She had the contacts and the know-how. He had the perfect venue and the capital. Kim Hanks (then Gerlovich) tells how she pooled resources with Whit Hanks with the idea of becoming the top wedding-planning outfit in Dripping Springs--the "wedding capital" of Texas. One ceremony she hadn't planned on: her own. Cue the chapel bells. The business partners became a couple and married in 2014.
--As told to Coeli Carr:
Break down barriers.
While I was operating my events rental company, I also wore a separate hat booking clients, on commission, for Camp Lucy, a 282-acre complex in the suburb of Dripping Springs, west of Austin. When my company began to struggle, I asked Whit, Camp Lucy's owner, for business advice. I knew the hospitality industry had huge barriers to entry because of high equipment and staffing costs. To eventually penetrate Austin's corporate market, I needed capital. I had expertise and contacts in the industry, and Whit had financial resources to invest. So, at the start of 2012, he and I launched Whim Hospitality.
Carve out a niche.
For the first two years, we focused on wedding events, targeting high-end clients prepared to spend as much as six figures. In 2013, we added floral and catering services, and, with increased demand for Camp Lucy's facilities, we opened a nearly 10,000-square-foot building there for ceremonies and events. To better accommodate clients, Whim opened a boutique hotel. Our rapid growth has been fueled mainly by the popularity of huge, blowout weddings.
We knew we had to revamp Whim's infrastructure to ensure our future expansion. This year, we added two directors--for HR and for sales and marketing--and a PR manager. We have a huge facility that showcases our rental wares, a larger corporate office, a tasting room, and a floral-design studio, and we are opening a Whim showroom in Austin. We plan to hire a CFO and a director of operations, and add both staffing services and a wedding-cake division. We're also doubling the lodging at Camp Lucy. Dripping Springs' chamber of commerce has trademarked the city as the "wedding capital" of Texas. We like to think Whim had something to do with that designation.