Wilmington entrepreneurs Lisa Frankel and her husband Steve founded the online matchmaking site, OurSilverPlatter (OSP) in 2008 to bring together party throwers and catering industry staff. TSD enjoys a good party – and good service – as much as the next website, so we were delighted to talk to Frankel about her unique “eBay” business for the party set.
Town Square Delaware: So what was the inspiration for this business and when did you launch it?
Lisa Frankel: My husband Steve and I have always loved to entertain. We used to throw a big party right after Thanksgiving during the first years of our marriage. We called it the Brunswick Stew Party because Steve would cook his famous Brunswick Stew. He is southern at heart and introduced Brunswick Stew to many Yankees (including this one) at this event. The event got bigger and bigger each year. Once it got to over 100 guests, we needed a little help. We launched OSP in 2008 because we needed a reliable way to find servers and bartenders for our parties without going all-out and hiring a catering company.
TSD: What kind of feedback have you received from party-throwers and servers alike?
LF: The feedback has been excellent. Servers like it because they can post a free profile to tell everyone about their skills and availability. They also like the feedback system so that they can get repeat business. Hosts really like it because they can tell upfront how much it is going to cost them. Each server posts his or her hourly rate on the site, so hosts can take that into consideration before offering a job to anyone.
TSD: In this economic climate, do you find that people are throwing fewer parties that require servers?
LF: We launched in the fall of 2008, right about the time that the economy was taking a dive. Yes, I think many people were reluctant to host events because of the cost involved. Once they learned how inexpensive it can really be to hire a professional helper on their own, many hosts embraced the concept. I think that more people have begun to entertain at home, rather than going out to a restaurant. Lots of folks watch The Food Network and are eager to try recipes and entertaining ideas shown there. Hosting at home can be more fun and can be much less expensive than going out!
TSD: Do people in the service industry – bartenders, waiters – in general find it difficult to find private business?
LF: I’ve found that the service professionals I’ve met are busy people. Many have full-time jobs elsewhere and do this on the side for extra money. They have a lot of passion for the work, but not necessarily for advertising. OSP gives them the format to advertise for work in their local area. They can accept only the jobs they want and can set their own hourly rate. Right now, it’s free so it is a great opportunity for them to build a successful business.
TSD: What are some of the things you’ve learned since launching your business?
LF: Oh my goodness, I don’t even know where to start on this one! I’ve learned that I know very little about computer programming and that I need to find good help to do that part of it. I’m so grateful to my teenage son for teaching me how to make the how-to video that we posted on our blog and in our FAQ section. It explains how to post a party and hire your own helpers. That has saved me a lot of late night question-answering via email! I’ve learned how difficult it is to launch a new product and to earn the trust of strangers. I’ve learned that there are people across the country who have lost their full time jobs in this economic climate, but are willing to get out there and work nights and weekends at this in order to pay their bills. These are creative, energetic and positive people and it has been a privilege to meet them.
TSD: So what’s next for Lisa Frankel and OurSilverPlatter? Will you be expanding into other areas?
LF: Although OSP is a national business, we are focusing our attention now on our local area. This summer, we did a lot of advertising at the Jersey Shore. We hope to expand in all parts of the country where people like to throw parties, have fun and save money at the same time!
We think of OSP being kind of like eBay. On eBay, cottage industries developed with people selling mostly tangible items. They could post a picture of the item and write a little blurb about it in order to get someone to purchase it. With OSP, folks are advertising their talent and their labor. They can post a picture if they want and can write a little blurb about their education, credentials, past job experience and hourly rate in order to be hired. Both sites have feedback features so that potential buyers/employers can have more information before making a purchase or offering or accepting employment.