Andrew and Paula Ross had an auspicious start to 2007. On Jan. 1, the husband and wife business team were given the keys to the Great Falls Village Center retail space that is about to be home to a brand new party and class center for their company “Andy’s Parties.”
“On New Year’s Day, it was me and six high school kids in here painting,” said Andrew Ross.
Andy’s Parties is a full-service, themed children’s event company that Andrew and Paula Ross created two and a half years ago while living in Gaithersburg, Md. The couple, who had married a year prior to opening the company, always knew that they wanted to run their own business.
“We’re both pretty entrepreneurial,” said Paula Ross.
As a high school student in New Jersey, Andrew Ross worked for a company that threw parties for children, and the experience left a lasting impression on him. When he and his wife sat down and started brainstorming business ideas, he suggested a children’s party company that would take service to the next level by offering special themed events. Paula Ross was enthusiastic about the concept.
“We realized there was a niche for this,” she said.
Andy’s Parties currently offers about 25 different theme choices for clients. They include everything from a “Rock n’ Roll” party, to a “Who Done It?” detective motif.
“With so many themes, a child can have a different party for their fifth, sixth, seventh – all the way up to 12th birthday,” said Paula Ross.
According to Andrew Ross, the popularity of particular themes is constantly changing.
“Right now our pirates party is very popular because of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ but in two or three months that will probably change,” said Andrew Ross. “Everyone wants whatever their particular child is interested in – the other day we had someone ask if we could do a tooth fairy party… clients like to have the parties geared to whatever their child wants.”
WHEN THEY FIRST started, the couple ran Andy’s Parties out of their home, however, it was not long before the business prospered and they moved it into a Gaithersburg office space. Today Andrew and Paula Ross, both 29, live in Potomac, Md. with their 10-month-old daughter Anna. They have opened two franchises in Virginia – one in Bristow, and one in Stafford – and the Great Falls center will be the fourth location for the company. The Gaithersburg office currently employs a staff of 60. In addition, a third franchise is currently in the pipeline.
“Our goal has always been to expand and franchise,” said Andrew Ross.
Paula Ross said that the decision to lease a space in Great Falls was a no-brainer.
“I’d say that 80 percent of our business comes from the Great Falls and McLean area, and since we mainly go to people’s homes to put on the parties, we knew that it would make the most sense to be here,” she said.
Running a children’s event company keeps the Ross’s busy, but they both love what they do.
“There is a new challenge everyday, and we learn something new about our services and our business everyday,” said Paula Ross. “For instance, we thought a lot about what we could do to occupy the space during the week. We usually do four to six parties on the weekend, and we send out 10 to 15 parties to people’s homes on the weekend… but we weren’t really using the space on weekdays.”
The solution that the Ross’s came up with is to offer three to six “classes” at their center during the week. Like the parties they throw, the Andy’s Parties curriculum will be centered around various themes.
“It’s basically an educational twist on the parties,” said Andrew Ross. “We use the same activities and support materials, and we focus on adventure. For example, we will use our pirate theme to teach geography and directions.”
In addition, the Ross’s say that their complementary skill sets help to keep the business running smoothly. Paula Ross said she handles the creative aspects of the company, while Andrew Ross manages the finance and business operation tasks.
"I'm good at coming up with systems that we use every time," said Andrew Ross. "We want to standardize the process so we can make sure the parties are the same for every client."
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Andrew Ross worked in private equity prior to opening up Andy's Parties. He and Paula Ross are just two years into their venture, and business is booming.
"I can't complain," said Andrew Ross. "It could be a lot worse."