Join Gina Maez, owner of LilTeePeeParty.com as she shares the secret to thrilling your customers – whether it’s a black-tie gala or a 5-year-old’s sleepover: the power of going with the flow.
You can check out Gina’s panel at Founded in FoCo here: https://foundedinfoco2023.sched.com/event/1GKlH/entrepreneurship-its-more-than-a-career-its-a-lifestyle?iframe=no
And learn more about Gina’s business here: https://www.lilteepeeparty.com/
The Founded in FoCo Podcast is hosted by Nick Armstrong, Lead Organizer of Founded in FoCo and Geek-in-Chief of WTF Marketing.
Hear more great interviews with founders in and around Fort Collins at: https://foundedinfoco.com
*automated with minimal editing, may contain errors or typos
Gina Maez 0:00
When we reach out to other entrepreneurs, it really isn’t even about like, teaching them something and talking at them. What we’re really doing is trying to show them that we’re a resource. So once you leave here, good, I hope there was takeaway, I hope you had fun. I hope you had a great experience, I hope you learned something. But in six months down the road, at night, when you can’t sleep and you’re terrified, at least, you know, tomorrow morning, like there’s an email address, there’s a phone number, I have a friend in this business that I can reach out to.
Nick Armstrong 0:33
It’s Nick Armstrong, and this is the founded info co podcast. Each episode, we get to talk with an amazing business owner in our community and learn about what inspires them, what motivates them and what they are working on. And today I’m here with Gina from Little TeePee Party. Gina, tell us about your business.
Gina Maez 0:49
Hi, everybody. Hey, Nick, thank you so much for having me on today. I really appreciate it. And I’m looking forward to working with you on the foco seminar coming up here in March. So thank you for having me on today. Thank you everybody for tuning in. So we have been business owners in northern Colorado for over a decade now in the event space, mostly in alcohol concessionaires for the city of Fort Collins. But I actually have a new mom. So I had my son in August of last year. And as soon as we had him, I thought, oh my gosh, we’re a family business like we have to include the most important member of the family. So we really wanted to kind of focus on something that was a little more family friendly. Thus, we have this cute idea for these little slumber parties that are really personalized and special for kids. So the name of our new company is little teepee party. And it’s right here in Fort Collins. But we do work regionally. So all the way up to Cheyenne, even Laramie, and all the way down through Denver. Basically how it works, you just hop onto our website, take a look at these adorable little themes. Give us a date that you want to book and we’ll come out the day of your child’s slumber party, set up all the cute little teepees, air mattress, fun decor, really make it special for them. Everything comes with a little gift for each of the kids. And it’s really specialized and personalized to make sure that every kid feels like, wow, this is such a fun party. And then you have your summer party and the next morning we come and clean everything up. So pretty easy on the parents. It’s kind of a one stop shop for making it special and fun. But yeah, we started January one, so booking like crazy. But yeah, we’re really excited about 2023. I am a serial entrepreneur. So this is always like the fun part where you’re like, nervous and excited and super busy. So yeah, we’re off to a great 2023 RV.
Nick Armstrong 2:43
Well, congratulations on the birth of your son. And also, it’s such an interesting thing that when you know their impending children coming in, entrepreneurs tend to have this like fit of digital nesting or whatever else you want to call it. And we start up businesses. Right before the kiddos come. In your case you you did it afterwards and progressed into something is an inspiration for you. Tell me about what’s the reception been so far?
Gina Maez 3:11
Yeah. So first of all, you couldn’t be more right. The second you started talking, I was like, Get get there. So every entrepreneur kind of understands that that has had like a life change. You would think they would slow down, right? Like, we’d be like, oh, yeah, we had big changes coming like Hold up a second. Not the case. Like anytime something big has happened in our life, whether we’ve moved or, you know, done something different had a child we’re like, oh, yeah, started a business, but plenty of time to that. You gotta be a little nuts to be a business owner. So here we are. Yeah, totally get what you’re saying? Yeah, we’ve had a pretty good response so far. So we really did roll out, literally January one. So we’ve gotten a lot of interest and some little bookings, kind of starting to fill up the summer calendar just a little bit. But yeah, right now we’re kind of in the word of mouth stage. So you definitely have time. Like I wouldn’t say wait forever. If your kid’s birthday is in August, like, go ahead and give us a call. Like, let’s kind of get the wheels spinning. Let’s definitely get you penciled into the calendar. But yeah, there’s plenty of room now. And I mean, we’re a family owned business. So I am never going to ruin your child’s big day. You need something you call us. We will make it happen. I mean, we have a staff of over 35 in northern Colorado. They’ve all been with us for almost a decade. So I mean, we have the team, I’ll be there or my dad will be there. We’ll make sure that one of us are there and we’ll we’ll take care of you so no worries there.
