Westborough company specializes in event planning online
Holidays and parties - they go together on the social scene like egg and nog. You can have one without the other, but the mix is more pleasurable.
ThePartyBuilder.com, a Westborough-based online event planning service, wants to boost this pleasure factor by making the organization of such social events easier and better. The end result could not only save the customer time but money.
Just as the Expedia Web site gives travelers the opportunity to schedule their flights online, PartyBuilder gives party planners the opportunity to plan their social events online. The site contains all the ingredients needed for a party. For example, customers can send out invitations, hire a disc jockey, choose a photographer, pick a caterer and order party supplies. Organizations can even sell tickets on the site.
PartyBuilder currently lists more than 120 vendors in the party industry from which users can choose. While vendors pay only $20 a month to be listed on the site - the first two months are free - customers pay no charge to use it. Nonprofit vendors or venues pay no listing fee.
Since its launch in September, PartyBuilder has registered close to 2,000 people. The majority have used its tools and tips features. The latter offers advice on party planning. This month, the site contains an article entitled "Ideas on Office Holiday Parties with Children.'' So far, about 10 percent of the registered customers have used the site for event planning.
PartyBuilder is the brainchild of Syam Buradagunta of Westborough and Anna Bremner of Brookline, who also founded Blue Sky Collaborative, a Westborough-based company that raises money for nonprofit organizations. Since its start five years ago, Blue Sky has raised close to $4 million for 20 area nonprofit groups.
"A lot of the time it was event planning,'' says Buradagunta, describing the genesis for PartyBuilder. "We were planning hundreds of events. It was repetitive. It was painstaking. It was hard to find people to be vendors. It was hard to find venues.
"We were looking around for a tool online that would work like Expedia does. It was hard for us to believe we could book an airline or a rental car in any country in the world but couldn't plan an event online and get all the services we need in much the same way. So that's what we set out to do - to become the Expedia for event planning.''
At first, the site was geared to help just Blue Sky in its fundraising mission. The site's reception was so positive, however, and its application to parties so ideal, the founders decided to open the site to the public.
"There are directory sites where you can find specific vendors for your event, but here it's one-stop shopping,'' says Buradagunta. "With PartyBuilder, you cannot only find (the vendors), you can contact all of them. You can go through the negotiating process online, document all the negotiations and when you're ready to book, you can make a deposit or confirm online. It's not just finding, it's sealing the deal online.''
The site provides several advantages to the traditional hiring of a party planner. "First, it's asynchronous,'' says Buradagunta. "You're not working on anyone's schedule except your own. ... You go online, put in your request and respond when you're ready. You don't have to worry about appointments.''
PartyBuilder even lists party planners on its site. "(Users) will see reviews and ratings and have a better idea of who to get,'' says Buradagunta. "Travel agents didn't go way once Expedia showed up. They just use it now. That's what we want. If we make life easier for event planners, we think that is as good a thing for us as anything else.''
Buradagunta calls the vendor subscription fee "ridiculously low.'' The goal, he says, is to increase volume while also attracting quality vendors. The more vendors and venues listed the more attractive the site will become for potential users. More users can translate into more business for vendors while users have a wider range from which to choose, increasing the likelihood of finding higher caliber and lower priced players in the event planning industry. Almost $500 billion is spent annually on event planning around the world, according to recent research.
In addition to being placed on PartyBuilder's site, vendors can benefit from the frequent e-mails the company sends to customers listing special offers and deals. "You get more exposure with customers,'' says Buradagunta.
PartyBuilder also provides online payment, a plus for small, part-time vendors who typically don't have credit-card processing. The site's invitation and ticket-selling components, meanwhile, give customers the opportunity to increase the number of participants to the event.
Customers can also turn their event into a charity event by clicking on a charity listed on the site. Attendees can then can make donations to the charity online.
"It's a challenge to reach consumers,'' says Buradagunta of PartyBuilder. "We're also giving exposure to small vendors. There are so many of them doing this on a part-time basis, looking for a way to get ahead. They're entrepreneurs and we're entrepreneurs, too, so we're supporting them. With this site, they get access to thousands of customers.''
Waving the fee for nonprofit groups also gives these organizations a break and thus gives them the opportunity for more exposure too, he adds.
For the future, PartyBuilder will add a centralized calendar for booking. "This way, people can see what's available on the date they need for their event,'' says Buradagunta. "It will save them so much time with phone calls.
"Both vendors and venues can put their availability in the calendar so when a user says, `I'm looking for someone on Jan. 5 between 6 and 9 p.m., we will return only the people who are available. ... It's a time-saver for vendors, too. They won't waste time answering questions for people they can't work with because they're booked.''
The calendar is expected to be operational in the summer of 2008. "It's a matter of selling vendors on using it,'' says Buradagunta.
By early next year, PartyBuilder also plans to add a social network for vendors. "This way, vendors can form their own networks and recommend other vendors,'' says Buradagunta. "Users will be able contact all of them at once and get group rates.''
PartyBuilder is also looking to expand its vendor base beyond the MetroWest and Boston areas, specifically targeting Worcester. The goal is to eventually go beyond the state's borders to reach vendors nationwide.
"We're looking at thousands and thousands of vendors who could potentially participate,'' says Buradagunta.
At this site, there's no sense - or cents - in being a party pooper.
MetroWest Daily News staff writer Bob Tremblay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-626-4409.
THE PARTY BUILDER
Founders: Syam Buradagunta and Anna Bremner
Employees: Two full time, two part time
Industry: Party and event planning
Company background: Based in Westborough, ThePartyBuilder.com is a one-stop shop online event planning service. Its Web site is www.ThePartyBuilder.com.