Did you ever even have a party if it wasn’t on Instagram? Well, you may have but no one knew about it. Let’s face it. We as a society are obsessed with social media and making even the most ordinary of events absolutely picturesque and FOMO-inducing. Even a boring office party can be a work of art if you have the right tools. That was the idea behind Coterie. Founded by Daily Harvest founding team members Linden Ellis and Sara Raffa they essentially applied the direct to consumer model to the party supplies space. The party supply industry is $10 billion in the U.S. alone and when the company launched last February there was no seamless, curated or online experience (and who wants to schlep a bunch of party supplies around town when they could just magically appear at your door) in the space which explains why they were able to raise close to $3 million by the time they launched.
The business model is simple. Coterie launched with nine curated sets themed by occasion (bridal and baby show, birthday, garden party, etc.,) and accompanied by tips and recipes for guests. All the party host has to do is choose the occasion (or even the non-occasion which is what makes this so appealing) and the number of party guests. The company then sends you everything from tableware to balloons to cheese toppers and glitter candles. Ladders sat down with the team to discuss the company which just partnered with Reese Witherspoon’s lifestyle company Draper James on a gameday party set.
On the bright idea
“The idea for Coterie came from a personal pain point. Sara was planning her sister’s baby shower and it was really stressful. She spent hours scouring Pinterest for inspiration and then in order to create the entire party, she had to go to a number of different sites to cobble together everything she needed. Even once she found the product she was worried it wouldn’t match, wouldn’t arrive on time, and that the quality would be low. We both come from e-commerce backgrounds having been on the founding team at Daily Harvest and so we were surprised that there wasn’t a more seamless, online solution for shopping for party decorations. The party supplies industry is a $10bn industry that is dominated by antiquated brick and mortar players. So we decided to create Coterie to fill this gaping hole in the market.”
On working with a cofounder
“We’re very complimentary. From day one we’ve had a very clear delineation of roles – Sara does product and operations and Linden does marketing and finance. Each of us is involved in discussions on both sides but there is a clear owner and ultimate decision-maker. ”
On their best morning routine and productivity hack
“We both walk to work. Our office is conveniently located about 23 minutes from each of us so we have a nice amount of time to get the blood flowing, listen to podcasts and catch up on the news, or call family. It’s a nice moment to center before we start the day.”
What did you learn from your time at Daily Harvest in terms of launching a company?
“There is no substitute for being part of a company on the ground floor. We both joined Daily Harvest when it was very young and were able to help scale the company very quickly and accommodate the growth from an operations perspective. Not only did we learn how to jumpstart a company but we learned all the little things that go on behind the scenes that are not sexy but crucial like getting insurance, payroll, creating and vetting contracts, sourcing products, and managing cash flow with vendor terms.”
What did you learn from Daily Harvest CEO Rachel Drori?
“Rachel was an incredibly scrappy and hands-on CEO. For a while she was doing the design of all our emails, would answer customer tickets, and was always thinking about how we could hack a project faster or for less money. She was in the trenches and that’s really how you have to operate as a CEO, especially a CEO of a small team. No task is too small or trivial.”
On livening up an office party
“You never know when you might have something to celebrate so always have party supplies (and champagne) on hand for that impromptu celebration. Think about fun activities you can do as a team. Tie-dye t-shirts on a warm day, take a cooking class, go to team yoga or throw together an ice cream sundae bar. Happy hours are always fun, but it’s nice to mix it up a bit.”
On their five-year plan
“We have a lot of exciting things in store for 2020! We’re working on a kids-focused line (think dinosaurs and unicorns) and lots of new partnerships, similar to our collaboration with Draper James. Our five-year goal is for Coterie to be the go-to, loved the brand for party decorating and hosting, and to create a seamless shopping experience (both online and offline). Ultimately we hope to power the next generation of community and IRL connections through the joy of parties.”