Nick Armstrong 4:38
So Black Tie events primarily focused on things like weddings and big parties and things for the city. How did you apply those skills to making a little kid’s birthday party? You know, something super special because you don’t have a massive venue you probably don’t have a huge budget you don’t have you know, catering and all this other crazy stuff that you have to bring in. What what are the elements that you I made for a special special mix for a little kiddos birthday party.
Gina Maez 5:05
Oh, man. So first of all, that’s a fantastic question. You know, I had been in the hospitality industry since I was in junior high school, I think I made my parents sign a slip that allowed me to work when I was way younger than I was allowed to work. So I’ve always been the hospitality space. And I’ve just always felt like, it’s really more than just serving a glass of wine or celebrating, you know, a special occasion, I really feel special, I feel like these people have allowed us in to celebrate the biggest moments of their lives. And what I’ve kind of learned over the last 25 years is that it isn’t about the big fancy things that you think it’s about, you know, we spend so much on weddings, and at the end of the day, like, it’s about sharing in that moment. And it’s about, in our part, making sure that those people feel like they’re the most important people in the world. And I mean, we do that on a day to day basis, even in the bar scene, like as a bartender, that was my main objective was to make sure that when you were in front of me, you felt like, everything was going to be okay. And I had you, you know, and I truly believe that that’s what makes our industry special. And we really want to take that into the kids arena. I think kids remember stuff. And I think that these are the milestones that build their character and build their self esteem and really make them feel like they’re unique and special. And I’m really excited to be a part of that. Like, I mean, being a new mom, my son has changed my life. And I just, I, if you can do something for him. It’s like you’ve done a million things for me. So we want to do that for kids.
Nick Armstrong 6:45
What a great way to help bolster young self esteem and creativity. Do the to the kiddos get a lot of input on how the I mean, I would assume some of these are surprises. But to the kiddos, when they get to choose this, do they get a lot of input on what the theme looks like? And what the you mentioned earlier, while you’re offline about sewing, you became a major seamstress and a lot of this stuff together. So a lot of your materials are custom made. Do you build custom a ton of custom stuff for a theme?
Gina Maez 7:19
So what makes it really cool is yeah, we have about six themes right now that you can choose from. So hey, you’re a busy parent, you don’t want to put the work in, totally understand, pick a theme, you’re good to go. They’re all super cute. They all are fun and entertaining and great. But if you do want to put a little bit of the work in and your child loves something, we do custom parties. So if you say hey, my son just loves some movie. Okay, great. Let’s do that. Like, like you said, I’m becoming a one woman, Martha Stewart. So last week, we were building the TV. So I’m out there with a saw like, and staying trying to stay in this stuff. And then I I’m building like the actual TV part with the material. So I’m like, on my sewing machine that I’ve never used, my grandma bought it for me when I was like 18, all of a sudden now it’s like, taken off the does bustin that thing out. So, yeah, if you want to do something custom, that’s where I really get excited, let’s do something custom, like well work with you. We just really want the look on that child’s face when they walk in to feel like, oh, my gosh, what is this?
Nick Armstrong 9:40
What’s been your biggest issue in the startup phase so far? You mentioned your you picked up a lot of new skills. You mentioned that you you’re working on launching you’ve got your test market, what’s been your biggest issue so far?
Gina Maez 9:53
You know, same old same old just regular like small business startup problems like time and money, you know, like That’s right. And then fear, right? Like, maybe that’s the thing that we don’t talk about as much as maybe we could or should, you know, there’s a huge mental health side of entrepreneurship that we kind of, we push past. So we kind of pretend like, hey, you know, we’re gonna go out there, and we’re going to market our product, and we’re gonna put ourselves out there, and we’re just going to have tough skin. And the truth is, like, it’s hard to put yourself out there, you know, not everybody can do that. So luckily, I have a great support system, a great family, that’s always there to kind of say, like, Hey, today wasn’t the best day, but the best news is you have tomorrow. So we’re gonna go at it again. Tomorrow, we’re gonna keep putting in the work and putting in the love and putting in the energy. And it’ll be successful, like we’ve been in the past, because we really want to be here. But we like doing what we’re doing.
