Party Plan and Direct Selling: YUMMY!

Party Plan business is a bit like a secret society where inner knowledge and tricks of the trade are passed on under a veil of secrecy. Newcomers are left to wander along the “path of trial and error” and with little guidance. No wonder most quit before they get any real insight into how direct selling works.

Of course, I don’t claim to be an expert in this field either. My knowledge is based on ‘indirect’ rather than first-hand experience and is largely thanks to input received from the independent party plan consultants we deal with. Although my assessment of the trade is clearly biased, it is reinforced by experience I’ve gained over 12 years in both retail and wholesale, working as a self-employed business owner.

Let’s start with some basics.

First of all, no matter how you describe your business or which form of interaction with a customer it takes- a party plan, retail, direct selling, online selling, markets, etc – you are engaged in one very ancient trade: you are a seller of a product.

The first key word here is seller.

Say it loudly to yourself: a seller. If you don’t like the sound of it or if you see yourself in some role other than seller please read no more: this article is not for you. You might be a great designer, importer, fashion guru, or simply a business mum, but if there are goods on the table to exchange for money, then you are quite simply a seller. Why am I pounding this word into your head so much? Because there is nothing more important to the success of your business than your ability to sell. The sooner you recognize this, the sooner you will be in position to build a profitable retail business. Some people are born ‘natural’ sellers and they can close a deal in no time. They enjoy selling and they act on instinct, but they are also constantly making a conscious effort to improver their selling technique.

Now the good news for the rest of us: you can learn how to sell and there is an abundance of great resources and tools available to anyone who wishes to become a successful seller.

The second key word is product.

If you offer a product that is great, represents excellent value for money and satisfies the needs of your customers, then you will have absolutely no problem selling it. Actually, you will have a problem getting enough of it! The second good news: the world is full of excellent products, they are all around us and an experienced seller will spot one in no time. A good seller is constantly searching for a new product that is in high demand, so he can add it to his stock. More about this later.

The third key word is not as obvious as the previous two. Can you guess it? Let’s say that you are the best seller in the world and you have the most beautiful necklace ever handcrafted (and it’s only $39.95) . Unfortunately, you’ll never make a cent unless you have a captive audience to whom you can present your product!

You need a buyer.

This third ingredient – the quest for a ‘fresh’ captive audience which will fall in love with your product and part with hard earned cash to buy it – presents a challenge to any seller, regardless of their size, reputation or global importance. This is why McDonalds and Coca Cola spend billions of dollars advertising each year. In other words, you have to either bring customers to your shop or take your goods to their homes.
To summarize, the holly trinity of doing business is a fine-tuned relationship between Seller, Product and Buyer. Let me be more specific and apply some of the above to the party plan business.

SELLER

If you have not previously been into direct selling, before you make any financial commitment you must get some first-hand experience of the party plan business. Attend a house presentation or, even better, be a host for a night. Find a product range, contact a company or independent consultant in your area, and let them know you wish to host a party.

Observe carefully what is going on and how the consultant is conducting his/her presentation. Pay attention to details – the range and presentation of products, pricing, selling technique. Watch the crowd, write down your questions and your impressions about everything you feel is important. Ask yourself: can I do it? Or most importantly, can you do it better? Would you enjoy doing it? Would you enjoy doing it 3 times per week, month after month? Are you able to control the audience, would you be able to command their unreserved attention? How do you feel about the products? Do they represent value for money, are they trendy, fashionable and do they satisfy customers needs?

PRODUCT

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that it is much easier to sell jewellery, clothing or make up, than cleaning detergent. I guess you have figured this out already – that’s why you are reading our fashion jewellery newsletter. But make no mistake: in order to run a successful party plan business you need more than one product, and more precisely, more than one supplier. Market forces and fashion trends take no prisoners. Proactive, innovative selling, with modern sensibly priced products, will more likely satisfy buyers’ needs. Pricing is a very important and complex subject, and it deserves an entire chapter, so I will talk about it later. For now, it is important to remember that you should not deal with any wholesaler, or supplier, who do not stand behind their products, claims or promises they make, either in writing or verbal form. Be prepared to be educated and guided. One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome for a start-up business is lack of trust in both products and supplier. You have to give it a fair go and take some calculated risk. If I have sold hundreds of necklace A and only a dozen of necklace B, then I would tell you there is more chance that you will have a similar experience.

