This startup makes your parties Insta-worthy
Flower crowns. Metallic-colored balloon banners. Glitter candles. Paper straws, plates and napkins with gold brush strokes.
These items are what Pinterest dreams are made of.
Coterie, a new ecommerce startup, sells party kits and items that turn any event into an ultimate Instagram-worthy spectacle.
Kits start at $49 but can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars depending on the number of people attending and extra decorations.
The New York-based company, which launched last week, said it has raised $2.75 million in funding from investors.
Its business hinges on something very 2019: Life events big and small are being relentlessly chronicled on social media. That makes the nailing the visual details, whether you’re hosting a bachelorette party or a small dinner, ever more important.
Cofounders Linden Ellis and Sara Raffa see Coterie as an easy, affordable alternative to strolling the aisles of Party City or piecing together various items from Etsy and other online shops. Coterie worked to develop the designs it sells and plans to roll out new kits frequently.
Although services that leverage Instagram and help consumers portray a picture-perfect life are on the rise, so too is backlash around social media addiction and the pressure to keep up appearances. But Coterie’s co-founders say the company is about making the process of throwing a party easier.
“Our brand ethos is that there shouldn’t be any pressure to get the details exactly right,” Ellis said. “By removing the stress of decorating and shopping, it’s our hope that people will be able to focus more on celebrating with their friends and loved ones — as opposed to stressing over their napkin choices. We see spills, smudges, and imperfections as a mark of a party well thrown and well enjoyed.”
Raffa and Ellis were previously early employees at Daily Harvest, an organic-food subscription startup. But when Raffa organized her sister’s baby shower and became very stressed about the process, she realized there had to be a better way. She had spent a lot of time buying products from Etsy and Amazon that took a lot of coordination to ensure things would arrive in time.
“I was worried my sister wouldn’t like what I put together,” she said. “I crossed my fingers and hoped everything would look good together.”
Last spring, Ellis and Raffa had a series of conversations with Anu Duggal and Sutian Dong, the partners at New York-based Female Founders Fund (F3) about startup ideas. The two said they brainstormed everything from a fragrance brand to a Warby Parker for rugs.
Along with Duggal and Dong, they zeroed in on the Coterie concept and it became the first company F3 has incubated. Beyond the typical funding and support, the incubation process involved becoming the first investors, and working alongside the business for about six months. Coterie also had access to the F3 community of founders.
F3 typically invests in women-led companies, including razor subscription service Billie, job-recruiting startup WayUp, and on-demand alcohol delivery firm MiniBar. Last spring, the firm raised a new $27 million fund to invest in early-stage women-led companies.
“It’s a party-planning company, but it’s also about how to encourage more people to not have to make excuses around why they they can’t spend time with the people they care about,” said F3’s Sutian Dong.
According to Laura Chau, a principal at VC firm Canaan Partners, which led the investment round into the startup, the business will likely resonate with people because it meets a practical need, as well as an aesthetic one.
“Coterie is serving a function within an experience, but it’s also something people want to show off,” she said. “It’s kind of like a secret weapon.”