Nick Armstrong 10:48
Right? entrepreneurs do have a higher incidence of mental health issues. And that’s one of the reasons why we have BrainCrawl happening right at Founded in FoCo, March 2. And so you can come by and check it out. Tell us about your, your, your talk at Founded in FoCo.
Gina Maez 11:05
Oh, yes. So I am super excited. I, when we started in Fort Collins, we actually started the Fort Collins Academy of bartending that was our original business here in Northern Colorado. And at the beginning, I used to teach all of those classes. So I was back behind the bar showing a brand new skill to someone that has never stepped foot behind the bar in a restaurant never worked in this industry. And I loved it, I’d love to be a part of that, like, buy in, and that excitement, and also try to protect them where I could, you know, it feels good to feel like you’re doing good out there. You know, we might not be performing brain surgery, but we are helping in ways that we can. And we’re building this community, which is super cool. So that’s why I wanted to do founder and photo. So super excited about that the name of my session is entrepreneurship, it’s not just a career, it’s a lifestyle. So we’re gonna kind of talk about, you know, what it means to be an entrepreneur, we don’t, we don’t get to sneak into work at 815. And, you know, sneak out of work at 445, like, our days do not look like that. But it you know, it supplies us with that kind of freedom that a lot of people don’t get it their nine to five jobs, I’m able to bring my son with me to work, I’m able to, you know, check my phone and my grandma needs something. And all of that matters. Like I just, we’re building a life, but we’re building it in a completely different way than the average worker is.
Nick Armstrong 12:31
The benefits are completely different than what you see there’s a lot of different risks to that come along with it. What is somebody going to get when they come to your talk? What are they going to walk away with? What’s the one the one piece that you hope that they leave with?
Gina Maez 12:46
So I really hope so that they know that they have a community here, you know, so that when we reach out to other entrepreneurs, it really isn’t even about like, teaching them something and talking at them. What we’re really doing is trying to show them that we’re a resource. So once you leave here, good, I hope there was takeaway, I hope you have fun. I hope you had a great experience. I hope you learn something. But in six months down the road, at night, when you can’t sleep and you’re terrified, at least you know, tomorrow morning, like there’s an email address, there’s a phone number, I have a friend in this business that I can reach out to. I mean, how many times have we relied on? You know, you never realized that before? But once you’re in the entrepreneurship world, it’s like, we rely on each other. And it’s not for the stuff that everybody thinks it is. It’s not for, hey, who’s your accountant? I mean, yeah, we do that stuff. But it’s really for like, hey, limes are $18 a lime all the sudden was a cartel was like embargo in limes? What the heck am I going to do? Like, I’m scared, my business is going to shut down. So I just want them to know that they have a partner, they’re, you know, they’re never alone. And we’re all in this together, we would not make it if we didn’t have a community of other small business owners. So that’s what I hope to take away is.
Nick Armstrong 13:57
The limes thing was really far too specific to have been just a generic idea. That sounds like that was an actual story.
Gina Maez 14:05
It’s a thing. Yeah, I could tell you some stories. Some wild stuff happens in the food and beverage industry. So we’ve we’ve tackled a good portion of that stuff, and all with a smile on our face because people are coming in to have a good time. So we gotta be chipper about it.
Nick Armstrong 14:22
What is the single craziest issue that you dealt with as Black Tie Events?
Gina Maez 14:27
Ooh, so you know, we’re pretty lucky like I was kind of a well oiled machine. And this for such a long time that I know everything that’s gonna go wrong. So I pretty much have a Plan E for everything. So we’ve been pretty fortunate. worst thing to ever happen in the event space. This was back when I like lived and worked in Vegas. I worked at this really high end wedding venue that went to private parties. And they had this huge like multi layer wedding cake and they dropped the wedding cake. Not something you want to have Okay, so we’re scrambling, we’re running to the nearest, you know, King Soopers to grab sheet cake and put it out on plates, just mayhem. So that’s something I’ve learned about life. Like, you cannot focus on the negative and focus on the surprises, like focus on the story. You know, when you get through this, that’s a really great, like, really funny story. And you shouldn’t have spent so much on cake anyway.