Love your jewellery – and wear it all the time! Make sure to learn as much as possible about your product so you can sound confident. Be knowledgeable, be an expert. Again, I will tell you more about this in the next newsletter. Create a “WOW magic” atmosphere – I devoted a few pages to this subject last month. More to come.

GETTING THE ATTENTION OF POTENTIAL BUYERS

This is another difficult area of the business operation. In essence, selling is a numbers game. If you show your product to enough people some of them will buy it: the more you show, the more you sell. It is also a game of being at the right place at the right time. Bricks and mortar retailers aim to set up their business in the busiest location they can afford – shopping centre, retail street, near railway station or similar location, where the goods will have maximum exposure to the passing flow of potential buyers. Still, a large percentage of turnover will be generated from repeat buyers (existing satisfied customers) or from referrals (happy customers referring you to their friends).

This should be your business model too. More than any other form of selling, party plan is people business. If you have a pleasant personality, manners, if you look presentable and conduct your business as a professional, you will receive more party invitations than you can handle. You can spend all your capital on advertising – but unless you have a ‘people-magnet personality’ your business will struggle. Successful party plan consultants are enthusiastic, charismatic, optimistic people who glow, smile, have a firm handshake, keep their promises and can create a fun atmosphere in a stranger’s home.

YUMMY !

Picture your business as Mozart Kugel (Mozart Kugel is composed of pistachio marzipan, with a hazelnut nougat centre, double dipped in light then dark chocolate):

  • hazelnut: the core of your business is your product
  • pistachio marzipan: your ability to sell and the relationship with your buyer
  • chocolate: your personality that will generate repeats and referrals, and make your business grow
  • colourful wrapping paper: advertising
  • CONCLUSION

    In order to do it the ‘right way’ start from the inside out. Get familiar with your products, have a decent stock, work hard to improve your selling technique and your public personality, and be careful how you spend your advertising dollar. The best way to get new business is through referrals from satisfied customers. Be persistent – it takes time to get there, but once you’ve made it you’ll LOVE it!

    Tanya Hacko

    Sydney, Australia

    What You Don’t Know About Cameron Highlands

    Hello and “apa khabar?”- or “How are you?” in Malay. Are you ready to visit Cameron Highlands? I suspect you might be a little cold once you get here, so I hope you brought a sweater along. Jogging or running shoes would be helpful if you intend to walk on some of the famous jungle trails.

    Before we start, let’s get to know the area.

    Cameron Highlands is in the, well, highland area, about 121 kilometres east of Ipoh and about 214 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. It is situated in Malaysia’s largest peninsula state- the state of Pahang. Standing at 5,000 feet or 1,500 metres above sea level, it the highest area on the mainland. Cameron Highlands enjoys a rather cool climate compared to Kuala Lumpur, with temperatures of 25 °C but rarely falling below 12°C. It may not be very cold to some of you, but in hot and humid Malaysia, it is pretty cold.

    So what’s the story behind Cameron Highlands?

    The French writer Henri Fauconnier wonderfully described the tropics in Malaya when he wrote his best selling book, “The Soul of Malaya.” By the way, Malaya is the old name for Malaysia. In the book, he observed, “In Malaya, the seasons are hardly distinct. You do not die a little every year, as in Europe at the end of autumn. You cease to think of date or time.”

    But the British who were in Malaya at the time found this to be highly monotonous and decided to survey areas where they could get away from the tropical heat. Thinking of forms of escape, they ended up heading to the cool mountains up here. This place was a great vacation spot, away from the hustle and bustle of city life and away from diseases such as malaria and dysentery.

    Where did Cameron Highlands get its name? Well, thanks to one government surveyor named William Cameron who stumbled upon this the mountain range in all its mossy glory back in 1885. He described the newly found area as ‘a fine plateau with gentle slopes, shut in by lofty mountains’. If you think this is a little too over poetic, you’ll soon find it to be an understatement, but I’ll leave you to discover that.

    So while William Cameron was the one who found this place- there was one tiny problem. William Cameron forgot where it was. So, the British administrator at that time, Sir Hugh Low, made a few expeditions after that and finally put Cameron Highlands on the map.

