Sophie Maletsky is a renowned children’s event planner and entertainer who’s always had a knack for working with kids. Trained as an actress, Sophie pursued an acting career through college, worked Off‑ Broadway in New York, and had roles in television and film. One day while Sophie was working as a nanny, she helped plan a birthday party and that’s when things changed. The kids told Sophie what they wanted and together they made it come true. She turned garages into castles, back yards into train stations, and living rooms into ocean beds. Shortly thereafter the Sophie’s Stress Free Soiree business was born. Today, Sophie’s company designs and executes over 150 events a year for children and adults for Fortune 500 companies and Forbes 400 individuals. Sophie has over 70,000 subscribers on YouTube, and hundreds of crafts and product reviews on her website, sophie-world.com and has been featured on CNBC, NBC, ABC and CBS Radio, to name a few.
Tell us about that initial birthday party you helped plan when you were a nanny, and how that turned into a career and personal brand…
So first and foremost before I tell you anything about myself you should know that I never never never never never planned to be an entrepreneur I never never planned to be any of the stuff that I am today. What basically happened is everything that is what I do like a door opened and I was like “eh well I might as walk through”, you know. So it was one of these things where opportunities have like presented themselves and I just kind of gone with it but I never ever intended to do what I do now. But I love what I do now and so I’m like really completely blessed that I got to do what I get to do.
So anyway what happened is my husband and I lived in New York he got offered a job in San Francisco so we moved out and I literally had nothing to do so I was like well I need to do something or I’m going to go crazy. So I became a nanny on the nanny’s day off basically for this family and we were having a great time and I was basically that babysitter that would raid the recycling bin and we’d put on plays and we’d make like, you know, Pringles cans into like bow and arrow sheaves and all this kind of great stuff. So basically what happened is all these mom talk and you would get this look “get this girl for the nanny on the nanny’s day off because she’s like having a private tutor you’ve got to have her” so anyway I started working seven days a week and, you know, I was working Monday through Sunday with a different kid. And as it happens, you know, kids have birthdays so my first mom that I ever worked and I love her to this day she said “Sophie here’s five hundred dollars. Plan Emma’s party” and I was like “oh god”.
Now this was twenty-five years ago you guys so five hundred dollars was like I’m like holy I could put on a play I could do so many things with this money. So I sat down with Emma and I was like “Emma what do you want to do” and she’s like “I want to be a princess and I want to put all the boys in a dungeon and I want to slay a dragon and I want to have crowns with flowers” and I was like okay this is great so I said to the mom “so do you mind if we use the garage for the party and she was like “you want to use the garage for the party” I’m like “is it okay and we’ll cover it with papers” and she was like “Sophie you know what do whatever you want to do”. So Emma and I covered the entire garage with paper and spent the next four weeks painting it to make it look like a pink castle. And then we took, you know, the inner tubes of like wrapping paper and we put them together and made this – under the stairs we made an actual dungeon and put in it, which was the best thing ever. And the girls loved it because the boys were like finding ways to escape and then they do all this, you know, it was great. It was awesome. The best thing about it was that we had the dragon pinata, now this was the first pinata I ever made in my entire life and he thing I was worried about was that it would break too soon, right. So what do I do I make it with twelve layers of newspaper. The kids went to hit the pinata and it was literally like “dong” it was like on of these things where like you could hear it reverberating, nobody could open it. The dads tries, the moms tried, you know, the brother tried nobody – we had to literally get a saw to open it up.
So that was my first experience but that being said what happened is everybody had a great – we had the best time and it was an amazing party, nobody wanted to go home the boys wanted to stay in the dungeon, it was great and then what happened is all these moms basically went “could you do this for my child” so that’s how I started my business. And I literally fell into it and I would go and I’d meet with the kid and find out what they wanted to do and then I’d get really creative. And you got to understand this was twenty-five years ago before there was Pinterest, before, you know, the internet was really in its infancy. I didn’t even own a computer at that time so everything I did I would hand draw, take it to Kinkos get it reproduced, then color it by hand so that all of the tags and all of the, you know, the thank you thinks and all that sort of stuff they all were made by hand so hour and hours and hours but I loved it. And so then I was like well, you know, maybe if I printed up a little business card I could get a little business so I went from one party a month to two parties a month to one party a weekend to two parties a weekend to the point where I was at a point doing eight events a week. So we got to a point where it was like three hundred sixty-five parties a year which is a lot. And now of course, you know, we have a million dollar company where we have, you know, big corporate events, we work for Google, we work for Slack, we work for a whole bunch of different people and that’s basically how the business started and escalated and just, you know, you work hard and you enjoy what you do and people find you and that’s what happened. And then that led to everything else.
When did you get into influencer marketing, and what were some of the first steps you took?