Nick Armstrong 15:23
In Vegas, they have like 24 hour bakery, you know, cupcake, cupcakes galore, because you got to have something for the folks get out of, you know, Blue Man Group at 3am in the morning, right?
Gina Maez 15:36
Yeah, that was definitely the advantage there. We had a, I was really young, I was like, a first time food server going to UNLV. I was in college, and I worked at PF Changs. And I had this little girl who was celebrating her birthday at PF Changs. And she couldn’t have anything like she was allergic to everything. I don’t even know why they went to a restaurant. And I’m like, we have to do something like, what can we do, and we have to make it special for her. So we were lucky, we were in the passage shops back when it was the Aladdin Casino. So I’m like, Oh, my gosh, there’s a Build A Bear, like in this casino. So I booked it like I remember running through I’m wearing like, restaurant shoes. So they sound like you’re 500 pounds. I’m like clicking through the passage shops, I ran down. And I got a Build A Bear for this kid and ran back with this build a bear. And that’s the kind of stuff that you can do in a big city. Yes. But here, I mean, we don’t have Build A Bear right in the neighborhood. That’s why we have to rely on other entrepreneurs. You know, that’s when you say like, Hey, I don’t have this, but I can call this person and this person will call that person and we can do this together. So that networking and that community is super important.
Nick Armstrong 16:45
We’re so proud that you’re part of Founded in FoCo because of this and that networking opportunity that you’re going to bring out for a lot of entrepreneurs who need that support network and are here for the first time need connections to somebody who’s been there, done that got the t shirt, and new mom especially, that’s, you know, so many different hats that you’re able to share with the community how to do it well. So thank you for being part of our event.
Gina Maez 17:13
Well, thank you so much for having me, I am super excited. So I when I can find 15 minutes here, I’m going to get my head right and I’ll start getting a plan together for exactly what we’re going to teach. So thanks for asking that today that I had to kind of just make some stuff up, right? Because I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about what we’re going to do. Exactly.
Nick Armstrong 17:30
It’s gonna be fun. On the spot talks are always great. And with your level of experience in entrepreneurship, folks will take all of the different knowledge way that they can. It’s, it’s going to be amazing. Where can we find out more about you and your business?
Gina Maez 17:46
Oh, yeah. So check us out. We’re www.LilTeePeeParty.com. That’s our website or you can check us out on Facebook or Instagram at @littleteepeeparty. We’re trying to get ourselves out there social media world too. So you should be able to find us.
Nick Armstrong 18:08
And it’s really cool to take a look at some of the pictures that come out of it. I’m looking forward to hearing some of the the experiential stories that come out of this as you learn more about the event. And maybe next time on the podcast, we’ll hear some more of those disaster to awesome storytelling scenarios.
Gina Maez 18:26
There’s gonna be plenty. I can tell you with my experience with that sewing machine already. There’s going to be a lot of disasters to really fond memories. So yeah.
Nick Armstrong 18:35
DIY disasters are the best. What is What are you using to learn your your sewing and your your masonry skills now?
Gina Maez 18:43
No, it’s a really healthy combination of YouTube, my sweet 85 year old grandmother like quietly helping me and being sweet. And my dad hovering over me telling me I’m not doing it correctly. So it’s good, you know, just for family business. Like I said, like we’re everybody’s involved and was put in their two cents. It’s chaotic, so, but it’s fun. I mean, that’s my like, there’s so much it gives me the freedom to kind of do that. I mean, who gets to hang out with their grandma when they’re at work?
Nick Armstrong 19:12
I don’t let the baby handle the tablesaw until 18 months. That’s the one piece of advice.
Gina Maez 19:19
Once he learns that 18 months, he’s getting a job. There you go. Keep working. You got to learn the value of $1.
Nick Armstrong 19:27
Gina, thank you so much for being with us. And for more great entrepreneurial advice. Join us again at FoundedinFoCo.com. And listen to more great episodes on the podcast. You can learn more amazing things from all of our entrepreneurs in our network. We’ll see you next time. Hey, thanks for listening. I’m Nick Armstrong and this is a founded info co podcast. For more great interviews like this one. Join us at FoundedInFoCo.com
Transcribed by https://otter.ai