    Cameron Highlands became a hit to those who got tired of Fraser’s Hill, a less popular highland area in Malaya at the time. Fraser’s Hill was considered too small, too cramped and it had unsuitable conditions for growing produce. This is good news to Cameron Highlands. The government at the time soon began to focus their interest here. After they cleared the forests, the tea planters came in droves to claim the land around Cameron Highlands for their plantations. Chinese farmers also arrived to plant their vegetables and produce. Shops began to spring up to cater to the needs of the new and growing community.

    Alright. That’s the short history of Cameron Highlands.

    Sights

    Before we move on to the sights in and around Cameron Highlands, you should know that there are a few distinct towns in the area. After all, we’re talking about a very big area here. If you have visited Singapore, it is roughly two and a quarter times the size of Singapore.

    And here are the towns:

    Firstly, we have Brinchang (spell it out), which is the biggest town in Cameron Highlands. Here you can find several hotels, night markets, a military camp, banks and a commercial area. Further up is Tringkap (spell it out), the business centre of Cameron Highlands, which is well-known for its stalls and shops. Here, you can get vegetable, fruits and flowers that arrive daily and fresh from the farms. In fact, some traders from Kuala Lumpur actually travel all the way up here every day to bring some back to Kuala Lumpur, as the wholesale price here is ridiculously cheap! Look out for shops selling roses for as little as 3 Ringgit for 10 stalks and a whole bag of vegetables for 2 Ringgit. It’s definitely a steal at these prices. Next is Ringlet (spell it out), the very first stop if you come headed from Tapah, and is also famous for its vegetable farms. There’s also a flower farm too. Another big town in the area is Tanah Rata (spell it out). Similarly like Brinchang, it has become one of the major towns in Cameron Highlands where it hosts several hotels, parks and a commercial centre. For those of you who love your coffee and familiar brand logos, there’s even a Starbucks here! Next up is Bertam Valley (spell it out) that has yet another popular local vegetable farm, and an international flower farm which has flowers such as roses and chrysanthemums. And finally the Blue Valley, and it should be at the top of your itinerary, where the BOH Tea Plantation and the Blue Valley Plantation are.

    You’re probably getting the drift now- there are a lot of vegetable and flower farms in Cameron Highlands. And of course, tea plantations.

    OK now that you’re somewhat familiar with the names of the major towns here, let’s move along to some of the important and interesting attractions in Cameron Highlands. Before that, get acquainted with a young man by the name of John Archibald ‘Archie’ Russell. Russell arrived in Malaya in 1890 at the tender age of seven with his father. He had arrived here when Kuala Lumpur was just beginning to take shape as the country’s most important administrative centre. Russell grew up among a community of English tin miners and planters. At a young age, he found his niche in business and this saw him acquiring at least a third of Ipoh town.

    However, it was in 1927 when he found his true calling to grow and sell premium quality tea. When he visited Cameron Highlands, he found the rolling hills and valleys with their adequate rainfall very ideal for tea planting. Soon, the first Boh plantation was established and today continues to serve more than 60 percent of the Malaysian tea market. It is the biggest local tea producer, covering a total of 8,000 acres of land in Palas, Farlie, Bukit Cheeding and Ringlet. Boh gets its distinctive name from Bohlia, the origin of the tea that comes from the Szechuan province of China.

    You can get to the plantation’s Sungai Palas estate, which can be found north of Brinchang. Signboards can be seen on the way, so it is not difficult to find it. There you can sit down and have a nice cup of tea with scones and strawberry jam, while looking out to the magnificent tea plantation. It’s really a wonderful experience. Just ask for the Sungai Palas Plantation. Most people will know where it is.

    While you are here, do check out the free tour that takes visitors around the factory. Guides will show you the various stages of tea production. There you will see some of the machines that are still in pristine conditions, despite being from the 1930s. Even some of the actual tea bushes from then are still around as they can be harvested for as long as a hundred years before they are finally chopped off.

    After the tour, feel free to walk around the plantation or head off to the plantation’s tea shop. Here you can buy some of Malaysia’s best teas. The Boh business is still kept in the family.

