Ooltewah's Undercover Hostess ready to make a party sparkle

Ooltewah's Undercover Hostess ready to make a party sparkle

February 10th, 2015 by Katie Ward in Business Around the Region

Undercover Hostess owner Erin Walker's daughter Emmie tries some candy and cupcakes at a Christmas party.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Ooltewah's Undercover Hostess owner Erin Walker puts together Pinterest-style parties on a weekly basis.

"I always enjoyed planning parties," said Walker. "If you want to throw that cute little Pinterest party where it looks like you put effort in, then we can save you time and money."

Walker noticed a business similar to hers on the TV Show "Shark Tank," but that business charges $500 per package and she charges $200 per package, she said.

"We don't have direct competition around here," said Walker. "It's uncharted territory."

Erin Walker

Erin Walker

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Walker works with her sister Ashley Ostrowicki, of Dallas, Texas. Ashley handles designing the menu cards and banners, while Walker handles themes and products.

Building her house one year ago with her business in mind, she operates out of a home office. She plans to expand in the future to a business building.

Erin and Ashley's goal in 2015 is to get the Undercover Hostess name out there. While Ashley works on the website, social media, marketing and graphic design, Erin works on creating printables, shipping and receiving. The hostess receives a pre-paid label, all 12 items and must send the rentals back.

"Undercover Hostess is something simple to do at your house," said Walker. "We do all the work and you take all the credit. It's for a small party at your home."

Undercover Hostess sells individual products. For example, people can buy a polka dot plate or wooden utensils. Hostess kits for baby showers, bridal showers, boy birthdays and girl birthdays include napkins, straws and paper cups. The themes are coordinated through looks and feels, she said.

Walker explains that the business is based on turnaround time. Items are sent out three days before the party, the hostess must send the rental items back the next business day after the party. It is shipped back with a pre-packaged label. Walker washes the linens when she opens the returned box.

Undercover Hostess ships all over the United States except for Alaska and Hawaii, she said. So far, the company has sent party packages as far away as Minnesota, New York and to California.

Walker's first memory of a fun party was a pony party that her parents hosted for her sister, Ashley, who at the time was 5. Looking back at photos of that party inspired Walker to throw her daughter Emmie a "successful" Shabby Chic Pony Party for her 3rd birthday last July. Walker's husband Michael re-purposed a tree in the yard into a wooden rustic table for the outdoor party. Noah's Little Ark took part with Dixie Doodle and Cheyenne. The children rode the ponies and threw plastic rings around bottles for the ring toss game. Walker says it was her best party yet through Undercover Hostess.

"Emmie decorates with some of my decorations," said Walker. "She had a great time with her friends and the ponies. She loves seeing me style things. I've thrown parties for a lot of her friends."

Walker's daughter Emmie, 3, takes after her mother because she likes to throw parties for her friends and for her stuffed animals.

"I am nine months pregnant and due in two weeks," said Walker, adding that she already picked out a name — Easton — for her son soon-to-be-born. "My sister-in-law will take the business reigns for a little while after Easton is born."

Walker's Event Planning Background

While in college, Walker majored in event planning and interned with a wedding planner.

With a background in event planning, Walker previously worked at Unum in the business's Corporate Events Department. While there she handled brokers meetings, corporate meetings and corporate events. She assisted in planning trips to Disney World to reward employees. About 400 employees won a trip there each year. After working at UNUM from 2007 to 2011, she opted to come home to stay with her daughter Emmie, who is now 3.

"The business started because I started planning parties for friends and it grew naturally that way," said Walker, a native of Florida who moved to Chattanooga in 2007. "I thought, 'This could be an idea.' I would throw a big party for my daughter. So, I thought I could rent out party supplies, since you don't use them again. Everything is on Pinterest and Etsy. The concept that makes me unique is we rent high end linen and things crafted or bought and I coordinate with a theme."

Email Katie Ward at kward@timesfreepress.com.