Pink Flamingo Party Co. celebrates life events by providing luxury party supplies, rental items, and extravagant balloon art installations. Founder Ashley Sodipo started the business in her New York City apartment in 2018. During the pandemic, she transitioned the business to Connecticut, where she grew up. Pink Flamingo Party will open a brick-and-mortar location in November 2021.
MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Ashley about her startup journey.
NAN: Have you always been entrepreneurial or planned to own a business?
ASHLEY SODIPO: I’ve always loved embracing my creative side. My mother inspired me with her creative talent. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so I feel like it’s in my blood and that entrepreneurial spirit is just who I’ve always been. This business started as a side hustle. Now I spend all my time curating products that I would want to buy.
NAN: Tell us about your business pivot.
ASHLEY: When I was living in NYC, our focus was mostly selling party supplies in the bachelorette and bridal shower world. When the pandemic hit, I realized we needed to pivot the business. It was a time where joy was hard to find and we were trying to figure out how we could safely deliver more joy to people. Fortunately, we were able to do our contactless balloon art installations, which meant we were delivering over-the-top balloon displays very early in the morning on people’s front doors so they could celebrate at their home safely or give happiness to a friend.
NAN: How did you build your clientele and market yourself when you pivoted and returned to Connecticut?
ASHLEY: We’re lucky enough to be a mostly word-of-mouth business. Everything is built from social media. I have friends here in Connecticut who supported my idea and the business and we’ve formed relationships with other businesses locally that saw a need for us in the market. We also partnered a lot with those businesses and participated in things like markets on Main Street in Glastonbury and shows at the Westbrook Outlets. Also, we did a balloon art installation for the YWCA in Hartford during their teacher appreciation week, which helped businesses in the region take off.
We reached out to a lot of people and tried to make those connections pretty early on—not to just benefit our business but to make friends. Our “frienders,” as we call them, have become part of the reason why our business has become so successful. And we’re so thankful for them.
NAN: Can you share some of your biggest entrepreneurial lessons learned?
ASHLEY: I totally took a risk with a party business in the midst of a pandemic when social distancing curbed party culture. But we realized there was an immense business opportunity that would follow the pandemic because people are wanting to gather and celebrate and get back together with friends and loved ones.
We’re always trying to change our business and pivot and try new things. I make mistakes on a daily basis and I’ve learned some hard lessons.
NAN: What is it like to grow a business where you have to hire and manage people?
ASHLEY: I’m really grateful for the team. We have about eight people. Everyone wears so many hats and is so quick to change and come up with new ideas.
In terms of managing a team, company culture is something I learned very early on is so important. The culture is created by the people who work at the company. Our team is full of minorities and people who are amazing at what they do. Diversity is so important to us when we hire because we’re building a company culture that’s positive and represents our brand.
NAN: You’re opening a storefront location later this year. Tell us more.
ASHLEY: Our first brick-and-mortar is coming to West Hartford Center this fall. We’re so excited about it. We really wanted to create an opportunity locally for people to see our party supplies in person and for us to give our customers a holistic event planning experience. Most of our luxury party supplies are made by women-owned small businesses here in the United States. We’re big on keeping money in our local communities and supporting other women-owned small businesses.
Having a storefront is a new frontier with us. It’s a major milestone in our business. And we’re ecstatic to be in West Hartford.
NAN: Let’s talk location. Did you intentionally choose West Hartford?
ASHLEY: I spent a lot of my childhood growing up in West Hartford. It’s a fun town that has great community, camaraderie, and culture. A lot of our clients are in the West Hartford/Avon area. So, when it came to logistics and locations of delivery and where our biggest clientele was, West Hartford made sense. It’s super accessible. It’s right off the highway. It’s home for me—and for our business.
NAN: Any advice for others who are just starting out or have an idea for a business?
ASHLEY: The best advice I could give is just go for it. Just start. It’s scary, but there’s no day but today. Another thing is you need to tell people about your business. When I first started, for multiple years, there were so many people who didn’t know I had a business. I kept it a secret. But then people can’t support you. Isn’t that crazy? Lastly, funding is also something you need to build a business. IFundWomen is an organization that’s been super helpful in providing resources as well as funding for us to ramp up then and be strategic and grow.