    That’s all for the tea plantation and I hope you will have a great time there sipping tea like the British did.

    The next place on the tour is the old Lakehouse in Ringlet, built by one Colonel Stanley Jack Forster. The Colonel joined the British Army when he was but a young lad, with a taste for adventure in the Far East. While most servicemen left the tropics for good after they had served their time in Malaya, the Colonel stayed back after the war. Perhaps it was his way of saying that he wanted adventure till the very end of his life.

    The Colonel would carry a cane or whip with which he used to chase the locals away when they came into his property. This of course didn’t extend to his choice of partners, which according to local gossip, were the very locals he used to chase away! Strange man. Though a little eccentric, he is widely remembered for building the Lakehouse, which he, with great pride, built his dream bed and breakfast. His plans to build this model motel brought him to Kuala Lumpur where he would salvage roof tiles from an old, rundown hospital. The Colonel even went as far as to design some of the woodwork items in his dream motel. These include a few chairs as well as the chandelier in the foyer.

    There was another odd thing about the old Colonel. He would screen his guests to see if he liked them or not. If they were found ‘suitable’ as a guest, then any request however absurd would be entertained. But if found ‘unsuitable’, not even large sums of money would convince the Colonel to let out a room!

    The Colonel eventually passed away in 1984. The HPL Hotels and Resorts now owns his dream motel, so don’t worry if you will pass the Colonel’s inspection. Most of the hotel has been left as the Colonel intended it to be. It continues to sit on a hill looking very much like the cozy cottage that was in the Colonel’s mind. The Lakehouse is an important part of Cameron Highland’s history as it remains as one of the few colonial houses in Malaysia that actually cater to the public. Stepping into its foyer brings the feeling of Old England. I hope you will have a chance to stay at this hotel. However, I must warn you- it does come with a fairly big price tag.

    Another historic building is Bala’s Holiday Chalet. Bala’s Holiday Chalet used to be a school for children of expats. The stories of Bala’s Chalet have one permanent and important fixture, Miss Anne Laugharne Phillips Griffith- Jones. Miss Griff as she was fondly known, came to visit her brother in Singapore. She enjoyed Singapore so much that she decided to stay on after the end of her initial three-month tour. She began helping her brother O.P’s sister in law run a school that served the expatriate community in Singapore, and later opened her own Tanglin Day School. While not trained in the profession, she made it her vocation not only to teach, but to take on the responsibility for providing the best education for young ladies living in colonial Malaya and Singapore. Eventually, at her brother’s suggestion, she opened another branch right here in Cameron Highlands. Then, Cameron Highlands was just beginning to develop and soon developed a reputation for being the place to go to for excessive drinking and female company.

    The Second World War broke out and reinforcements were sent to Malaya to protect the Crown’s stakes. Young army officers would often visit the highlands for the weekend. A little too often. The initial reason was that the highlands were a welcome respite from the sweltering heat. But it soon became apparent that it was Miss Griff’s young female students that were the source of attraction. So much for the heat.

    During the Japanese occupation, much of this came to an end as Miss Griff was tossed into the infamous Changi prison. Eventually she was released, and continued to teach students right after the war.

    The owners of Bala’s chalets have retained much of the original structure with very little changes, and it remains one of the best places to stay in Cameron Highlands. It continues to serve tea and scones like Miss Griff used to for her girls.

    But the most interesting tale about Cameron Highlands is that of Jim Thompson. You can still hear the people of Cameron Highlands talk about it even until today. This story takes place at the Moonlight villa, which is on the way from the Strawberry Park Farm and the Lutheran Mission Bungalow. Thompson was an American architect and previously a member of the CIA. He was the one who helped revitalize Thailand’s silk business and for that, he was called the ‘Thai Silk King.’

    On Easter Sunday on March 26th, 1967, Thompson went for a pre-dinner walk as he always did. But on that fateful day, he was never to be seen again.

