When I received a Facebook message response from Stephanie Alexander of White Oak Farms I was truly giddy. I have been drooling over her website and social media posts for a few months now. I am so excited to have her on the blog today and share the journey of White Oak Farms and their upcoming event, City Farmhouse PopUp Fair with you!
A little bit about Stephanie (co-owner) to share with you, she was a successful event planner in Nashville, Tennessee, and designed and planned weddings, Music Row parties, birthday parties, corporate events and non-profit fundraisers. Her work was featured in Southern Living, on numerous blogs and online party planning sites, and she was a monthly entertaining contributor for At Home TN magazine based out of Memphis. She and Josh -her husband- decided to combine their mutual love for entertaining with her knowledge of event planning to create The Venue at White Oak Farms.
White Oak Farms is located on a 20-acre property set in beautiful West Tennessee (just outside Jackson, TN in historic Medina). The venue is available for weddings, private parties, corporate events, non-profit fundraisers and university/academic events. It is also the backdrop for their upcoming event A City Farmhouse PopUp Fair, August 17th-19th, 2017. See info below.
Take a few minutes and get to know Stephanie and Josh Alexander with our quick Q&A below!
1. Where did the name White Oak Farms originate from? My husband and I had been throwing around names for quite a few months trying to figure out the perfect one. At the same time as we were discussing names, we had the woods on our farm timbered. We realized at that time how many white oak trees were on our land. One day, we were sitting on the back porch, and Josh looked at me and said we should name it “The Venue at White Oak Farms.” I fell in love immediately! I knew at that moment he had found the perfect name for our place.
2. What was your initial dream for your business?I have always had a love for entertaining and hosting guests. I also used to be an event planner when I lived in Nashville so parties and celebrations come naturally to me. When we bought this house and farm in Medina, we immediately starting using our personal barn for throwing parties. We had never had a space that big and open before, and I absolutely love being able to throw dinner parties, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations in it. Word got out that we had a barn on our property, and people started calling to rent it. It’s not equipped with heat and air, and we knew it wasn’t the ideal spot to rent out. But, that got our wheels turning, and we decided to build an event venue towards the front of our property. Our initial dream for this business is for people feel like The Venue at White Oak Farms is an extension of our home. We want people to feel that warm Southern hospitality, as if they had just stepped into our home. I designed it with features that I would have put in my home. We have a saying we hope holds true for The Venue: “May all who enter as guests leave as friends.”
We can’t wait to share our venue for the first time with so many people traveling here August 17-19th for the City Farmhouse Pop-Up Fair. I have been a fan of the City Farmhouse Pop-Up Fair for a long time, and so many items in my venue came from previous shows I had shopped. I also have vendors coming who have sold me merchandise over the last 18 months that I purchased specifically for the venue. I can’t wait to see their reaction when they seem some of their merchandise in the space! It still seems surreal to me that the City Farmhouse Pop Up Fair is actually going to be on my farm in less than a few days.
3. What are your long term goals for your business? Long term, we hope that many memories and big “life moments” happen at our venue. Our prayer is that God blesses each event that comes through our doors, and we honestly cannot wait to see what celebrations and events happen on our farm. We also want to bring exciting events to West Tennessee, such as The City Farmhouse Pop-Up Fair. In addition to renting it out for weddings and events, Josh and I want people to experience cultural events, good live music, great food and so much more here at The Venue. I also plan on using the venue to bring seminars to West TN, including ones geared towards women in small business and “Pinterest Party” nights. Josh and I both believe it’s so important to give back as well, and we have some exciting things in store where we’ll get to give back to the community that we love so much. Down the road, we also have plans to expand our White Oak Farms brand, and we’re really excited about that opportunity.
4. What was your best lesson learned? We have learned so many lessons since launching our business. I think the “best” one (and one I’m trying to share with our children) is that hard work and persistence does pay off but it’s not always easy. We started exploring this business idea many years ago, and like any small business, we have poured our hearts into it for the last few years. There have been so many days where things got hard and challenges came our way that often times seemed impossible to overcome. I know our faith in God, our network of family and friends, and our dedication to see this project through have gotten us to where we are today. I’ve told people that building this business has often times seemed like a roller coaster ride. We had days where things went smoothly and other days where we were tested. But, because we were dedicated and persisted through it, we’re officially getting to launch a lifelong dream for us.
