After working in the entertainment business for 10 years in Los Angeles, Rachel Huntington, mother of two, packed up her things to move with her family to Montreal. It was this French-speaking Canadian town that gave her the inspiration to create her own party boutique, Bonjour Fête.
“I created Bonjour Fête to alleviate the challenges of everyday entertaining by delivering well-edited and stylish party supplies directly to you,” says Huntington. “I believe that entertaining is an extension of personal style.”
Bonjour Fête officially launched in 2014 and, after six years of living up north, Huntington has brought her French-inspired boutique back to Los Angeles, maintaining a strong online presence as well as opening a brick and mortar shop in Studio City, Calif. Huntington offers premium party goods, party favors, sweet treats, on-site balloon installations and themed party kits, as well as catering and custom party planning services.
Huntington sits down with Mom.me to discuss how she balanced transitioning her business and family from Montreal to Los Angeles.
Describe the moment when you were inspired to create Bonjour Fête.
When my son was 1, we moved from Los Angeles to Montreal for my husband’s work. I loved entertaining and throwing birthday parties for the kids and I was constantly disappointed in the selection of party supplies available. I found myself ordering from a million different Etsy shops and stores to come up with one look I was happy with. When my daughter Audrey was born, I decided to make it a business and researched all the best suppliers and artisans, so that there would be a one-stop shop for busy party enthusiasts like me.
As a mother as well as the owner of Bonjour Fête, how do you make it all work?
Every day is a challenge in time management. Next year, my youngest starts kindergarten (sob) and I will have a bit more time between 9 and 3 every day. Honestly, it takes a village and a very supportive partner to get it all done—and I’m lucky to have both of those things.
When did you first feel successful?
Being featured in the Wall Street Journal was a huge highlight. It is such a thrill to see work you have done acknowledged and praised in print—plus, that one made my parents so proud.
As a successful female entrepreneur, what are some ways that you want to teach your kids about “girl power”?
I love when my daughter sees me busy at work and enjoy having her in the store with me. I think that girls who grow up feeling secure in themselves turn into powerful women. Teaching both of my kids to make positive choices in their lives and to help others is also key. I believe in encouraging them to solve problems on their own rather than just fixing things for them.
Has there been anything about creating Bonjour Fête that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn’t expect?
My favorite part of each day is chatting with my customers. I guess I didn’t expect to make so many new friends – but it was a very pleasant surprise! I love hearing my customers’ ideas and plans about their events. Usually people come in because they are celebrating something, which means they are usually in great moods! It’s been such a great and healthy environment to work in.
What’s your advice for moms who are looking to start their own business?
Making sure that your business is based on a passion that truly cannot escape you is key. I dream about decorations and installations and party ware. It absolutely consumes my thoughts. I often hear from people after they throw a party that they want to get into the event-planning business—but making sure that is what you still want to do six months after that party is the true test.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and a business owner to keep everything in balance?
That is a no-brainer: sleep! My most productive hours are when the kids are sleeping, so I sacrifice some of those hours so I can keep my business running and be able to spend time with my family during the day.
What are some of your favorite parties you have styled?
It would definitely be my own kids’ parties because I have full creative control! My daughter’s second birthday celebration was a tea party and was an absolute favorite of mine. There were loads of florals and shiny, pretty paper things—and, of course, candy! There’s always candy.
What is the party-styling process like? Do you have any favorite parts of this process or any elements that you find particularly challenging?
By far, the most important thing to remember when working with a client is to listen. Each client has a unique vision for their event and sometimes they have a single image that they have pinned or have taken a screenshot of that they want to see come to life. Making that vision come to life for them is key. The most challenging aspect is actually nature. Sometimes people see professional shoots and the reality is that a lot of times these parties were photographed in a studio. They might look like they would work outside, but there are many more elements that come into play outdoors. Wind is often a battle with balloons and bright sun can melt sweets. It’s these kinds of things that can make some parties a bit tricky, but we always seem to figure it out.
If you could have lunch with any business person/entrepreneur/nonprofit founder living or dead, who would it be and why?
As cliché as it sounds, it would definitely be Martha Stewart in her garden at Turkey Hill. She is the queen and I have been inspired by her work since I was a little girl. She brought crafting and organic farming to the forefront long before it was on trend. Her comeback story and the way she has learned from her mistakes is epic.
Are there any new initiatives or products on the horizon for Bonjour Fête?
We currently make our own hand-dipped beeswax birthday candles and some napkins but a full tableware line is in the works and we could not be more excited!