Absolutely Mama talks party planning with Meredithe Stuart-Smith, founder of Meri Meri
Interview Carly Glendinning
Can you tell us about your inspiration and the story behind Meri Meri? What motivated you to start your own party supply company?
I started Meri Meri because I wanted to pick my kids up from school – a business that fitted around my life. I soon had a team of about 70 San Francisco-based mothers crafting cards from home, collecting supplies from my basement and working around family commitments.
Around my son’s 7th birthday, I was decorating his cakes with cut-out pirates on sticks and the idea for the Cupcake Kit was born. A foolproof way to ensure treats looked cute and memorable, with a choice of themed toppers. We’ve now sold over 50,000 Cupcake Kits to date!
Meri Meri has become a much-loved brand. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting the company, and how did you overcome them?
It was hard to be a woman in business in the 80s and 90s. But I had an advantage, in that no-one thought I was going to be successful. I was selling handmade greetings cards and I didn’t look like competition. That helped me.
Boutiques in Los Angeles turned down my home-made cards, which no-one else was making at the time but then a huge order of Christmas cards from Bergdorf Goodman at a trade show in 1987 changed everything.
What are the most popular party themes and trends at the moment?
Greta Gerwig’s brilliant Barbie movie has had a huge influence so all things pink are currently popular. The classic mermaid and dinosaur themes continue to be big as does our compostable or reusable collection as people want to host more sustainable parties.
When it comes to the party table, charcuterie boards are a huge trend. Boards are being used for desserts too… little cakes, cookies, mini tarts. A wonderful way to display food and you can go to town with the table decorations.
As a trendsetter in the partyware space, how do you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to trends?
I trust my instinct. I love fashion, spotting trends and bringing ideas back to the team. We all work collaboratively. Our talented in-house designers are also constantly looking for inspiration and staying abreast of trends. Other brands copy us, so we have no choice but to innovate.
Where does your inspiration come from, and how are your products made?
Inspiration comes from many sources: fashion, magazines, exhibitions, people on the street and more. To stay current and fresh we travel to London, Paris and New York. Every idea is developed in our design studio in Cheltenham, UK. It’s a super creative space where the products are handmade in the studio first before they go into production.
The pandemic had a huge effect on the events industry. Have you noticed a lasting impact or are parties now bigger than ever?
Big parties with all the trimmings have made a huge comeback! Celebrations provide that much needed connection with others which we appreciate more since the pandemic. Parties are more important than ever.
And finally, do you have any top tips for throwing the perfect children’s party?
Start with a theme. Think of your child and go for something they love whether it’s pirates or mermaids or space. Once you’ve got the theme, everything else from cake to decorations falls into place.
With thanks to Meredithe Stuart-Smith, founder of Meri Meri.