In the spotlight today is Amber Gustafson: co-creator, designer, and owner of The Ravington—Northwest Arkansas’ newest wedding and special event venue. The Ravington provides NWA with a gorgeous historic space for events such as weddings, corporate galas, fundraisers, and social events. Amber founded Los Angeles wedding planning company Amber Events, Inc. (amberevents.com) in 2007 and over the years built Amber Events to be a well-known event company in the LA area with over 200 weddings planned. Amber knows events. And people.
She and her husband are both entrepreneurs and feel they cannot ever go back to the 9-5 after living the crazy life of entrepreneurship!
What made you start your business?
I met my husband, Eric, in high school in Fayetteville, AR in 1995. We married in 2001 and lived in Los Angeles, traveling the world for 14 years before returning home in June of 2015 to raise our daughter in a better environment. Buying a historic property and renovating it into a spectacular wedding venue was our dream. The property had to be: in Benton County, historical, high ceilings, possess a lot of character. 293 N. Main Street in Centerton fit all of the criteria!
Did you start with a business plan?
When we sold our house in LA, we road tripped in New Zealand for two months and made a list of what we wanted for a property to renovate. We were only in NWA for two days when we saw 293 N. Main Street and decided to make an offer!
I had never written a proper business plan, and don’t like black words on white paper, so I decided to make a fabulous one! I wrote the copy, then had a graphic designer make it fierce. We included photos of my wedding portfolio, Eric’s carpentry portfolio, and the house renovation we did together. We joke that we’ve been faking it this whole time but somehow still make it work!
How long did it take for you to reach profitability?
Currently, we have not made a penny personally from The Ravington. Every dime has gone to debt and to marketing to get us off of the ground. We are currently living on the money that we get from the sale of Amber Events, Inc. as we get a percentage of that company that comes in monthly increments. And credit cards. And grit and duct tape.
Tell us about your proudest moment.
In early October, Dress for Success held their Little Black Dress Dinner Party at The Ravington. The dinner was completely sold out, but Eric and I crashed it and got to sit in the seats of some guests who’d had to leave. I remember sitting in the gorgeous setting, drinking excellent wine, and eating awesome food (There were 18 of the best chefs in NWA cooking live!), feeling pretty unimportant due to the caliber of VIP people surrounding me.
I sat there and looked around and thought “We did this! These people have no idea that this was not designed by some famous architect/designer and funded by venture capitalists—Eric and I, with the help of our families, did this!”
How has WIN helped you?
It took me a few months to find WIN even though I was asking around for a group of women entrepreneurs. While only about half of the women at WIN work for themselves, all of them have that “Yes!” attitude that movers and shakers have, and I thrive on being surrounded by that. The relationships that I have built through WIN in such a short amount of time are powerful!
If another woman in business asked for your best tip, what would it be?
Write down your goals and post them somewhere you see daily! It’s amazing how writing a dream turns into reality.
Connect with Amber and view the gorgeous Ravington photo gallery at TheRavington.com.