BLS interview with The Ravington, part 1
In his new Business Leadership Series Derek Champagne, CEO of The Artist Evolution and author of new marketing book: Don’t Buy a Duck, speaks with some of the best and brightest in business leadership to gain some insight into their unique ideas and keys to their successes.
In this edition of the Business Leadership Series, Derek chats with special guest and Northwest Arkansas native Amber Gustafson. Amber is the current co-owner of The Ravington and former celebrity wedding planner in Los Angeles, California.
Amber Talks About How She Got Started in Business
Derek: Welcome to the Business Leadership Series, I want to thank you for joining us today. Today our guest is Amber Gustafson, she’s the co-owner of The Ravington. She, in her past life, is a celebrity wedding planner in Los Angeles, California. Amber, thanks for joining us today.
Amber: Thanks so much for having me, Derek. I’m really excited.
Derek: So, tell us- I know you’ve got a unique story. I know you personally but I’ve also been intrigued by your family story and buy your entrepreneurial journey and it’s different than a lot we’ve seen. Tell us a little bit about your background.
Amber: Sure, thanks so much. My husband, Eric and I, are high school sweethearts from Northwest Arkansas and when we grew up and turned 21, we got married because that’s what you do in Arkansas. So we got married and my husband immediately dragged me to Los Angeles because his band was going to make it big on the West Coast. He took me out there and I kind of went kicking and screaming as an early 20 something, but, over the years, kind of found my footing in Los Angeles. I had always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur and work for myself, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. It took me most of my ’20s to kind of figure it out, and in my late ’20s the light bulb went on: that I would be the perfect candidate for a wedding and event planner.
So I started a company called Amber Events. We did a lot of very high-end weddings and events all across the West Coast, including a few destination weddings, and I’m very proud of the company that I had built. During the time that I was building a company, my husband, Eric, was doing well in the music industry and also working on the side as a finish carpenter, building really beautiful furniture. His niche was “reclaimed wood”. He would take old wood and turn it into beautiful new things. So people would commission him to build gorgeous furniture and he had a booth at the Pasadena, Roseville Flea Market and he was doing well with that. We renovated a house together, we had a baby, and when we had that baby I said, “I’m done in Los Angeles and I want to go home”.
We made the plan together that we would sell the house that we had renovated and we would come back to Northwest Arkansas and start a new life and raise our daughter around family, in a new world. So the wheels were turning. It took some time, I sold my company, and, as of now, I don’t know of any other wedding planning companies that have been sold and I am very proud of the fact that I was able to sell Amber Events. It’s still flourishing in Los Angeles and I sold it to the associate that I had groomed from intern to assistant, to associate, and then I sold the company to her and Amber Events is now in its ninth year.
So I sold Amber Events and Eric and I sold our home in Los Angeles. Before we came back to Arkansas, we actually took what we called ‘our bridge’. We took our two year old daughter and we road tripped around New Zealand for two months. During that time while we were in New Zealand, we planned our future, plotted our future, and dreamed about our future. About what kind of life we wanted and it was a really magical time because we find that so many people in life get so caught up in the wheel of life. It’s bills and mortgage and deadlines and things to do and you’re just kind of cranking. You’re getting it done because you’re spinning all these plates and you have to keep food on the table. You have to do this and you have to do this, so you’re just kind of grinding away at the wheel, you’re not really stepping out of it.
This was a really magical time that we were able to get out of the wheel of our life- kind of look down at our life from 10,000 feet above and think, “What do we want for our future? What kind of life do we want?” So while we drove through New Zealand with our daughter, half the time wailing in the back seat-
Imagine a two year old road tripping for two months. We would drive for hours and just write lists about what we wanted. So we knew we wanted to come to Northwest Arkansas because the climate here is pretty much this magical bubble of flourishing economy because of Walmart, JB Hunt, Tyson and all these start ups. It’s just really this magical, beautiful place. So we wrote a list of what we wanted. We wanted to buy an old building and we wanted to utilize our backgrounds and our passion and create something incredible with that.
So that being said, we bought a 106 year old building when we came back to Arkansas. We put the offer in three days after we came back because we’d written a list of what we wanted. We wanted high ceilings, we wanted something in Benton County to be close to the Walmart headquarters, we wanted something that had a lot of raw potential, we wanted something with history, and we wanted something that we could really just turn into something magical. So we bought this building in Centerton, Arkansas. We’re 12 minutes from Bentonville and we have been renovating it to turn it into a wedding and event venue.
Kind of in layperson terms, it’s basically going to be a historical- it’s going to be a ballroom. So, we’re building this beautiful ballroom that we’ll be renting out for social events such as weddings, vow renewals, birthday parties, things like that as well as corporate events and non-profit events, so galas, fundraisers, things of that nature and we’re opening up in May. We’re not done yet, but we are burning with the energy that is happening. It’s really exciting and we’re having such a positive response from our community around us. We are incredibly excited and I think everybody around us is pretty excited too. So that’s where we are right now.