    Locals and search parties and even local shamans were enlisted to find Thompson. But oddly, despite enlisting even the most experienced trekkers from nearby tribal villages, there was just no sign of the man. Not a single article or clothing, or shoe, or remains were ever found. He simply vanished into thin air. Rumours of course ran wild and some believed he was kidnapped or dragged off by a tiger. Some said that he planned his own disappearance. Others say he was kidnapped for his previous involvement in spying activities. And the most interesting one- he fell into an aborigine animal trap that is basically a pit with spikes, and the aborigines buried his body when they discovered what happened. This mysterious disappearance even inspired several books to be written about it, speculating on why and how he vanished. There has also been rumours that he has been sighted a couple of times after his death.

    Food

    While Cameron Highlands is not a food haven, the one thing you must try is the steamboat. It is a soup dish with noodles, seafood and an assortment of ingredients. You have a hot pot of boiling soup and you just put in whatever ingredient you like and there you have it- a hot, soupy meal in the cool highlands. Steamboat is very popular with locals and tourists alike and I would strongly recommend trying it.

    I don’t think you’ll be doing a lot of grocery shopping here but if you’re looking for herbs, honey and rare potted plants, you can get some from the orang asli or indigenous people who live in the jungles nearby. You will also find various stalls and shops selling flowers, vegetables and fruits. Do walk around and enjoy some strawberries, or buy yourself some fragrant and beautiful flowers! Also, if you’re looking for fresh honey, you will find them easily. There are also some shops selling beautiful handcrafts made by the indigenous people.

    Trail Walking

    One of the best things to do here at Cameron Highlands is trail walking. Really, it’s one of the most enjoyable things to do here.

    Here are a few trails you can consider. Before you start, these are items you should bring with you – a light sweater, a raincoat in case of rain, binoculars for bird watching, perhaps a small first aid kit and sensible trekking shoes that maintain their grip on wet ground. This is important because the ground tends to be wet in the highlands, due to the mist.

    The locals used these trails back in those days and they are now preserved for the tourist and avid trekker. You should attempt these trails in the morning, just to be safe as it gets dark quite early here and losing your way is not a rare occurrence. At a few trails you can actually hire guides. As always, inform the hotel staff and the police and friends when you embark on a trek. If you do get lost, the local police will seek help from the aborigines since they know the roads well. However, you must take strong safety measures. You don’t want to end up like poor Jim Thompson. Although, you can take one of his favourite Trail which is Trail Number 4.

    Trekking in Cameron Highlands is one of the most inspiring experiences. Because it is located on the spine of the Titiwangsa Range, it offers you some of the most exotic flora and fauna.

    Let’s start at with the trails. They are numbered 1 to 9.

    Trail 1 leads up to Mount Brinchang at over 2000 metres. It is rarely used because it is really difficult, so if you are new to trekking, then I don’t recommend this. Even experienced trekkers have gotten lost in this trail. However, if you have a guide, I’d strongly recommend it. The peak of Mount Brinchang boasts a spectacular view of the surrounding rolling hills on a clear day. Towards the peak itself, the middle of the trail passes through the fairy-like mossy forest, and due to its structure and appearance, is sometimes referred to as the elfin or dwarf forest.

    Trail 2 starts from the back of Sam Poh Buddhist temple. It is yet another difficult trek with plenty of rolling path and three steep descends. Trail 2 joins with Trail 3.

    Trail 3 begins from Arcadia Cottage. This trail is easy, but it meets with Trail 2 and from here, it can get quite challenging. It leads you up to Mount Berembun at 1,800 metres. Mount Berembun means Misty Mountain. If it gets too tough, you can branch off at Trail 5 but you will miss going up to Mount Berembun. However, if you continue at Trail 3, you’ll eventually meet Trail 7 and Trail 8. Estimate about 4 hours for the complete trek. And once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with the view of Tanah Rata.

    Trail 4 is one of the more popular trails as it is easy and will lead to the Parit Waterfall. It will take around 30 minutes and has a good picnic spot. Start from either the forest department or behind the Garden Inn Hotel. This is one of Jim Thompson’s favourite trails, and I’d recommend it to you.

    Trail 5 begins from MARDI, or the Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute. It is an easy trail through the woodlands and joins with Trail 3.

    Trail 7 also begins from MARDI, but this time it goes straight to Mount Berembun. This one is very difficult and challenging.

    Trail 8 is another way to get to Mount Berembun and it meets Trail 9, which comes from Robinson Waterfall.

