Last weekend, I had the privilege of participating in Our Jackson Home's Third Annual Storytelling Night at TheCo in Jackson, Tennessee. At that event, the storytellers presented in a Japanese-style format called Pecha Kucha. It is extremely popular in larger cities, and West Tennessee is lucky to have people like Katie Howerton and Lisa Garner to bring it to our community. Pecha Kucha (Japanese for "chit chat") is a highly condensed, fast-paced presentation style. The speakers are given these parameters: you get to use 20 slides, and you have 20 seconds per slide.
As a sales executive in healthcare, I regularly give hour long presentations to hospitals discussing online digital technology for patients. But, the Pecha Kucha format really challenged me as a presenter to be not only succinct but to be very deliberate in my timed message. I practiced with a Pecha Kucha timer many days trying to get the timing down just right prior to last Friday night.
For my 6 minutes and 40 second story, I chose to focus on my strong family legacy of entrepreneurs, and how that has laid the foundation for what Josh and I are doing on our farm here in Medina. I'm going to share my "20" with you now, and tell the story of how growing up in a family business is now the catalyst for creating The Venue at White Oak Farms.
#1-Bernard Carrico- Cash's General Store
My great-grandfather on my mom's side owned a general store in Fancy Farm, Kentucky in the early 1900s. My Nana (his daughter) remembers them selling everything from chicken eggs to sugar to rations during the War.
#2-William and Clara Ausban- Ausban Letter Shop
William and Clara Ausban, my great-grandparents on my dad's side, owned and operated Ausban Letter Shop in the Elks Building of downtown Jackson. They did copying, printing and stenography.
#3- Tom Lawler's Groundbreaking Ceremony
Tom Lawler's, founded in 1919, was an office supply and furniture store in Jackson, Tennessee. My family became the third owners of the store in the early 1980s. It had been located in downtown Jackson for many years, and in 1982, our family decided to build a larger store and furniture showroom on the 45 By-Pass. This picture shows the official groundbreaking ceremony that happened when I was just a little girl.
#4-Tom Lawler's Furniture Showroom
Growing up in a family business, you tend to spend a lot of time in it. For my sister, brother and I, we used the furniture showroom with all the desks for an ultimate game of hide-and-go-seek. Seeing this picture takes me back to my childhood, and all the days we spent up there with my dad and his family while they were working.
#5-The T.O.P. Stores
In the late 1980s, my family started another group of stores called The T.O.P. Stores (Tennessee Office Products). They were a spin-off of Tom Lawler's, and were meant for quick cash-and-carry office supplies. There was one location in Hicksville (a few doors down from Highland Park Bakery) and another location in The Jackson Plaza near Service Merchandise. This picture was taken before our grand opening.
#6-Tom Lawler's Office Mart
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my dad and Tom Lawler's started a show held in the basement of the Jackson Civic Center. The Tom Lawler's Office Mart was a day where office supply and furniture vendors could come show new products and services. It was modeled after the original "Volunteer Office Products Show." My dad and his family wanted customers in the area to be able to see innovative products that were hitting the market. Apparently, I thought it was a big occasion-hence the corsage I'm sporting. (Too bad this blog doesn't have the laughing/crying emoticon to insert here).
#7-The Counter at Tom Lawler's
This counter is where I spent MANY afternoons when I was tall enough to reach over it. I learned at a very early age how to wait on customers, how to answer the phone, how to take inventory and how to work the cash register. I remember shadowing my Dad and Granddad until I was old enough to be able to do it on my own. I also vividly remembering loving the old cash register, and being super bummed out, when they switched to a computer system (you can see it above). There was something about the "ding" the real cash register made that I loved. I worked as a Tom Lawler's employee all through high school and a lot of college.
#8-Monterrey, Mexico- International Event Planning
After graduating from Lambuth in Jackson, Tennessee, I studied at the University of Memphis and received an MBA in International Business and Spanish. Growing up in a family business, I always knew I would study and major in some type of business. As part of that MBA program, I lived and worked in Monterrey, Mexico for a company called Grupo IMSA. As part of my internship, I was able to help plan events, such as employee recognition ceremonies and grand-openings/ribbon cuttings for their subsidiaries, both in Mexico and the United States. I feel like that internship assignment helped me "hone" my event planning skills.
#9-Nashville and You're Invited Events
After finishing my MBA, Josh and I got married, and we moved to Nashville for him to work at Vanderbilt. This picture captures how I spent many weekends as a full-time event planner! I was there to ensure that a bride's day went off without a hitch. I also planned corporate events, Music Row events, birthday parties, retirement celebrations, and proposals.