5. What was your hardest lesson learned? We had someone tell us last year that no one will love our building as much as we do. I’ll be honest that was a hard pill to swallow because I want people to fall in love with it as much as we love it. He wasn’t saying people won’t love it, but he was preparing us for the fact that we are the only ones who will worry about every nook and cranny of that building. We know our business like the back of our hand, and he was telling us that not everyone will care as much as we do. He’s right-no one is going to fully appreciate the business like the people who actually built it from the ground up. (“Growing up in family that owned a small business, I can truly understand what he was saying,”-Stephanie)
6. What inspires you?
Oh wow, there are so many things that inspire me. I love reading biographies of entrepreneurs and learning from what they did well and what mistakes they made along the way. I am also truly inspired by people who have clearly identified what God put them on the earth to do. We all have unique talents and abilities, and I admire those who know 100% what their purpose in this world is. They have talents and passion for a specific thing, and they go after it.
I’m also a huge fan of magazines like Country Living, Southern Living, Architectural Digest and Garden and Gun. I use magazines like those as inspiration on any project I’m working on or any space I’m designing. My husband is convinced I have a serious magazine obsession. I also love reading blogs and perusing Pinterest and Instagram for photos that speak to me.
I am also truly inspired when I travel. From restaurants to resorts and hotels I stay in to off-the-beaten path shopping, I get so many ideas when I’m traveling to other places. Even if it’s just to an antiques store in another city, I love exploring to see how other people incorporate things in their decor that I can use in mine.
I get inspired by being outside in nature. It doesn’t really matter whether I’m hunting, fishing, hiking, or mowing grass. What matters is that I am outside admiring God’s creation. It gives me time to think, reflect, and plan. Before we built our venue, I used to spend a lot of time in the field where our venue now sits. I used to try and picture what that piece of land could become. Before we started building, I could kind of see a vision of the final product. It was cloudy at first, but it was there! It has been surreal watching that vision transform into reality. It is hard to dream if you can’t find time to slow down and watch the flowers grow.
7. What is your best avenue to get your business noticed? Social media has been huge for us this last year. We have used it to tell our story, and we have been able to share the progress of our venue construction visually through photos. It’s been a great tool to reach people very quickly, and we’ve gotten great response from both Instagram and Facebook. We also invested early on in a good website that’s super user friendly. I think those 3 things have been the best investment of our time and resources to launch our business.
8. Who is one person you look up to? Business or personal. This is so hard because we honestly have so many people that we look up to both professionally and personally. We’ve been blessed with some really amazing mentors who have helped guide our path. We’re not sure we can name one specific person, but we can name some characteristics of the people we look up to and admire.
They tend to be creative entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid to take a calculated risk and use their natural God-given talents. They are people that are willing to share with others, especially when it comes to what’s made them successful. We also look up to people that are confident but humble. They are willing to be vulnerable and share things that can help others. A lot of our mentors also spend time trying to make a difference in other people’s lives. We admire people who work hard, but make sure to balance that with a lot of fun!
9. Who are some of your favorite vendors coming to the Pop-Up Fair? Honestly, every single vendor that’s coming has a style that I love, and I cannot wait to see their booths. I also am so grateful because they are taking a chance on doing the first City Farmhouse Pop-Up Fair outside of Franklin, Tennessee. I’m super appreciative to the vendors who are traveling across multiple states to get to West Tennessee for this show.
If I only get to name a few, I’ll include a story why I chose them:
Vividly Vintage-the owners, Carla and Calvin Murphy, also happen to be the parents of some friends of mine. I’ve known their family since I was in high school, and I’m pretty sure they were the first people I ever met that truly collected antiques. I didn’t appreciate their love of antiques as a teenager, but as I got older, and started loving vintage and antiques, they were always the first people I thought of when I was out shopping for unique finds. I bought the first antique for The Venue from them. It’s a vintage “Gentlemen” sign that we have displayed on the bathroom door in the upstairs groom’s suite.
Fern and Ivy-the owners, Dawn and Teresa, also happen to have known me since high school. When I moved back to West Tennessee from Nashville 4 years ago, we reconnected, and they helped me score some really fun pieces that are now displayed in The Venue.
Natalie Grace Home-I wasn’t sure if Natalie Grace Home would be able to make it, as I know she has 4 shows in August. But, she’s making it work, and I’m so excited. Her style is so fun and fresh, and I’ve enjoyed being a shopper in her booth before at other City Farmhouse Pop-Up Fairs and at Scott’s in Atlanta. I seriously cannot believe she’ll have a booth at my venue!
Karen Reed-so this is Karen’s first show. She’s a true American “picker” with a 10,000+ square foot warehouse. She and I have been talking for over 2 months, and I finally convinced her to do the show. I have no idea what’s she bringing, and I CANNOT wait to see what goodies she brings along to sell. We’re all in for a treat with her booth.