A goal without a plan is just a wish. At least that’s what French author and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900—1944) believed. Think about how many people talk about starting their dream business, but for whatever reason never take the time to develop a plan to turn it into reality.
Amanda Nelson, founder and owner of Blue Haven in Sioux Falls, South Dakota came up with an idea, put together a plan, and assembled a team. Fast forward: her company is winning awards.
It All Starts with an Idea
Most entrepreneurs have at least one thing in common. They don’t have a lot of time. So, when Amanda agreed to a 45-minute meeting on a windy November afternoon, we jumped at the opportunity to talk with her.
Blue Haven consists of 3 rental event venues situated on 20 acres on the western side of Sioux Falls each having a unique feel. Blue Haven Barn, the original venue accommodates 300 people; the Atrium is a larger, contemporary facility that accommodates 500; and their newest addition, the Retreat, is designed to host a cozy 100 guests. The outdoor garden spaces are also pleasant and functional weather-permitting.
“As my friends began getting married, we ended up traveling all over the United States. I noticed each of the wedding venues,” Amanda said. “One site in particular was a barn near Omaha, and I thought the concept of having a wedding in a barn would work well in South Dakota. That was in 2010.” In July 2016, Blue Haven Barn opened its doors. “It took about five years for our vision to become a reality,” Amanda said.
Make the Most of Your Time
With bookings well into 2024, Amanda and her team of 30 work hard to help others make the most use of their time. “I’m usually up around 5 a.m., and arrive at work at 6 a.m.,” Amanda said. “Most days include tours of our venues, style shoots, and event planning. With six events per weekend, we also spend a lot of time turning each venue.” Turning the event includes cleaning and set up, sending linens out and frequent window washing.
“I also make updates to our websites and post on social media.” When asked who manages her website, Amanda replied, “I do. I figured out some code and I’m making updates to our sites on a daily basis. And, since many of our clients are active on social media, using it as a way to communicate has become an important part of my routine.”
Go Above and Beyond Customer Expectations
“It’s also imperative that we work hard to accommodate our clients, especially the brides. We must make the use of their valuable time to plan the event in a way that’s as simple and as stress free as possible,” Amanda said. “And on the day of the event, the time people spend at Blue Haven must be enjoyable and memorable. We provide a full-service experience that starts with an event checklist. One of the most important things on the list is, don’t forget a sweater for grandma,” Amanda laughed. “We often keep the venues cooler, otherwise when 500 people are in the room, it can get quite warm. Asking grandma to bring a sweater is one thing we can control!”
“We offer different levels of service,” Amanda said. “In the Atrium, we offer a full menu that is customizable to meet the needs of the event. In Blue Haven Barn, we offer more flexibility. Again, it’s about tailoring the experience to make the most of the guests’ time with us.
As Blue Haven has grown, so has Amanda’s family. “With a five-year-old daughter, I have less time than I did when we first opened,” Amanda said. “But I know I could leave at any time, and the staff would take better care of the place and the guests than I do. It’s important to have the right team.”
LocalEvent.com has recognized Blue Haven as the top ranked reception and events center in Sioux falls for the last four years. But Amanda doesn’t take the award for granted. “Keeping our facilities up-to-date is important,” Amanda said. “We’re currently renovating one of our ponds, and planning is underway to freshen up Blue Haven Barn.”
Financing Your Dream
“After we put our plan together to open Blue Haven Barn, we reached out to Bank Midwest.” Amanda said. “They helped us navigate the SBA lending process and have continued to support us as we’ve grown. If you’re thinking about starting or expanding a business, I suggest you reach out to a financing partner who can help you turn your dream into reality.”
Learn more about business financing options available with Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans or other lending solutions at Bank Midwest