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Oleta Collins

How to Build a Special Event Venue from Scratch

Adding your own event venue to your portfolio can be a great asset; here are tips on making it a success.

Building an event venue from scratch is a major endeavor that shouldn’t be taken lightly. With that said, launching a new property opens up new opportunities to host stunning events for clients all across your market—and perhaps beyond.

If you have the right intel and a sharp mind for decision-making, you can create something truly amazing that is driven by a greater purpose. Sure, it’s a revenue source—but it can also be the backdrop to a couple’s special wedding day or the setting for a family’s baby shower celebration. You can make a difference in people’s lives and give them once-in-a-lifetime memories that will last for years.

We’ve been fortunate enough to help many venues open their doors. Let’s explore some factors you’ll want to consider as you plan out your new venue.

1. Planning the logistics
Before you consider any of the design details or marketing plans, you need to map out the fundamental logistics to get your venue off the ground and running. Assuming you already have a location, you’ll need to start by talking to your architects and engineers.

Discuss important aspects like power needs and distribution, kitchen placement, water hookups, HVAC needs, and shade if you have an outdoor space. Consider also the access to your property (is one road enough?) and the onsite parking available to guests. Explain what you’re looking for and let the professionals find the best solutions for your needs.

At the same time, you need to understand all of the legalities that come with running an event venue. Understand the regulations set by your city and/or county in terms of insurance. Determine all of the permits that you’ll need—every venue needs a fire permit, but others may vary depending on your locality and the types of services you plan to offer. For example, if you plan to allow candles at your venue, you’ll need to have a permit for an open flame.

One of the most overlooked considerations when it comes to venue locations is the sound ordinance for the area. Events can often run late into the night and, if people live nearby, there may be a strict sound ordinance. Know how your area impacts whether you can use amplified sound at your venue and create a plan to adhere to the local guidelines.

2. Choosing a style
More often than not, a blank slate is the way to go with a new venue. Unless you’re a specifically themed boutique, you should avoid putting in your own decor. Keep your personal design style out of the venue—otherwise, your future clients will have to conform to what you already have. You may even lose out on some business if they see their event vision differently.

Make it palatable for everybody. For example, neutrals go with everything. Stick to colors like white, cream, gray and green. Don’t start putting in pops of orange and red if they are not removable—bold hues can clash with a client’s color scheme. This may be your venue, but you want prospects to come in and feel like it can be theirs for a day.

3. Adding in amenities
You’ll find that clients are willing to spend more money if they feel that they’re receiving more than just an empty space. Add-ons, whether included or for upselling, are an excellent way to add value to your new venue.

For example, we are seeing an increased need for IT and AV needs for all types of events, from corporate meetings to weddings. If possible, install a sleek flat-screen television on the wall for clients to facilitate simple video conferencing and slideshow displays. Likewise, added features like onsite rentals and decor are great ways to enhance your venue packages.

4. Promoting the launch
When you’re opening a new event venue, don’t expect people to start showing up without promotional efforts. Spread the news to your industry peers and creative partners—better yet, host a networking event before your grand opening to immerse your vendor friends in your venue experience. After all, their referrals will go further if they have a deeper knowledge of your property’s ins and outs. Ask them to share on social media, too. They likely already have a strong following, so the word-of-mouth marketing can spread like wildfire.

When you’re ready, consider hosting a wedding open house event for prospective clients as well. Invite caterers, bands, planners, photographers and other vendors who complement your service. This is a great way to reach newly engaged couples who are just starting their wedding planning journey. You can then duplicate this mixer for corporate and social events as well.

During these pre-launch events, be prepared to face obstacles that you didn’t expect. This is where you’ll find the little hiccups. Did you notice major sound reverberation? Or perhaps the air conditioning system wasn’t prepared to cool a room with 200 people in the thick of summer? Discovering these challenges is actually a good thing, since you’ll be learning what doesn’t work well so you can adjust for future client events.

In the buildup to your launch, be sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s to ensure that you are addressing all of the big and little things. There are both legal and structural considerations to keep in mind, so lean on your expert counsel for support, and be prepared for anything that comes your way.

In any case, creating a new venue from scratch is extremely rewarding, especially when you get to see your clients’ dreams come to life.

Oleta Collins is the owner of Flourishing Art Design Studio, a premier florist and design studio in Bakersfield, Calif., that specializes in luxury weddings and events. She is also a Certified Floral Designer and an accredited member of the American Institute of Floral Designers.

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