Kristie "Lu'' Fink has always liked to shop. One might say she has a bit of a problem.
"One time, I found these cute Curious George stamp pads, mini gel pens and plush back-pack clip-ons on closeout, really, really cheap, and I just had to buy them," Fink said. "I'd bought the lot and my husband would ask me, ‘What are we going to do with all of this stuff?' But I figured I would use everything in the future for one of my kids' birthday parties."
Never did she think that her shopping addiction would turn into a booming business.
With three boys, ages 3, 4 and 6, Fink was always planning a birthday party. A perfectionist, she became obsessive about the party favors for the kids.
"Every year, I was always trying to come up with something that has not been done before," Fink said. "I wanted the goody bags to be perfect."
Shelley Goldstein was living two doors down from Fink in Plantation. Her kids, now ages 5 and 7, went to summer camp with Fink's kids and the two became friendly.
Goldstein was also caught up in the goody-bag drama.
"It sort of got to be a friendly competition thing with us," she said.
Fink and Goldstein knew they were not the only mothers who agonized over goody bags.
"It all comes down to the cake and the favors. When the party is over, that's what people remember," Fink said.
Their business, You Name It, started when a mother called Fink in search of an item for her kids' goody bags.
"A friend of a friend was having a Curious George-themed party for her child. She knew about my stockpiling and called to see if I had anything with Curious George," Fink said. ‘‘I knew I'd find a use for those Curious George markers!''
"The woman said, ‘Now if I could just pay someone to put it all together for me,' '' Fink said.
They did the favors for that party, which led to five more parties. Now, the team does about 10 birthday parties a week. "Moms talk," Fink said. "Our business is all word of mouth. Mothers will chase us down the school hallways asking us, ‘Are you the mom who did so-and-so's teacher gift?' ''
The business mostly focuses on kids' parties, but will do any occasion. They do everything, from coming up with the party theme to putting together corresponding favors.
"But we never duplicate," Fink said. "Even if we are doing our 100th princess party, each goody bag is unique. It's not the same stuff in each princess party bag." For that very reason, You Name It does not have a website.
"We present a variety of choices and possibilities and the mom and kids can pick which items they want to include in the goody bags," Fink said.
Some moms plan their kids' party months in advance while others wait until the last minute. You Name It can handle it, either way.
"We have enough inventory, so last-minute is not a problem for us," Fink said.
Cooper City mom Kerri Masel recently turned to You Name It to help her with favors for son Ethan's 5th birthday party.
"I already knew I was doing a circus theme," Masel said. ‘‘Each favor bag was $6 per child and included a popcorn holder, a colorful jester hat with bells, a flip stick, animal crackers and little play people. I thought it was a great value for the money and everyone loved them."
The business was never supposed to be full-time, but the two spend the majority of their time working at each other's houses, putting goody bags together assembly line style.
"While there are other party companies who will organize and plan an event, no one else is doing it as a home-based business," Goldstein said. "There's no overhead and it allows us to be flexible."
"I'm still shopping all the time," said Fink, who scoops up discounted items after holidays. "And we also have our spies out. I get calls from friends all the time, saying, ‘I'm at Target and they have all of this princess stuff on sale.' ''
The business "is not paying our rent, but it fulfills our creative sides," said Fink, who doesn't take a salary. "Our husbands tease that we are the lowest hourly paid workers, but we love what we do. After each party we get the best e-mails that say, ‘You made my daughter's party so special,' and we hear how impressed the guests were by the favors.
For us, that's the best part."
For more information, call Fink at 305-725-1828 or Goldstein at 561-289-5408, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.