    Trail 9 or Trail 9A is also known as the Robinson Waterfall trail. This one is very popular and starts from the Robinson power station and ends at Tanah Rata. For 9A, it’s actually a detour that takes you to the BOH estate, and this is less steep compared to if you continue on Trail 9. When you are nearing the waterfalls, you will hear the sound of gushing water. It will take about one hour.

    There are other trails as well, and you can always ask the hotel staff for some recommendation. I hope you will try at least one trail. You will be well rewarded with some of the most spectacular views. You might also spot a few exotic animals and plants like the white coral rock, wild orchids, mossy forest trees, the shy banded-leaf monkeys, wild lizards, birds, snakes, insects and many other jungle creatures.

    A must see at Cameron Highlands is the Rafflesia, a parasitic plant indigenous to the region. The Rafflesia is said to be the largest flower in the world. Even the smallest can weigh around 10 kilogrammes. It looks and smells like rotting flesh, and locals call them ‘corpse flower’. The Rafflesia is definitely a must see. Ask for a tour, as you will not be able to find it on your own.

    If you are not interested in physical activity, Cameron Highlands is a wonderful place for you to just get away from the city for a day or two. Bring some board games, a thick novel, and just laze around, soaking in the lovely mountain air that the British loved so much!

    End

    Well, this is the end of the guide for Cameron Highlands. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself with stories of Cameron Highlands, and that you will have a great time walking the nature trails, shopping for fresh flowers and honey, and trying the steamboat.

    Until the next time, Selamat Tinggal or goodbye!

    Sydney Gift Fair

    Australia hosts a number of large trade fairs each year which cover a broad range of industries, services and professions. Of all the annual trade fairs it would be fair to say that the bi-annual Reed Gift Fair and GHA Home and Giving Fair in each of Melbourne and Sydney are the largest and most significant in terms of wholesale exhibitors and retail buyers. The Reed Gift Fair in Sydney and the GHA Gift Fair in Sydney each February are the must see, must visit, trade fairs for shop owners and other retailers selling a broad range of gift style products.

    The February Sydney GHA trade show is held concurrently with the Reed Gift Fair and is a leading trade event that brings together industry participants including retailers, wholesalers, agents and distributors. The Reed Gift Fair is located at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour and the GHA Home and Giving Fair is partly located at Darling Harbour but predominantly located at Homebush. GHA runs regular free ferry and bus services from Darling Harbour to Homebush for the duration of the trade fair.

    The Reed and GHA Gift Fairs in Sydney are the ideal one stop trade show for retailers to identify industry trends, the latest offerings and be first in line to order products from an exciting and ever changing range of national and international suppliers. For those in the industry wanting to stay ahead of their competitors the Sydney Trade Fairs are a must visit. These trade events also give attendees the opportunity to find new found inspiration, ideas and expert advice on increasing sales in their business.

    The GHA Home and Giving Fair and the Reed Gift Fair enable registered retailers and businesses to access suppliers and order wholesale products including kitchenware, home décor, giftware, jewellery, furniture, clothing, electronics, books, fashion accessories and foodstuffs from both domestic and international suppliers. Also on offer are the latest glassware, napery, woodcrafts, framed pictures, ceramics, clocks, photo frames and furniture, Australian made products, collectables, men’s gifts, souvenirs, aromatherapy, leather goods, jewellery, party goods, shop fittings and religious products.

    If you are attending the Sydney Gift Fairs for the first time or even as a regular buyer or exhibitor then be sure to wear comfortable flat shoes, take regular breaks and book your Sydney accommodation early. If f you are planning on eating out in the evenings then where possible also book your restaurant table early. This especially the case if you are staying near the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour as many trade fair participants will also be looking to eat out and waiting times at restaurants can be painfully long. There are numerous catering outlets within the GHA and Reed Gift Fairs including food outlets and hot drink vendors. For accommodation at the Sydney Gift Fairs book early and book online at Sydney Accommodation.

    If you are serious buyer looking for new designs and stock that will sell well, then you should be attending the GHA Home and Giving Fair in Sydney and the Reed Gift Fair at least once every year. While the fairs are held twice each year in Sydney and twice each year in Melbourne the bigger fairs tend to be Sydney in February and Melbourne in August.