So it started – okay so again I never thought I’d be an influebncer I never planned on being an influencer. What happened is we were doing, you know, ton and tons and tons of parties and the duct tape revolution started. I mean now this started about like ten years ago I guess it was when duct tape went from just being gray, white, and red into all these patterns and stuff. And so I was using it at my events and parties and we were making all this amazing stuff out of duct tape and people approached me and they said, you know, “you really should make videos and put them on YouTube so you can share this with more people than just, you know, the hundred people that you’re teaching how to do it and at a time” and I was like “okay well let’s give it a try”. So we put together a YouTube channel and that was – what was crazy was we put this YouTube channel together and, you know, we have like I think eighteen or nineteen million views now and again we never though it would be anything except oh well you come to my class and you ant to learn more we’ll give you the website and you can go, you know, watch more videos, right but it took off and it got crazy.
And then we were approached by Zest Publications and they asked us to write a book so we wrote a book about it and then in the course of doing that we hooked up with this company called Tape Brothers, and they’re now Tape Planet but, Tape Brothers what we ended up doing is we ended up using their products and then when we went on our book tour they sponsored the book tour by giving us all the tape which was no mean feat because that’s a lot You know, duct tape was very expensive and so they gave us all this duct tape so we literally went all across Pennsylvania, New York, all over the East Coast, Connecticut doing these workshops and they were our first connection to sort of influencer marketing.
And then from there is came from the YouTube channel because we do so many other things now beyond duct tape. You know the duct tape phase kind of petered out but we continued doing different stuff and one of the things that happened is, you know, we got this little webisode that we call Try It Don’t Buy It where I was purchasing stuff that I was using for my parties and stuff and seeing if it was any good. And then I’d be like “hey guy, you know, I’m using this and I like it or eh I wouldn’t spend twenty-five ninety-nine when you can just get it basically make it at home. So that I think spawned , you know, getting into the whole sort of influencer thing where people were saying “hey do you want to try our product and then do a video about it” and so I’ve been having fun with it. It’s fun to see what people think I should do but it’s fun. It’s fun stuff.
Your YouTube videos are informative and polished. How many people does it take to produce your video and social content?
*Laughs* okay so it’s me and my husband, Scott who is actually a video producer so he does stuff for like Old Navy he does all the in-house videos for Stitch Fix and stuff like that so he works in the video industry. So he’s my cinematographer and my editor and he’s our content manager and he also puts everything up on YouTube and he makes sure that, you know, everything the translation underneath so that it can be translated into all the different, you know, languages and stuff like that. So he handles all of that, I handle all the content, and then we also have our website and on our website we do step by step tutorials and those are all photographed by my sister who works with me, it’s a very incestuous little company that we have here, so she does all of that. So really it’s the three of us that put everything together but it’s Scott and myself who really do all of the YouTube stuff. And then I handle all the social media back and forth, you know, we put it on Facebook and Scott helps to do that as well. So we try to multi-platform, you know, so we’re on Twitter but don’t do that as much as – I don’t tweet as much as I should but we are definitely on Facebook and definitely on YouTube.
As a children’s personality and influencer who is constantly coming up with new crafts, games and party planning, how do you structure your average work day so you stay organized and get everything accomplished?
So my day starts out at four am four thirty-five if I sleep in and that’s when I kind of center myself so I do a little meditation, I do a little morning exercise, and then I get on to my computer and I check my social media and then I deal with my work emails and sometime my work emails are, you know, can take three hours in the morning. But that quiet time before I get to the office is when I get everything done because by the time I get to the office there are ten people who need me to come meet with them, go on a site inspection, create new content, you know, we just have so many different things going on but a typical day it starts at four I mean I’m in the office usually by nine o’clock. I often will from like eight to nine purchasing stuff and running errands and doing that kind of stuff and then my day is spent between dealing with my business side which is, you know dealing with my clients and stuff like that and the creative side.
So there will be days where I will spend two days in a row just making content because the way that we film our videos is because how busy our schedule is because we’re doing over two hundred fifty events a year. Because of that taking so much time what we do when we film our YouTube stuff is it’s all done in one chunk of time. So we’ll do ten videos in three hours or we’ll do twenty videos in, you know, a full day. We have two sets the set that we use when you see our videos where we’re in like this really beautiful kitchen that’s actually a client’s of mine it’s actually her pool house and she’s really sweet and lets us have that and so that we will go in and we’ll have a full production team. We have a sound guy, we have a DP, we have, you know, a lighting guy, we have grips we have the whole nine yards so we do a big big big one day thing. And then on our other shoots, which we call our rogue shoots, those are done in our warehouse and those we will shoot like ten in three hours. So that’s how we split up the creative side of it for the YouTube channel.
And again the way that we do that we have to really be set and ready to go because everything is in bins and it’s like okay here’s craft number one shoot it, tear it down craft number two set it up, shoot it, down, craft number three and so we bang through them. So there’s no time, you know, we make mistakes and we like, you know, cover them up or just say “hey, you know, I made a mistake. Hey I did this upside down. I did it backwards let’s take it apart” it’s part of what the charm of our videos are is that it’s kind of like having me in your living room making mistakes.
Note: Influencer Spotlight interviews are edited for time and clarity.