After 10 years of working in the banking world, Amber Dinda was ready for a career change. An entrepreneur at heart, Dinda had spent the better part of a decade commuting to her corporate job in downtown Toronto, working long hours, and never shaking the feeling that she was missing out on quality time with her husband and two young children.
In search of an opportunity that would revitalize her career, Dinda turned her attention to franchising in 2005. “Initially, it was a lifestyle choice,” she says. “My corporate life wasn’t providing me with the career satisfaction I craved.” Knowing she wanted to work with children in some capacity, Dinda struck gold when she came across home-based franchise Par-T-Perfect.
Founded by Michelle Gibson in 1988, the children’s party and event-planning service was a hit straight out of the gates, becoming a saviour for a growing number of parents who were finding it difficult to plan birthdays and events for their children. “Almost as soon as I started the business, my phone started ringing, and it’s never stopped,” Gibson says. “It was definitely a service that people wanted.”
What started out as a small Vancouver-based business venture quickly turned into an event-planning empire after Gibson took the leap into franchising in 2001, immediately selling out of franchises in British Columbia. With a mission to create long-lasting memories for children, Par-T-Perfect is a full service event company catering to a child and family-based clientele. Events have evolved over the years to include children’s birthday parties, corporate holiday events, company picnics, store openings, block parties, community barbecues, and school fairs.
Today, Par-T-Perfect has expanded to 20 locations across Canada and North Carolina, and has become a desirable investment for enthusiastic and team-oriented entrepreneurs seeking a career in the children’s products and services industry.
Starting from the ground up
For Dinda, the Par-T-Perfect partnership was a match made in franchising heaven. With her location covering the Toronto West, Halton, Peel, and Hamilton, Ontario regions, Dinda was initially drawn to Par-T-Perfect because it fulfilled her passion of working with children, while simultaneously giving her the flexibility to work from home and be with her own kids.
The training and support provided by Par-T-Perfect head office was also a motivating factor for the business owner. “With Par-T-Perfect, I am still an entrepreneur running my own business and making decisions that fit my career needs, yet I still have full backing from head office and other Par-T-Perfect franchise partners,” she explains.
Never easing up on its support, head office ensures franchisee-related challenges are addressed immediately, and has established effective channels of communication for franchise partners. In addition to weekly video hangouts, Gibson hosts annual franchisee-focused conferences and meets one-on-one with partners to discuss successes and challenges specific to their location, and to establish strategic goals for the future.
The company’s in-house mentoring program has also provided additional assistance to onboarding franchisees, who get the opportunity to shadow a senior partner during their events in order to see how the system is run. Mentoring can take anywhere from three months to a year, and is a great way for franchisees to learn the ropes of the business and connect with other Par-T-Perfect partners.
Having only been franchising for four years when Dinda joined, Par-T-Perfect was still relatively unknown in 2005. Building Par-T-Perfect’s brand reputation and educating the public on its services was an initial challenge Dinda says she faced when first opening. Though running the business has become second nature today, the 12-year Par-T-Perfect veteran says the encouragement she received when first starting out was instrumental in helping ensure her location was a success.
All eyes on the future
Par-T-Perfect has grown in leaps and bounds since Dinda first started with the company, but for Gibson, it’s just the beginning. As the franchise looks toward celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018, they are in what Gibson calls an “expansion mode” that involves three distinct, but equally important phases.
First, the company is expanding into products, most notably with its new product line, Par-T-Pets. The teddy-stuffing activity can be added on to any Par-T-Perfect event, and allows kids to choose a teddy animal to stuff with a wishing star and decorate with additional crafts and products.
“Expanding into products has been a really interesting evolution for our franchisees,” Gibson says. “When we first started out, we were strictly a service-based company. Now that we’ve added products into the mix, our partners are seeing how they can make money in a different way, which has drastically improved their business acumen.”
Next, the company is developing new strategic partnerships with former competitors. To date, Par-T-Perfect has teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston. The partnership, which Gibson says has been a collaborative process, has combined the non-profit organization’s annual Pink Shirt Day in support of anti-bullying with Par-T-Pets. This past February, miniature pink shirts with the phrase “Be Kind” were made to fit Par-T-Pet teddies and were sold at fundraising events to promote the day.
Par-T-Perfect’s partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs is expected to grow to additional locations across the country, and the company is actively seeking new avenues of partnership with organizations whose products and services complement its own. Gibson hopes these new acquisitions will be mutually beneficial for all partners involved, and will create more rewarding experiences for both clients and franchisees.
Finally, Gibson says the company is offering additional levels of investment to prospective franchisees, giving them the freedom to open Par-T-Perfect locations in smaller regions. Once the downsized location is up and running, franchisees can make the decision to upgrade their investment by taking on additional territory, equipment, and most importantly, responsibility. “We’re giving new partners the opportunity to know our system better before they fully commit,” she says.
And although Gibson is looking forward to opening more locations in the United States and entering international markets, she wants to perfect the company at home first. “We’re a Canadian company,” she says. “We don’t want to compromise what we do for our Canadian franchisees by doing some other expansion too quickly.”
Hard work pays off
The benefits of working with Par-T-Perfect never cease to amaze Dinda, who has discovered fulfilling aspects of small business ownership she never considered when she first joined the team.
“I employ part-time staff, and the majority of them are students,” she explains. “For many of these students, this is their first real job, so part of my role is educating them. That aspect of the job wasn’t what I expected when I first started, but I feel really rewarded helping youth enter the workforce and become members of society.”
Another highlight of working with Par-T-Perfect is being a part of a collaborative, family-oriented atmosphere. Dinda says strong relationships between all 15 Par-T-Perfect franchisees and with head office mean it’s like working with family. Though partners are geographically removed from one another, they remain close thanks in large part to Gibson’s encouragement to communicate and brainstorm ideas on how they can enhance the company’s products and services.
“We’re all on the front line, and we know what does and doesn’t work. Michelle is great about incorporating our ideas,” Dinda says. “We all work really well together.”
This close-knit, team-focused atmosphere helped Par-T-Perfect win the Canadian Franchise Association’s (CFA) highest honour during CFA’s annual National Convention in Niagara Falls, Ontario this past spring. Franchise systems across Canada were recognized by their franchisees in a variety of industry areas, including leadership, communication, training and support, marketing, and overall business operations.
After winning Gold in its category for the third year in a row, Par-T-Perfect took home the Grand Prize for Non-Traditional Franchises, which includes mobile and home-based businesses. Dinda, who accepted the award with London, Ontario franchisee Ann Bonin, was rendered speechless when she heard Par-T-Perfect’s name called.
“It’s like winning the Best Picture at the Oscars! I’ve been with the company for so long, and I’ve seen it grow and change over the years. It’s become part of my family, so I was extremely grateful to see the company achieve this accomplishment!”
By Kristin Di Tommaso