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Wedding Venue Business [Events
Posted on August 18, 2022 @ 01:46:00 PM by Paul Meagher

We hosted the first wedding at our farm this year. We hoped it would be a good learning experience and that it would help us figure out what package of services to offer and how to price them. The bride's mother had alot of experience decorating for events and was a very take-charge personality. She provided some useful insight into what our future customers might want/expect.

A wedding is a complex event that often involves ceremonial aspects, food aspects and music aspects. Alot of planning goes into it. It has been my experience that customers would like to know what their ballpark costs might be without extensive discussion of all their requirements (which they may not know in the early stages of planning). This used to be a stumbling point for my sales efforts, but now I have a better sales script which involves providing a base price for the core elements of my wedding venue offering which might be all that they ultimately require: rental of the main barn over 3 a day period (setup day, event day, cleanup day), rental of our collected chairs and tables, and rental of a couple of portable toilets we own. Theoretically, the wedding venue client could host their wedding at our farm if they only rented these three things from us.

I have three add-ons that customers can also consider purchasing:

  1. Rental of a single bedroom trailer accommodation that we also list on AirBnB. It can be useful to have an area for bridesmaids to socialize and get ready for the event, where all family members might have access to a flush toilet, and as overnight accommodations for friends and family of the wedding party.
  2. Rental of a secondary attached barn where they can store and prep food items for an event. In the attached barn, we have a couple of fridges, an electric stove, food prep areas, running hot/cold water, and we can keep it clean and hygenic. We also have outdoor equipment for deep frying, grilling, barbequing, making pizzas, and boiling pots of water or grease that they can rent. If the guest wants to save money and make the food themselves using our kitchen and equipment it would potentially be cheaper than a catering alternative and that is a selling point for this add-on. Alot of wedding venue clients, however, are happy to outsource food to a caterer so this is not part of our core offering at this time.
  3. We have sound and light equipment for the concerts that we put on in the barn and we can also rent this equipment to wedding venue customers if they want to manage the music themselves versus hire a dj and have them setup their equipment in our barn. Again, we expect some wedding clients to want to outsource that aspect of things to a dj or musician so it is not part of our core offering at this time. It is, however, an option for those looking for a cheaper alternative to hiring a dj by doing it themselves with out equipment.

One insight I obtained from the mother who setup the barn for our first wedding was that she didn't think the portable toilets should be an "addon" cost, that it should be part of the "package". I resisted this idea initially citing the fact that I was only charging a $200 addon fee for my two portable toilets where they would have to pay $500+ if they were renting from a portable toilet company (extra cost mostly for delivery/pickup fees) so I was saving them quite a bit of money. I eventually swung around to her way of thinking and decided to roll the portable toilets into our base package cost and not itemize it as a separate addon cost. The base cost was increased by $200, I just don't point out that $200 of the base cost is for portable toilets.

When I'm selling our wedding services/package, the competitor I have in mind are those selling wedding tents and all the addons required to host a wedding or some part of it. Our offering is very competitive to that type of offering and informing the client that they might be paying x for a tent alone makes our costs look reasonable. The wind isn't going to blow our barn down, but it might wreak havoc upon a wedding under a tent. A barn venue also looks alot cooler then a tent venue in my opinion.

So getting into the wedding venue sales business for me involves figuring out what my core offering is and how I would price it. I realized that decorating, catering and dj services are also common services that wedding organizers purchase but that I was not capable of offering myself. What I could offer was to support wedding venue clients who might want to deliver some of these services themselves to save money. They can rent my facilities and equipment as addons to the base package to make that happen.

Next year my goal might be to host 10 new wedding events at our farm. I'm in discussion with 3 so far and haven't formally put out a shingle yet. My sales approach is sufficiently refined that I think I can now build a website to advertise my wedding venue services in a straight forward manner.

