This Party Kit Startup’s New Hotline Could Save the Day This Holiday Season

November 14, 2019, 12:00 PM UTC
Coterie cofounders Sara Raffa and Linder Ellis

The Power Lunch. Dating. Mayo. These are just a few of the things millennials have been accused of “killing” as their spending habits deviate dramatically from those of previous generations. Now the latest charge suggests millennials have decimated dinner parties, too.

Dinner parties aren’t dead—but they’re not what they used to be, and that can be a good thing. Gone are the days of fine china and multiple courses. (Who has time and money for that anymore?) Instead, younger generations are setting up buffet-style spreads and self-serve home bars, opting for stress-free, and of course, Instagrammable gatherings when they entertain.

And yet the retail party-goods market is worth $10 billion, according to Party City’s most recent annual report, and there are new businesses popping up that are banking on not only keeping the market afloat but cashing in on these new trends.

Among them is Coterie, a startup cofounded by Linden Ellis and Sara Raffa with a direct-to-consumer model selling themed and “elevated” party kits—a complete, out-of-the-box setup from the decor to the flatware.

“The millennial dinner party isn’t dead—it’s just morphed into something
a little more casual,” says Ellis. While millennials may not be sitting down to a table that has more than one fork, they’re still getting together with friends for potlucks, buffets, book clubs, and other more low-key affairs.

The “Shine On” set

Featuring dreamy, geometrical, and more abstract (and always colorful) designs, Coterie’s wares include brushstroke napkins, watercolor-adorned plates, and confetti balloons for birthdays, showers, and kid parties, or just by season. (Obviously, fall is on the menu right now.)

“With the current options, shopping for party supplies is messy, overwhelming, and inefficient,” says Ellis. “We set out to make higher-quality products at an affordable price, and we deliver them to your door in a few easy clicks to make it easier to get together with friends.”

Coterie’s next big release comes in honor of the country’s biggest dinner-party day of the year: Thanksgiving. Focusing on a newer trend (popularized by millennials) to share Thanksgiving primarily with friends, Coterie is debuting a seasonal “Friendsgiving” set, the “Talk Turkey to Me.” To further celebrate the launch, Coterie will also be offering a Holiday Hotline. No, it’s not the ghost of Julia Child here to help you with your turkey disaster, but the hotline could save amateur hosts from themselves. The Coterie Holiday Hotline is a free service enabling anyone to ask the cofounders for entertaining ideas, get advice when things are going wrong mid-party, or get tips on how to clean up afterward.

The “Talk Turkey to Me” set

Coterie’s founders say inspiration for the hotline came from their customers via Instagram. “We found that people had a lot of questions about basic hosting and entertaining tips. Everything from how many forks do you need to how to get oil stains out of a tablecloth,” Ellis says. “We realized that as we entered holiday entertaining season, we could be a major resource for our customers.”

First backed through a pre–seed round by the Female Founders Fund, Ellis and Raffa launched Coterie earlier in 2019 as a counterpoint to the likes of big-box stores such as, coincidentally, Party City, while also aiming to become a pantry staple for millennials. “Party City has the lion’s share of the market but lacks the curated, easy shopping experience that today’s customer desires,” Ellis says. “Online shopping has brought customers an abundance of choice, which is great in a lot of ways, but can also be paralyzing. Brands like Away, Casper, and Warby Parker have all successfully taken on antiquated industries that were filled with too many options, [resulting in a] confusing online shopping experience. We’re looking to do the same in the party supplies space.”

“We spend so much time on our phones or behind our computers, connecting in person is even more important. We wanted to facilitate those connections by simplifying the party-throwing process,” says Raffa (right, with cofounder Ellis).

Based in New York City, Coterie has grown to a team of five employees, and to date, the startup has raised just under $3 million following a seed round led by Canaan Partners, with participation from Global Founders Capital and the Female Founders Fund.

Coterie’s primarily paper-based collection was designed to be easy to prep and clean up for low-stress party planning. Although the sophisticated designs and Pinterest-worthy collections might contradict it, the party kits are supposed to encourage less pressure to be perfect, freeing up a host’s time and energy from decorating to the most important parts of a party: food, drinks, and socializing.

“We believe there shouldn’t be any pressure to throw a perfect party with just the right details, because the people are what make the party,” Ellis says. “Spills and smudges are marks of a party well thrown and well enjoyed. By making it easier to get everything you need in one place—and knowing it will all look good together—we believe that millennials will find even more time to get together, no matter the occasion.”

The “Amalfi” set

The Holiday Hotline will be available from Nov. 14 through Nov. 28, between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. And in true millennial fashion, this hotline is more of a textline, so to speak: Those in need can text 1-239-CELEBR8 (1-239-235-3278). Coterie’s founders decided to launch it during this window because hosting is “at an all-time high this time of year, which means more questions, mishaps, and meltdowns.” That said, Coterie says the hotline might come back again in future.

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