#10-Back to our Roots
Even though we loved Music City, it was just getting so busy. Josh and I felt like we spent life in our cars running all the time to get somewhere. We wanted a slower pace of life. Plus, with our kids the age they were, we wanted to get closer to our families. So, we said goodbye to Nashvegas, and bought a 20-acre farm in West Tennessee. Was it hard at first? Absolutely it was. We missed our friends and our life in Nashville so much. But you know what, God's plan is always perfect, and I cannot imagine being anywhere else than where we are now! We are surrounded by a wonderful group of people here in Medina, we are blessed with an amazing church family, and we get to see God's creation everyday living out here in the country.
#11- Our "Original" Barn
When we bought this property, we both fell in love with this horse barn. Josh couldn't wait to have a man-cave for all his tools and equipment. I couldn't wait to entertain family and friends in it. We spent several months converting it to our hangout barn because horses had lived in it for the past 14 years. We ripped out the stalls where the horses were separated, pressure-washed everything, installed new lighting and got it ready to be a party barn.
#12- 1st Official Party
Three years ago, Josh and I hosted our first official party in our barn. Our friend Amy was turning 40, and we offered to host it at our house. We had such a blast helping her husband and her family pull this surprise off. The party was a huge success, and I guess word spread quickly that we had a party barn. We started getting phone calls and emails to rent it out. Unfortunately, it's not heated and cooled, so we weren't able to allow anyone to rent it. But, given my family history of small business and love for entrepreneurship, my wheels started turning. Josh and I had long talks about it, and we decided that instead of retrofitting this barn, we would just build a new one!
#13-Deciding where to Build
After Josh and I made the decision to build our own event venue, we drove around for many weeks trying to figure out where to build. We'd hop in the car, and drive all over the countryside. Then, one day, after seeing this sunset, we were both like-"Why in the world would we build anywhere else?" That's the moment that we decided to build on our own land.
#14-We are Official!
In the Spring of 2016, we officially partnered with Fisher Construction as our builder on this project. I remember the day this sign went in our yard! I still get so excited each day getting to see it as I leave my house.
We chose the name The Venue at White Oak Farms after months of deliberation last spring. Josh and I would literally throw out names randomly to see what stuck. One day, our builders were over, and we were all on the back porch talking. Someone made a comment about all of the white oak we had, and Josh immediately said, "That's it! Let's name our place The Venue at White Oak Farms." I fell in love immediately, and we settled on it that day.
#15-Our Official Ground-Breaking Ceremony
If you remember towards the beginning of my "story," I showed you the image of my family breaking ground in Jackson on Tom Lawler's in the early 1980s. Well, I guess I've come full circle because I got to have my own groundbreaking ceremony with my family last fall. After the dirt work was completed, we had our official picture. I love that my kids get to grow up in a family business, just like I did!
#16-Busy as Bees Tees
The Venue will be a huge part of my kid's lives. We want them to be a part of all that happens on our farm. Last summer, I helped them start their own t-shirt business where they sold to friends and family. These are the first two designs we sold: Nothin' Finer 38355 (a nod to our hometown-Nothin' Finer than Livin' in Mediner) and "Bee Kind Y'all." We are beekeepers, so we thought this would be fitting. We also wanted to spread inspirational messages to others.
#17-An Architect's Renderings
I remember the day that Joe Shearin, our builder, handed us these drawings. Josh and I had dreamed up this venue in our minds for so long, and finally seeing an actual rendering of the final product was so rewarding. The day we got these files, I knew it was going to be so surreal to watch it take shape on our property.
#18-The Venue at White Oak Farms
This shot of the exterior was taken just a few weeks ago. The construction crews are hard at work getting the interior and exterior finished for weddings and events.
#19-The Exterior of The Venue at White Oak Farms
Here's a view of the side of our venue. I can't wait to see this in a few months when weddings and parties are taking place. The covered side porch is one of my favorite features, and I can't wait for people to make memories out here.
#20- Buy Local and Support Small Businesses
As I closed out my Pecha Kucha story last Friday night, I made a request to the audience. I asked everyone to continue to buy local and shop small businesses. They are the lifeblood of our communities. After all, there's always a "story" behind every single one of them!
I hope you've enjoyed reading my "story." My hope with our venue is that through it, I will continue building on the legacy both sides of my family have set before me. I also hope through this family business that Josh and I will instill in our kids the value of hard work, as well as not to be afraid to follow your dreams-no matter where they take you!