Renting the barn out as a wedding venue is only one of the enterprises we have on the farm. It has the potential to add a good income stream for a few months to the farm. There is alot that I still have to learn about this industry but I though I would share some of what I have learned so far as starting any business involves figuring out the needs of your clients, providing base pricing that is easy for them to understand and relate to their needs, identifying what your value propositions are compared to your competitors, learning from your customers, and setting sales goals so you can project what the venture might contribute to your overall bottom line.


July 30, 2022 wedding setup in our barn

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Thinking in Bets: Part 2 [Events
Posted on October 22, 2021 @ 06:39:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I thought I would provide an update to my last blog where I speculated on how a couple of summer outdoor concert events that I had planned would turn out. The decision making process included enough uncertainty around covid, gathering limits and weather that it felt like a bet and could be thought about in those terms.

I'm happy to report we had great weather, crowds, and music so it was a memorable event of the summer for many. Our gathering size was limited to 250 attendees so that capped the profit that was possible. We didn't get rich of hosting the event but it was worth doing to give back to the community, to create awareness of our farm as an events venue, and to build up momentum for our outdoor concert series next year when allowable gathering sizes should be larger.

Our partner in organizing the musical aspect of the two outdoor concerts was Rankin MacInnis who was also our closing musical act. We hired photographers Davey and Sky Media to make some footage of the outdoor concert events which will be used as promotional material for next years concert series. The song in this video is Levels - Regal Beagle Band.

Entrepreneurs are often people who are willing to take riskier bets that certain future outcomes will happen. Then they do all they can do to help ensure that these future outcomes are achieved.

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Seeing Opportunities [Events
Posted on August 19, 2020 @ 11:50:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Last year we started an annual tradition on the farm of holding an outdoor concert. We had 5 bands perform over 5 hours. We had great weather and everybody appeared to enjoy the event. I spent around $1200 on advertising the event. We had around 155 paying customers and around 185 altogether. At the end of the day I lost around $2000 but I was ok with that as it was the first year, things could have been worse if the weather didn't cooperate, and my ulterior motive for the event was to begin establishing local brand recognition for our farm so when we had some wine to sell, people would recognize our farm and our brand. In the end, I filed this under a cost of doing business.

What a difference a year makes.

This year we were uncertain we would be able to hold the event until restrictions on crowd size were lifted to 250 per event. All community organizations holding yearly events all cancelled this year. We are a bit different as we are a private company, a registered farm, offering a private event. The consensus required to move ahead would have been harder if a diverse group of people had to agree. Also, we were planning to hold an event with a relatively small budget with an anticipation of some modest growth in event size to around 250. That limit on crowd size was in line with the cost estimate for artists, porta potties, security and sound that we were projecting. Most larger events cannot afford to run with a 250 crowd size limit which is another reason why many events were cancelled.

I didn't have a facebook account until I made one in January of this year. I figured I needed to setup an account for the farm and the event so I spent a couple of hours at the end of January making a page and posted the outdoor concert event for 2020. I mostly did this to see what the requirements were for posting an event. After that setup session I mostly forgot about the facebook event page.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago and I'm talking with the person in charge of enlisting and organizing musicians, Rankin MacInnis, about whether the event would go on and a possible lineup. We decided to keep everything hush-hush until we had confirmations from the artists to perform and even then we weren't sure the event would proceed as attendee limits on events were 50 or less at that time.

On a friday I found out that gathering size limits were increased to 250. Shortly after hearing the news I got a paniced call from Rankin telling me that someone had leaked the news that we were having an event. Puzzled I asked him how he knew and he said it was "all over facebook". Someone posted something. Eventually I clued in that I had put up the event page and there were now 200 people saying they were going to attend. I also informed Rankin about the 250 limit increase and we decided then that we should leave the event page up and commit to holding the event.

In the next couple of weeks we finalized the talent, put up a website for the event, and setup an eventbrite page to distribute the tickets. We announced on facebook that we would going ahead with the event. Within 36 hours we sold the 235 tickets we had for sale and people kept signing up on our waitlist in case any rules changed on gathering size.

