customers will get that ‘designer eye’ when calling with questions on an order. Do we race to be the lowest bidder in the market? No. But we do supply our brides and hosts with resources to bring their event’s style to the next level.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Company growth has led us to the newest initiative of hiring a CMO. Not only will this take FYP to the next level, it will also take some of the current daily responsibilities off my shoulders and ‘just’ be CEO. The time this is giving me is being spent diving into the artistic life and career of my father, Harry Mintz, who painted and showed for over 70 years.
You know, I really must have this ‘thing’ about creating an online presence. Harry was a prolific artist who painted across the world from the ‘20s–’90s — pre-internet. Right now, we’re researching, documenting, protection and sharing his legacy by establishing his artist’s estate. Truly, it’s fascinating to learn more about him through the lense of his craft, and by the end of the project his work will be catalogued online to be experienced by generations to come.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees thrive?
Get to know your employees in a way that you can create the environment they need. These days, millennials tend to need affirmation, positive reinforcement and knowledge of the direction in which they’re moving to really grow and perform. Here at FYP, I’ve always promoted an open, creative environment amongst my employees. And, it works! They come to work happy, are friendly with each other and work well together.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped you get to where you are?
My parents both left their own unique impression on the company. My mother actually gave us our name, ForYourParty, and I’ve always credited my father with giving me the ability to combine creativity with business, as he did with his art.
Someone else who really made it all happen was the developer of our very first website. He was around for such a short time — just a kid in his basement who I paid for the build and then he was gone. But truly, he coded our very first Customizer and that feature set us apart. He did me good. Thanks, Jeff Jonjevic!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
On a larger scale, the business has enabled me to be a part of philanthropies and contribute to charities supporting reforestation, pancreatic cancer research, animal shelters and healthcare for the disadvantaged on a regular basis. I really like to look at the smaller scope of life as well and think there is a lot of good a successful business owner can bring simply by touching the life of each employee. Sort of like a pay it forward idea. I’m able to do good by them, investing in their careers, truly caring for their wellbeing and promoting an attitude of care and respect. They, in turn, can pass that on to customers and other people in their lives.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
- Sometimes you need to hire the person who you know will disagree with you. Hiring is about finding smart people who are good for the company. Sometimes that means the best fit for the job shakes things up a little, pushing you to see a different perspective and presenting the right challenges that end in results.
- Change is good. Figure out how to accept it, as well as how to create it.
Growth means change. In the early days, we had to figure out how to keep up with it all. Now, there are simply too many moving parts so that we can’t dream up an idea and implement it the same day. Lay down the processes you need to test ideas, effectively execute them, and leverage change as growth and development.
- Value employee referrals. Hands down, some of my best employees have been referrals by people already on my staff. Trust your people. They know you.
- Your words as a leader carry much more weight than you may ever know. I’ll never forget the time I thought I was imparting this great wisdom to one of my very first employees. I ended up saying the exact opposite of what they needed to hear, and they actually left the company shortly thereafter. Know your people, don’t presume to know them.
- Success comes in unexpected ways. Finances aren’t the only way to measure success. Just last month I had a friend look up some wedding products online at a site recommended by her wedding planner. She sent me a few links, asking if we could produce something similar. Her inspiration was ForYourParty.com. Laughing, I told her that was my site! She said, “Sari. Honey, you should be proud.”
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?
“Honey, be flexible in life.” This line came from my mother. I will never forget it, and it will always be the first thing I say when someone comes to me looking for direction. In all parts of life, being flexible allows you to choose the best path to take instead of being forced a certain way by circumstance. Accept whatever situation you may find yourself in, work with it, and enjoy the delights and triumphs that life has to offer!
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Martha Stewart. She’s the queen of the industry, of course, and has lived such an interesting life. As a female entrepreneur and business founder myself, I certainly identify with her.
She took her everyday interests and built her business with ingenuity and fervor. Who wouldn’t want to speak with the woman who had the sharp business sense to use her hobbies to make herself a household name!? Much of my business is influenced by my own style and love for hosting fabulous parties. I would so enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with the lady who knows what it means to build success out of a beloved passion better than