The smell of warm, buttery croissants greets guests as they arrive on a cool Saturday morning for a tea party at the Phoenix home of Tanja Sazdanoff.
Each time there’s a knock at the door Sazdanoff drops her oven mitts and rushes over to hug friends old and new, and members of her family. “I’m so glad you made it,” she tells each guest.
The women trickle into the open kitchen area and adjoining living room, where they find flaky homemade pastries and jars of gourmet jam. A few friends who’ve never been in Sazdanoff’s home gush over her wedding photos.
“Where were these taken?”
“It’s so beautiful.”
“Who was your photographer, you look amazing!”
It’s an ideal day to spend with the girls, but this tea party has a catch.
All the teas and curds, cups and saucers, pots and kettles are for sale.
TUPPERWARE STARTED IT
Home sales parties have grown since the introduction of Tupperware in 1938 and the Tupperware party 10 years later. There are home parties for cooks, collectors and jewelry lovers, to name a few. Women who didn’t want a full-time job found they could be entrepreneurial. But some partygoers were put off by the feeling that they had to buy something so their hostess would be rewarded.
But the home parties and the sales consultants have evolved. The goal is to make the parties more of a “girl’s night out, sales will follow.”
Sazdanoff’s Let’s Do Tea party was organized by home sales consultant Debbie Patterson of Scottsdale, who makes her living selling tea. Patterson likes to focus more on the tea and the founding principles of the Denton, Texas-based Let’s Do Tea company — health and hospitality.
“Hospitality is simply having people into your home and having them feel welcome,” she says. “You learn a lot about people when you invite them into your home. And they learn more about you, about your individuality and personality. That’s what these parties are all about. Tea relaxes you. It welcomes conversation.”
She’s been selling for the company for two years and decided to become a consultant after tasting the teas at a party.
“I love this tea,” she says. “I always say this job supports my tea habit.”
Sazdanoff, who has hosted other tea parties, says she loves the teas and the opportunity it gives her to blend her different groups of friends. She invited her mother-in-law, some friends from church, some friends from work and neighbors to this party.
“When you work in the corporate world, it’s tough to break through people’s shells and get to know them,” says Sazdanoff. “This gets them out of that environment. We gab, we eat. It’s so much more than buying tea.”
But for about the cost of lunch, partygoers say they can afford to stock up on the loose teas that Patterson sells.
“I’ve never been a huge fan of home parties,” says Wendy Dewane of Paradise Valley. “But this is an easy way to get friends together. Shoot, you can buy a tin for $8. That’s a pretty inexpensive way to spend the day.”
New to her neighborhood, Dana Nold of Phoenix says she was looking to make some new girlfriends when she was invited to the tea party. She says she felt a little like a party crasher at first.
“Have you met Dana?” Patterson asks, as she introduces the newcomer around the room. “She was at Sunday school last week.” The women immediately welcome her into their circle.
“I think the home party business has really expanded because of the social environment,” says Nold. “Different types of parties are around, and I think it’s because it is more laid-back now.”
You can’t get any more laid-back than a pedicure and a mini-facial, says Susan Loecker, who sells spa products for BeautiControl, another home party business.
She lived in her Queen Creek subdivision for four years and hadn’t met more than a handful of neighbors before she started working parties. Now she knows dozens of people.
“I’m not a shy person,” she says, “but without a reason to talk to people, I didn’t.”
Living in a somewhat rural area, she says it’s inconvenient for women to get together for shopping or dining. Home parties allow them to still enjoy female bonding.
At Loecker’s parties, she demonstrates the products by having the ladies use them, giving them lip peels and wrapping their necks in warming wraps.
“It’s very girly. Everyone seems to have a good time,” she says. “And I don’t have to be pushy because it’s not hard to sell things people already want and use.”
Denise Chakos of Peoria hosted the first of Loecker’s spa parties and says everyone had so much fun that they stayed for five hours of pampering.
“Most of us are busy with work and with family obligations,” says Chakos. “The Valley has grown, and we’re spread out all over it. If we can get together, soak our feet, eat snacks, maybe drink some wine and then, if we want to, buy something, it’s such a nice treat.”