Welcome back to Southeast-Brewster Patch's (SBP) business feature. We recently sat down and chatted about business with Kelly Curtin (KC), owner and operator of A Piece of Cake. After dreaming of opening some sort of service establishment for years, Curtin launched the party-planning business—which she runs from her home—a little more than a month ago.
SBP: Would you talk a little bit about your desire to do something with food and service?
KC: I've always wanted to do some kind of cooking ... I used to come home from school in the afternoon and my mother would be watching cooking shows. It was Julia Child, and I loved it. I was 10, 11 years old, and I didn't understand a word she was saying, but I loved what she was doing.
When I was 12, I made this apple pie. It looked good, it smelled good, but it was like a rock! From that minute forward, it was game on. I had to perfect that apple pie.
SBP: So, what happened between then and now?
KC: My career was in retail and in the administrative field. I worked for the New York City Patrolman's Benevolent Association for 13 years. Pretty much every year I was promoted ... I learned business management. Then I had my daughter [now 6], and later my son [now 3].
My husband started off in the [U.S.] Army. When he got out, he was in the National Guard. And when I met him, that's when I was domesticated. His favorite dish is my roasted garlic chicken, with creamed corn and garlic mashed potatoes.
For years, I told him, I want to open a deli, a catering company, something! He would say 'Kelly, it's a hard business.' He's a builder, and now his company is in Westchester. He is the bread-winner, and I had to respect that. I think a lot of women do that—put their dreams on hold.
SBP: Talk a little bit about your creations. What makes them special?
KC: I transform all of the traditional recipes to make them sugar-free. When I make chocolate chip cookies, or traditional cupcakes, I use agave syrup. There's no aftertaste, and it's all natural. The kids don't know, but now my daughter Angelina does. I want her to know a healthy lifestyle.
SBP: So, why now, and why party-planning?
KC: My husband's business is established now. The kids are getting self-sufficient. Now mommy wants for mommy, mommy wants a better life for her kids.
My husband's right. A deli, catering hall, restuarant—they're all hit or miss. With those, there is no mom and dad. My children and my husband are my life. I've done so much research over the last year, and there are no party planners here.
Every summer we host a pig roast for our friends and family. This year we had 120 people, and I wanted to show everyone 110 percent. It was everyone we know. There were 120 people in the yard. We had an 80s theme, with a costume contest and a 50/50 raffle. We raised over $200 for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. So when that went off without a hitch,I said, 'You know what? It's my turn. I have to do this.'
SBP: What would you say to someone who is unfamiliar with what party-planners do?
KC: It's extremely stressful, planning a party, especially when you're busy with a full-time job. I knew a mother who threw a whole first birthday party in an hour. It's probably not going to cost you anymore to hire me, plus it eliminates the stress. You're not only saving money you're saving precious time.
People think you have to have a boatload money [to use one], and it's exactly the opposite. There's no party too small, there's no party too big—you could have just as much fun with $200 as with $2,000. I negotiate with the vendors, I buy all the necessary items for the event, and I use only the best entertainment. I have a personal chef and an awesome DJ. I use coupons, I'll travel. If I can save a penny, believe me, I'll save a penny. You don't have to be rich to use a party-planner. You tell me the budget, I don't tell you.
SBP: What's your favorite part of the process?
KC: I have a few favorites. It's a month of non-stop planning, running around, and then you turn around, and say, 'I did that.'
I get more gratification out of seeing someone else happy, especically children. I love kids parties, and I love all the attention to detail. For the same exact reason, I love to do fundraisers. I love to give back.
SBP: What sorts of challenges do you foresee?
KC: I want to make my clients 110 percent happy, so that anxiety builds up, the stress and anxiety of wanting to please your client. I'm a perfectionist. I care so much, it's probably a negative.
The area is not as lucrative as I'd like it to be, and geting the phone to ring is a challenge. Trying to get a new business of the ground is difficult. Appealing to the average person is a challenge.