Party planning can be fun if you have the time for it and happen to know what you’re doing. For the rest of us, it can be a daunting, time-consuming endeavor, one that requires visits to numerous websites, in-store visits when those products invariably don’t arrive in time, then return visits to pick up those last items that you could have sworn you’d thrown in your shopping cart but did not.
Enter Coterie, a nine-month-old, New York-based startup that was incubated with the help of the investment firm Female Founders Fund and that is assembling party kits that it’s delivering to customers’ doorsteps, for everything from birthday parties to baby showers to friendversary get-togethers.
Just tell the site how many people you expect, whether it’s 10 or 50, then pick a kit. For example, the “lux” version of its “shine on” package — which could pretty much suit any occasion — comes with glittery plates, metallic flatware, votives, string lights, gold paper straws, dressed-up paper cups and napkins and confetti. Oh, also, gold paper fans as either wall or table decoration.
In the near future, customers of the site will also be able to handpick their products.
It’s less expensive to assemble your own party items, particularly if they are made of paper. That “lux” kit for 50 guests costs $329, with free shipping. These are also mostly items that can’t be reused.
Still, many of Coterie’s products can be recycled and, more to the point for Coterie, the sum of their parts can make a party sparkle in photos. Indeed, ease aside, a big motivator for Coterie customers seemingly will be how their parties look on social media, though venture capitalist Laura Chau disagrees with this assessment.
In fact, Chau, an investor at Canaan Partners who wrote a check to Coterie on behalf of her firm — Coterie has raised $2.75 million altogether, including from Female Founders Fund — says the company more or less pokes fun at social media. As she explains it, Coterie is building a modern brand that gives consumers a “frictionless, elevated and more beautiful experience. But the goal is not to feed on the fake perfection of Instagram but to blow up the idea that such perfection is real.”
Either way, party kits done the right way looks like a big business opportunity to Chau, who says she sees dozens of direct-to-consumer brands every month that might be interesting but don’t fit the venture model because the market is too small or too crowded. With Coterie, she says, it’s a “massive category with only one legacy player — Party City. And no one likes Party City.”
This last part is true, though there are also other, legacy players that no one really likes, including Oriental Trading Company.
Canaan and Female Founders Fund also appear to be betting that the tailwinds from Instagram and Pinterest will drive consumer demand for this kind of product. Just look up “festive planning” on Pinterest to see what we mean.
Coterie was founded by Sarah Raffa and Linden Ellis, two early employees of another e-commerce brand, Daily Harvest. According to an interview with CNN earlier this week, the friends were determined to start their own company, bouncing ideas off the partners at Female Founders Fund until collectively striking on Coterie.
The service launched on Monday.