Small Enterprise

Why parties mean serious business for accessory-maker

Antony Kuria decorating a piñata in his studio.
Antony Kuria decorating a piñata in his studio. He makes custom designed piñatas that have grown popular among party planners. PHOTO | NICHOLAS KOMU 

The party planning and event organising scene is a dynamic one with accessories taking centre stage in such fun activities.

A new accessory which is taking the industry by storm is the piñata; a decorated figure filled with gifts and candy or sweets.

Blindfolded children are invited to break them open during parties to access the sugary treasures inside.

For 27-year-old Antony Kuria, the tradition has presented a rare and appealing business opportunity which he has taken advantage of by creating custom designed piñatas to match event themes.

Although piñatas are a fun activity for parties nowadays, they have a long, rich history. There is some debate but it appears that their origin is either Spanish or Chinese.

“When planning parties, I noticed that my customers were increasingly asking for piñatas,” said Mr Kuria, who has five years’ experience in the party-planning scene.

“I would source them from different designers, most of whom make basic shapes like cubes and stars.”

The lack of ready-to-use piñatas, according to Mr Kuria, would only serve the purpose but did not complement the theme of the party and at times did not meet the unique tastes of his customers. This forced him to go the extra mile to ship the rare accessories from foreign companies mostly based in the US.

In 2011, Mr Kuria started making piñatas mainly as a hobby.

Two years later business was booming and he decided to go full time, creating the company Piñata Kenya Limited, to satisfy growing demand from corporate agencies and private clients based in different parts of Nairobi.

He initially made basic shapes out of pieces of papier-mâché, which mainly meant soaking pieces of paper in water to form a paste.

The paste would then be moulded into different shapes then left to dry awaiting decoration. He would then use crepe paper to decorate the finished shape to match the décor of the event.

But this was not as efficient since the whole process would take up to a week as the mold takes time to dry and is hard to be manipulated into complex shapes.

“At first it was not working out because even during the parties the piñata would break very early which deprives the event of all the fun,” Mr Kuria said in an interview.

He then changed tack and started lining his piñata designs with iron-binding wires which can be easily manipulated into diverse shapes.

Using the wires, he can make a shell of the figure he wants to provide structural support to the papier-mâché which he makes from old newspapers glued together using a mixture of water and wheat flour.

Mr Kuria told Business Daily that designs currently in demand are cartoon characters, action figures, signature objects like crowns, guitars, cars and even corporate logos.

Most of the materials for these unique products are readily available and the cost incurred is relatively minimal, ensuring lucrative profits. On average, making a piñata requires about Sh 2,000 in cost of materials.

Mr Kuria says that the new venture got a positive reception from his clients, opening the doorway for revolution of the young piñata industry. “With this new strategy, I can make up to five piñatas in a week, all on demand and in different sizes and designs,” he says.

A basic small sized piñata usually retails at Sh 3,500 but there are more sophisticated custom made ones which can cost as much as Sh30,000, all depending on its size and design.

Popular custom-designed piñatas of average size sell between Sh5,000 and Sh13,000.  Mr Kuria says he makes Sh 00,000 in a good month.