• Sian Downes

Office Party in the Post: All we learned, improved and what we are up to for 2021!

Originally, Party in the Post (www.partyinthepost.net) was set up as a lockdown 1.0 project. I had wanted to set up a subscription box for a few years and suddenly it felt like the right time. We “launched” via our Strawberry Lemonade Events Facebook page and sold out of our first Easter themed batch.

From then on over the summer we had a lot of ups and downs- the risk of buying stock and not knowing what would go, never quite finding the right product photographer (we even had two people steal the stuff and never deliver any images and the ones that did were never right) I suppose that’s what happens when you have a limited budget 🤷🏼‍♀️ we even hired someone as our community and marketing person and they ghosted us! Like straight up, Didn’t die (I checked their insta) just stopped responding to emails, wouldn’t answer their phone and clearly just didn’t want to work with me- felt like getting stood up! And made me question of what I was trying to do was just junk tbh.

During September I really doubted if we should continue. Something that should be fun was turning into a total headache and there weren’t many sales...

But October brought on Halloween and we had a busy burst and as we continued through the pandemic- families were really looking to do something fun and the social enterprise element of the boxes started to resonate with people.

A mentor style call set up via UnLtd- one of our funders, with Janssen (Johnstone and Johnstone) was a pivotal moment for us.

The call was focused on two areas- how to get PITP moving and also, if we didn’t, what would happen.

Nicola, who joined us on the call, was literally like a kind of corporate guardian angel who saw around the mess of my house (getting ready to move for the second time in 3 months 🤦🏼‍♀️), the blue tack that kept dropping off my spin bike (lockdown purchase obviously) and plunging my phone to the floor and my mad puppy (a pre planned yet still lockdown purchase) to see that perhaps- our very rough Office Party in the Post would be an option for them this Xmas.

And well, that one order gave me the confidence to put OPITP out there (aka LinkedIn) and see where it would go.

I’m really proud of our hilarious Edinburgh centric social campaign highlighting all the things we won’t miss about the office night out- “No Mingers in Fingers”, “No Sore Feet on George Street”. Firstly it proper lifted peoples spirits- that was basically the goal- but it also got us noticed- like really noticed and the orders really came in.

And here’s where I would like to highlight what we learned, what we have changed going forward.

Firstly- not being pregnant would be great! Haha! 7 months pregnant, moving house the weekend of our biggest order was due to be packed but couldn’t be done any earlier due to numbers being finalised, perishable items included and some final details coming and of course- a pandemic are top lines things to avoid again! Also, family health issues meaning that sometimes I just could not answer my phone.

Postage- even boxes posted guarantee 1pm were still arriving late. This was probably the most heartbreaking thing of all. Genuinely still packing boxes at 2am to ensure they would be ready and then to get the word they hadn’t shown and in the end, a smashed bottle box really sent me over the edge. I’m not an anxious person- far from it- but feeling like I was letting people down daily was really really rough. And being powerless- at one stage I asked to gin?? into the sorting office and find my parcels- but even with the offer of wearing my own high vis vest I was refused.

I eventually hand delivered ALOT of parcels. Again, in hindsight- this is something I would get help with! Climbing flights and flights of stairs when pregnant was knackering! And then one time I had to jump a wall 😂😂

Also, a bit of a strange one but being on the end of verbal abuse for posting too many items at the post office from people queuing was not something I expected- however being from Alloa and having served my retail apprenticeship in the local off license I wasn’t massively phased by this- just more of a giant eye roll to that person... and pointing at my massive bump 😂

Stock: When I went on a mad purchase spree in July, I wouldn’t have believed I would be scouring the web for hours trying to track down some key items- only to be on the receiving end of slow postage. 🤦🏼‍♀️

And then with selling so many boxes- you literally need boxes- but so did everyone else! So the price rocketed, so instead of paying 70p per box or so, now paying £3 plus paying a higher rate of postage to get the boxes there on time. And that just felt rough. Working really hard, LOVING the boxes, everything in them and knowing that we were literally posting parties yet being powerless over a lot of elements.

Broken stock- I mean I know it sounds naive but I just didn’t expect the extra stuff you end up requiring. The dog chewing a box, dropping a box in a puddle outside the post office... all these things happen and I never factored it in!

Help- not being allowed to have people in to help and being in the “shielding” category (again) was something we hopefully never have to deal with again.This meant all boxes packed by me, all cards written by me, inserts cut out by me (because of course the guillotine went MIA in the move and the Amazon one couldn’t cut butter) Now, I’m conscious not to sound like a martyr but this note serves as much as a diary/ therapy session as it does an update.

So going forward! Bam! Here’s what we have done!

​⁃​Ordered a range of different box sizes!

​⁃​We’ve bought a fancy printer and a new guillotine to make things more slick!

- We’ve got stickers back in stock!

- We’ve got personalised tissue paper

​⁃​Ordered new stock in plenty of time.

​⁃​Currently working on an order submission system. We already have an e-commerce site for Party in the Post but not Office Party in the Post. This was because we had so many new products and add ons that we simply didn’t have the time to load up options online and used our PDF brochure as the main sales channel.

​⁃​This system also allows clients to customise boxes in terms of how they look. We are working really hard to strike the balance of looks vs sustainability vs costings. Some of our clients LOVE the homely/ fun feel of the boxes while some want a extra layer of oomph- ie hamper packaging. So now- you will be able to choose!

​⁃​And that leads us on to our final point- branding. We have never set out to be Fortnum and Mason and I don’t really see us ever fitting in that box- so our zone is sending ready made party centric boxes and we will continue to develop what “party” means and continue to get better at shouting about what we do.

An element that has proper gotten me through these crashing business lessons is the social impact that our boxes have created.

We donated HUNDREDS of boxes- I am so proud. We distributed books, party decorations, school supplies, colouring books, gloves, scarves, presents, chocolates, toiletries and even purchased blankets for children in war torn countries.

These gifts were wrapped and included Christmas cards and somehow we found time to decorate the local youth centre!

For every box we sell, we donate one to a family in need of cheer- this year, with another lockdown looming, we were asked by our friends in social work as to what could be done and that’s where the school supplies came in!

So there we have it! Our first Xmas season of Office Party in the Post. We exceeded sales by hundreds of boxes, we were left broken hearted by slow and delayed post. We recognise we need to offer a range of packaging options however that, we are on the right track, nearly every person loved their box and not being pregnant for much more will make things easier (because babies are easy right?!)

And somehow, even though we needed cheered up sometimes ourselves, we managed to make a wee tiny difference to lots of families this year.🌈🌈🌈🌈


Thank you to all our amazing clients- for your patience, support, feedback and trust! And again, I am so sorry that some of you had boxes that arrived late!

So here’s to 2021! Here’s to continued growth, getting better, posting more parties and streamlining our systems!🚚🚚🎁🎁🥳🥳

Burns boxes available now! 😉