By Jessi Stone | Jul 6, 2016 | The Smoky Mountain News
Nearly five years ago, Taylor and Preston Gregg stood on top of Chestnut Ridge and recited their wedding vows.
Taylor couldn’t have asked for a more spectacular view on her wedding day, and she knew then that the secluded mountain views from Preston’s family farm off Dutch Cove Road would make an ideal wedding destination for others.
Since then, Taylor has been working her way into the wedding planning business with the ultimate dream of constructing a one-of-a-kind wedding venue on Chestnut Ridge. As the 2016 winners of the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Startup Award, she is one step closer to making her dream of owning a wedding venue a reality.
Every year entrepreneurs compete for the $10,000 prize that comes with the award in hopes of getting their business off the ground. The Greggs competed against nine other entrepreneurs for the funding and were one of four to make it to the interview process. When asked why she thought her business plan stood out among the rest, Taylor said it was because her wedding venue business would directly and indirectly impact so many other businesses in the area — caterers, bakers, florists, photographers and all the other vendors needed to pull off a wedding. Not to mention the construction crews and local building supply stores that will benefit from the construction of a $1 million facility.
“The judges said we would be impacting the other four candidates being interviewed for the competition either directly or indirectly,” Taylor said. “The wedding industry employs a lot of people.”
While holding down a day job at an Asheville bank, Taylor has spent the last two-and-a-half years building up her wedding planning business and getting to know all the vendors in the area. She is planning nine weddings in 2016, which is all she can handle with a full-time job and 8-month-old twins at home. Her knowledge of the growing industry is another reason her business plan may have stood out to chamber judges.
“I’m already in the industry and I think they could see I did my research and I’m not cutting any corners,” Taylor said.
Even with her experience, putting together a professional business plan — a 3-inch- thick binder — was no easy task. Taylor and Preston were in the midst of the business loan and plan process at Haywood Community College’s Small Business Center when SBC Director Katy Gould told them about the chamber’s startup competition. It was the perfect opportunity for the Greggs — the only catch was the business plan was due within a month. But the short notice only pushed her to finish it, and it paid off.
Chestnut Ridge wedding venue will consist of two facilities on Gregg’s family farm — a 6,400-square-foot enclosed reception barn and a 2,400-square-foot ceremony pavilion. The reception barn will include a bridal loft, groom’s den, full kitchen, bathrooms and working bar.
The venue will be able to accommodate up to 299 people with church pew seating in the pavilion and Amish farm tables and wooden cross back chairs in the reception barn.
Taylor’s vision for Chestnut Ridge is for it to be a welcoming place for the entire wedding party that provides a lifetime of unforgettable memories.
“My main goal is I don’t want it to be a quick in and out venue — I want it to be an entire weekend worth of laidback experiences,” she said. “They’ll be making the most important memories of their life here.”
While brides and their bridesmaids typically have a day of spa treatments or brunch before their big day, Taylor also wanted her grooms to be able to relax during their weekend in the mountains, whether it’s playing golf or skeet shooting on the property. That’s why Chestnut Ridge will offer additional amenities like a firework send-off, skeet shooting, onsite bridal party yoga and massages, and a pool table and flat-screen televisions for the groomsmen. Smoky Mountain Sub Shop will also provide onsite lunches for the wedding party on the day of the event.
Chestnut Ridge will offer a basic venue package price and also an all-inclusive package that will include all of Taylor’s preferred vendors — Catering by Corey, Nettie’s Bakery, Fox & Owl Studio photography, Flawless Makeup & Hair, Music Explosion Sound, HeartIsTree Videography and Maggie Valley Wellness Center.
Taylor did her research and visited wedding venues all up and down the eastern seaboard before nailing down her ideal space. She’s confident that Chestnut Ridge is not just another rustic barn setting.
“It’s completely different. The barn will be more of a modern industrial space. The bride can make it look rustic if she wants, but that’s just a trend — she can also make it formal and elegant if she chooses,” she said.
One thing about outdoor weddings in the South is that summer and winter months are slow because of the unpredictable heat or cold, but the Greggs’ venue will have central heat and air with plans to have the venue booked throughout the year. As far as pricing goes, Taylor said their venue fees would be right in line with the regional and national average. Chestnut Ridge expects to get plenty of destination weddings as well as local couples wanting to marry there. A local discount will be available.
“Take the top venue in Asheville and other popular ones in our price range and they probably have 75 weddings a year — we’re expecting our capacity will be 99 weddings,” Taylor said. “We hope to achieve that by year seven.”
In the future, they hope it will be more than a wedding venue. Preston said the space has the potential to be booked for conferences, business seminars and retreats as well.
While Taylor and Preston make good partners in life, they also seem to be ideal business partners. Taylor is a planner by nature and her experience in the wedding and the banking industry gave her the knowledge to create a solid business plan. Preston is an engineer for the town of Waynesville and has been the one to deal with the construction end of the project. They are both very excited about the potential of their new venture.
“We really think this will be unlike anything out there,” Taylor said.
Road construction up to the wedding venue site has already begun, and the Greggs hope to be open for business in the fall of 2017.
Taylor said the $10,000 from the Chamber of Commerce competition will go toward the start-up costs for marketing — logo, purchasing a website domain, designing a website and more.