So one big cost from last year cost nothing this year - advertising. I attribute the success in selling tickets this year to three main factors: 1) We started the event last year and had alot of return attendees, 2) people are desperate for concerts, 3) facebook is a powerful platform for "word of mouth" advertising. This year I ran the event at a profit of around $2000 as I didn't have an advertising cost, had lower security and porta pottie costs, and had more ticket sales. We sold some merchandise and had a food truck supply the food. If we got into selling food we could make more but were happy not to have to worry about it and enjoy the concert. Our merchandise sales broke even in part because we gave away alot of merchandise to staff volunteers and we didn't sell as many event branded face masks as expected. Everything else sold out and we are doing some after event orders so the final tally on merchandise sales is not done yet. Having people wear our merchandise should provide some marketing for next year.

Social Distancing

The event took place in a large outdoor venue that can easily accommodate 250 people so that made social distancing easier.

Initially I felt that attendees could social distance their groups from each other without much guidance. My partner, Rankin, thought differently and wanted to draw bubbles for people to be in. We were not seeing eye to eye on social distancing. My wife felt Rankin's approach was better so I was outnumbered and had to bend towards the safer route.

I came across the concept of using pods for social distancing and thought you could make some assumptions about average group size, measure the area of a pod, and calculate some limit on the number of people that could fit into that pod. I started measuring the field to see how big the pods might be. Eventually I came to an insight: separating people from strangers by paths was as important as thinking in terms of the pods attendees might occupy.

Our final collaborative design for social distancing was tiered seating with paths 8 feet deep and seating areas 10 feet deep. The first pod was 75 feet by 10 feet. People could go forward or backward to get out of their pod into a path. The pods got wider (but always 10 feet deep) as we radiated out from the stage. Attendees were asked to walk along the paths to reach areas at the end where we had foot trucks and smoking areas. This is a simplified schematic of the tiered layout.

                                    STAGE



         ------------------------------------------------------------
                                Path 8 ft by 75 ft
         ------------------------------------------------------------

                               Pod 10 ft by 75 ft

     --------------------------------------------------------------------
                               Path 8 ft by 85 ft
     --------------------------------------------------------------------


                              Pod 10 ft by 85 ft


                                         Etc......

I believe this is a reasonable way to enforce social distancing without being overcontrolling. It is fairly natural to have seating tiers (aka pods) and within each seating tier groups can choose where to go as long at they are 6 feet from another group. Groups can dance in their own bubbles within the pods.

We created lines on the field using a baseball lime spreader used for making baseball lines. That worked good for the event but if we were having more events we would want something more permanent. When making the lines, you can either make lines to define the pods, or lines to define the paths.

Covid Opportunities

Covid is creating a distruption in the normal way we conduct our lives. There is uncertainty about how long Covid will last but it is not going away any time soon so we have to adapt. The events industry is having a hard time because of certain business models that are unworkable at present. This allows other business models to enter like my farm hosting events outdoors

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Live From Mabou [Events
Posted on October 13, 2015 @ 06:02:00 PM by Paul Meagher

I'm currently in Mabou at the farm. I'm here to observe some of the spectacular fall colors and take in some cultural events happening this week. Tonight there will be a livestream from Mabou featuring local talent. I think it is cool that these small town local events can now be livestreamed to the world using YouTube's livestreaming service.

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The SXSW festival is on [Events
Posted on March 11, 2013 @ 11:20:00 AM by Paul Meagher

The South by South West (SXSW) festival is now underway in Austin Texas. It features one of the largest music festivals in the world, along with a film festival and presentations on interactive technologies. Many names in music were signed here and many technologies, such as Twitter and FourSquare, were introduced to a wider audience at this festival. The festival has inspired other festivals such as North by Northeast in Toronto, North by Northwest in Portland, and West by Southwest in Tuscon, among others.

To learn more about what is going at the SWSW festival check out the sxsw.com website.

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