Are you ready to party? We are! Tasneem Hatimbhai sits down with Elvira Helena Brock Mendoza, owner of Mariposa Vlinder, to learn more about how her young company makes a child's special day as magical and light as a butterfly!
When you meet Elvira, it’s clear straight away that her little clients must be thrilled to have her organize their special day! She’s candid, down-to-earth and her eyes light up when she talks about dancing, costumes, fun and games.
Her company, Mariposa Vlinder organises all kinds of children’s parties in Amsterdam. No game or theme is too unusual – princess, pirate, Disney character, Hollywood celebrity, or rock star. Elvira, originally from Colombia, has made Amsterdam her home and has literally made it her business to ensure that the kids in this city have loads of fun at one of her parties!
How did you come to be in The Netherlands?
I am originally from Colombia but my husband is Dutch. I met him during a conference, we fell in love, and soon we were married. After spending a short time in South Africa, we moved to The Netherlands in 2011 with our 6-month-old son.
What is your background and what work do you do in addition to Mariposa Vlinder?
I studied Political Science and International Relations and work as a Program Coordinator for Excerpta Medica [an international Marketing Agency]. Yet when I lived in Colombia, I coordinated group activities and games and so when I started Mariposa Vlinder, I was building on my experience with, and passion for, managing parties.
It’s been several years since you moved to The Netherlands; do you now feel at home here?
I am still busy trying to adapt and learn, and every day I experience something new. I am mostly used to it now. Holland is nice - it is organised, calm, and most importantly my son is happy here. I am still adapting but I like it.
Where is home?
I don’t know anymore! When I go back to Colombia, I notice that some people have moved away and that other people have changed. Holland feels more and more like home. Of course, I miss some things Colombian, especially my family and the food. Luckily, we go back every 2 years and that helps maintain the balance of living abroad. I understand a little Dutch and I try to speak it as well. I’ve recently become a Dutch citizen!
How and when did Mariposa Vlinder come into being?
I created Mariposa Vlinder in 2012, while looking for other jobs. During that period, with the support of my husband, I decided to launch a business connected to something that I love to do. Back in 2012, there was a request from an Amsterdam Mama for help with a party. So I jumped in! I spoke to Emmy [McCarthy, Managing Director and Founder of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas] and created an idea around it. I then registered my company with the KVK, created a webpage and went right ahead with organising my first party! And I haven’t stopped since.
Who are your clients?
I have a few regular clients. My greatest form of marketing is word of mouth. Most of my clients are international families...I think the idea of a party organiser may still be a little alien to Dutch people.
What is the regular age group of children for whom you organise parties? And where and when do they take place?
I mostly do parties for children from one to seven years of age, but I adapt easily and am happy to organise parties for older kids who might want more challenging activities. I once did a party for a nine-year-old – it was a disco party and we danced for two hours!
Generally, parties are on the weekends and most are held at my clients’ homes, although some are in rented spaces, like a community centre. I refuse to join parties which are organised at places like Tun Fun – in such a place I am simply not needed! The parties are normally two hours long because the kids get tired after that. I go over a half hour before the party to set-up and take all the material with me. I charge €35 an hour.
"I can adapt, change, and improvise on the spot. Anyone can find games on Pinterest but that does not mean they have the expertise to make them fun for the kids!"
What is your USP [unique selling proposition]?
My USP is my experience at working with children. I am great with kids! During the party, I know when children are tired or bored, and I immediately change the activity; I can adapt, change, and improvise on the spot. Anyone can find games on Pinterest but that does not mean they have the expertise to make them fun for the kids! My greatest strength is that I deliver what the client wants: I have a stock of pre-prepared activities, costumes, and games, which I adapt to the chosen theme. I do Frozen and Star Wars parties with equal gusto – I myself have become a Jedi! I have several costumes and I love to dress up. The kids also love it.
What has your favourite party been so far?
It was a party in January 2017 for a six-year-old girl. We played all the time! The 20 kids didn’t run out of steam and neither did I! We played everything from Simon Says to Catch the Ball!
What does your weekday look like?
I wake up at 7am and spend time with my son; we cuddle and have breakfast. By 10am, I am at the office. I walk everywhere – biking isn’t one of the Dutch traditions I have fully adopted. Back home I spend the evening with my family – we watch TV, play games, paint…it’s great fun.
What does your weekend look like?
The weekend is when I work on Mariposa Vlinder. On Saturday, we wake up at 8am and have a good long family breakfast, I then organise my material and head out to a party around noon. Sunday is a rest day and pure family time.
What do you do for yourself, to balance being an international family, a mom, an employee and an entrepreneur?
In terms of recreation, I am a keen member of the Amsterdam Mamas Film and Book Club. I have some very good friends here now – some from the Netherlands and some from abroad. I love to dance! I do a work out class called Sh’Bam. In fact, I love Bollywood dancing and movies and sometimes find a moment to enjoy those.
What is your dream for Mariposa Vlinder?
I have a dream to make Mariposa Vlinder grow. I would like my own space in which I can organize parties. I’d also like to offer courses, both to children and adults, in story telling or doing games of their own! I would love a fun and safe space where people can drop off their kids when they go to run chores. I really enjoy my party business – it’s very fulfilling!
Disclaimer: Mariposa Vlinder has paid to be featured on Amsterdam Mamas because they believe that their services would be of interest and benefit to our readers, and we think so too. For more information on sponsored posts and advertising on Amsterdam Mamas, please see our Advertising and Disclosure policy.
Tasneem Mohamedbhai is originally from India and now lives in Amsterdam with her Dutch husband and their two children. She has been a writer and editor for the last 15 years. In 2012, she started her own company, Mumbai Mills, that sources and creates lifestyle products. She also publishes an annual agenda, 'The Mumbai Diary'.
Photo credit: Elvira Helena Brock Mendoza