Apply to be a Featured Lady
Founder, Crave Party
Fondly remember the pajama parties of your youth? Watching music videos (on network TV), raiding the fridge, using mayo and cucumbers for facials and sneaking out of the house…
Ah, those were the nights.
Now you prefer being professionally pampered, browsing for glittery bling-blings, sipping pretty drinks, noshing on hors d’oeuvres, and going out on the town. Which is exactly what you can do – in your pajamas with your closest gal pals – at a Crave Party.
Melody Biringer, a self-described “start-up junkie,” started Crave Parties in Seattle, where they became overnight successes and quickly spread to Portland, San Francisco, Scottsdale and Vancouver (British Columbia). Biringer also turned her background on the family farm into a multifaceted business with $2 million in annual sales. A true addict to entrepreneurship, she has started many other ventures – not all of them wildly successful.
Her latest project: She is Seattle’s Ladies Who Launch Incubator leader. Read on to learn her story and how she has turned her start-up addiction into a business opportunity through spearheading the Ladies Who Launch Incubator in her area.
Building on the Family Business
“I was a farmer’s daughter on the largest strawberry farm in Washington State. When I was 18 years old, I started my own business selling Biringer Farm products from little roadside stands. I had eight locations in a 30-mile-radius between Marysville and Seattle.”
Expanding Her Mini Empire
“Then I also opened up a retail store in the famous Pike Place Market tourist area in Seattle, which was open for 15 years, went into the wholesale business, made cookies and jams and other products for retail stores across the country like Starbucks and sold strawberry shortcake at local festivals. I’m known as the ‘Strawberry Shortcake Queen of Seattle.’ At one point, I had 70 employees.”
Trying Something Different
“After deciding I wanted to do something different, I sold the company, except the strawberry stands and the shortcake business, which I asked my husband to run so I could see if I could make a different business go. I’ve always been fascinated by weight loss and exercise, so I started an express workout fitness business, but found it wasn’t my calling.”
Taking the Fall
“I’m a total risk-taker with no fear of borrowing money. I’ve always been creative, resourceful and able to find money. I borrowed $30,000 for the fitness business. It was a bad business decision – I had to pay the money back plus more, because the idea failed. But I’ve been able to take losses, learn and move on.”
Longing for More Quality Time with Girlfriends
“When I was working with the Biringer business, I found I wasn’t spending enough
time with my girlfriends and like-minded entrepreneurs. I saw my best friend twice in a year. I thought, ‘OK, this is wrong.’ One rainy Sunday afternoon in January, I hosted a PJ party for about 35 friends at a local spa. The sight of all these PJ-clad women walking down the street got written up in the paper. When I left that day, I said, ‘I have to start a business where I get girlfriends together.’ We are so busy with family, work and careers that we crave our girlfriends and quality time.”
Forget the Little Black Dress… Put on Your Cutest Camisole and Sweatpants
“So I decided to host pajama parties (the first Crave Parties) at The Ruins, a private, swanky club in Seattle. The type of place you normally wear black-tie attire before going to the opera. The events sold out within two weeks, three nights in a row. We had entertainment, fashion shows, drag queens performing, shopping, eating and drinking, everyone getting manicures and pedicures in their PJs.”
Parties and Profits
“It was such a fun girls’ night out. Girls want to party, shop, spa and wear their pajamas in a swanky location. The idea was so unique and different that it caught on right away. We make money by selling an entry fee for guests (usually about $35 for the evening) and sponsor and vendor space. There’s been a healthy profit on most parties since day one. We’ve also expanded the concept to include holiday and block shopping parties, and a day-long bus adventure exploring neighborhood boutiques.”
Popularity Puts Crimp on Personal Life
“Since then, I’ve done probably 50 Crave Parties in five cities. I have people calling from all over the country calling me saying, ‘I want Crave in my city.’ But how am I supposed to do this all by myself? I don’t want to do this all by myself. It’s a lot of work. I want to have a balanced life.”
Crave Parties… Coming to a Town Near You?
“I took the problem to a Ladies Who Launch Incubator workshop where I had an opportunity to brainstorm with 12 other people – the majority said I should license Crave. Within two weeks I hired a lawyer and I’ve already sold rights to people in three cities (Houston, D.C., Austin) with three more pending (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver).”
Inviting Entrepreneurial Types to Network
“Entrepreneurs are calling me all the time, asking ‘Will you have lunch or dinner with me so I can pick your brain about business?’ and I wasn’t sure what to do with all of the requests. Now that I’m hosting Ladies Who Launch Incubator workshops in Seattle, I’m able to direct them to the workshops and connect them with 12 other smart, enterprising women. We talk about their challenges and ideas for projects and brainstorm. It’s fantastic networking for me and for them.” (To learn more about leading a Ladies Who Launch Incubator in your city, and combining it with other entrepreneurial projects, as Melody has done, click here).
Helping Women Make Tough Changes
“The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently wrote an article about one of the women who went through the Incubator. She wanted to work on her business (a home-furnishing retail and online store) instead of in the business. She was bogged down in daily business details, but wanted to be working more on the Web site and marketing. She brought this up to the people in the Incubator. It was scary for her to do this, but the other women saw a vision for her and were able to share it with her. People think bigger for other people than they do for themselves.”
“I’m most proud of my book, CRAVE Seattle: an urban girl’s manifesto. It’s a girl’s guide to Seattle, featuring women entrepreneurs in the retail and service industries. They don’t get enough recognition. I wanted to bring them into the limelight. The book launched in November and is now in 70 boutique stores around town. CRAVE Vancouver B.C. and San Francisco are next.”
“My start-up junkie personality and staying focused. I’m working on it. Hosting the Incubators is satisfying my need to help mentor women. I get so juiced about all their ideas that I want to go into business with them. But my husband insists, ‘You are not going into business with anyone in the Incubators.’ I need to be focused. I’m staying focused.”
Words of Advice
“What I tell people is to create a unique niche and brand it like crazy. Sometimes people get into a too-much-like-everybody-else business. It’s important to pick a segment and go for it instead of trying to be something to everybody.”
“I highly recommend The e-Myth (by Michael Gerber), which is all about working on your business instead of in your business. Getting out of making the pies and running the company instead. So many people think they can run the company because they’re doing all the work. But they don’t realize that being an entrepreneur is different from having the technical skills.”
Apply to be a Featured Lady