Children’s Celebrations Big Business in Memphis

By LANCE WIEDOWER

Birthday parties are a growing business offering in Memphis, where parents are less likely to plan a simple gathering at home with a few friends, instead opting for extravagant themes and events.

Joe Murphy, director of Music for Aardvarks Memphis, says he wants the birthday parties he offers to be “something the kids enjoy but the adults are also checking out.”

(Submitted)

Kids who want to play laser tag, miniature golf or video games with their friends have those options. Bounce house facilities, carriage ride rentals and many other businesses cater a segment of their offerings to birthday parties.

A recent report from GigMasters, an event marketplace that connects people planning events with local entertainment and services, analyzed 230,000 parties planned between 2008 and 2015 and found that 70 percent of parents spent at least $300 on their child’s party, and 14 percent reported spending more than $1,000 per party. The data came from surveying clients who book events through GigMasters, and from the events themselves.

“People are often surprised at how much birthday parties cost, but it gets expensive when you’re talking as much as $200 for cakes,” said Brittany Schwaigert, owner of GreyGrey Designs, an event planning company that primarily focuses on children’s parties. “And a lot of the problems with Pinterest is the parents see these elaborate parties they want but then the reality of the cost sets in.”

Social media does have an impact on birthday parties. Schwaigert said there is a bit of “one-upmanship” for parents as they post parties to social media. The more parents share, the more extravagant the parties seem to get.

While social media makes birthday parties a competitive business landscape, it also serves as a great planning resource.

“Pinterest is life-changing in a lot of ways for an event planner,” Schwaigert said. “People are visual so if they can see it in front of them they know what they want to go with. For me, it’s helpful from a client standpoint because we can collaborate on a board.”

Music for Aardvarks, a music class for children 8 months to 5 years old, offers birthday parties that allow children to have fun making music, often in their own homes. Joe Murphy is the head teacher and director of Music for Aardvarks Memphis. He said he enjoys giving parents an opportunity to provide a memorable event.

“I think people want a special experience for their kids instead of just going to a pizza place or have friends over and have party hats,” Murphy said. “I think people like the idea of it being an event for the whole family.”

Murphy said with his music offering it’s important to bring something that’s different in a competitive marketplace.

“People are often surprised at how much birthday parties cost, but it gets expensive when you’re talking as much as $200 for cakes.”

–Brittany Schwaigert
Owner, GreyGrey Designs

“I think what I try to bring to the table is something the kids enjoy but the adults are also checking out,” he said. “The grandparents love it. I like to personalize the party, sing a song about the day the child was born. It tends to be fun for everyone.”

Rick Brenneman, owner of Donut Hutt in Collierville, provides a unique, educational and sugar-filled party experience. He stays busy on weekends and weeknights hosting events for a wide range of customers; he’s hosted parties for children as young as 3 and recently booked a party for an 80-year-old man.

Partygoers are welcomed with a donut appetizer before going into the kitchen to learn about the donut-making process.

Brenneman isn’t sure his business would thrive only focusing on birthday parties, but it helps.

“Normally a donut shop isn’t producing revenue in a community that’s not more of a 24-hour kind of culture like New York,” he said. “Our donut sales fall off around 11 each morning. But this is a great revenue stream.”