In 2012 when Whim Hospitality opened its doors as a party rental company serving the Texas Hill Country in Dripping Springs, Texas, it had four employees. Six years later, the company has grown to include two locations and more than 200 employees, and now offers high-touch affordable luxury to its clients with tents and rentals, catering, florals and venue management. Whim has garnered accolades from many industry organizations such as the Esprit Awards by the International Live Events Association, The Texas Star Awards and the National Association of Catering Executives. Outside the hospitality industry, co-founder and CEO Kim Hanks was named best CEO in 2017 by Austin Business Journal.
Weddings and more
Dubbed “The Wedding Capital of Texas®,” Dripping Springs boasts more than 35 wedding venues within a 15-mile radius, which is why Whim specializes in weddings, earning 70 percent of its business from them. Since the company opened its second location in Austin in 2016 it’s contributed to several high-profile live events, such as the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference, Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival, Austin Food + Wine Festival, and Fashion X Austin.
For events in general, Hanks says the industry is moving more toward decor trends seen in furnishing and decor magazines, such as Architectural Digest or Elle Home. “This poses a challenge to keep up with home-decor quality items in a commercial use environment,” she says.
Hanks also notes that tented events are taking on a much softer and more natural look than in the past, with hand-sewn tents with wood beams, neutral fabric chairs coupled with marble tables and accessories growing in popularity. “Food and floral complement each other to create a casual elegance that looks like you aren’t trying too hard,” she says. “But it’s all a curated experience.”
Whim was contracted to provide catering, florals, tents and rentals for Lipton’s Chef Fest—“a celebration of food, music and the stories that bring us all together.” The traveling culinary show offers food demonstrations helmed by celebrity chefs. “As the chef demoed the food, our company cooked the menu behind the scenes for all the attendees,” Hanks says. “Since it was a Lipton-sponsored event, we had to be creative with tea- and lemon-inspired food, decor—and, of course, have the best staff around to provide southern hospitality.”
But Hanks’ favorite event is one Whim has been sponsoring for the last three years. Each year, Whim donates a themed event to Marbridge, a non-profit residential community that offers transitional and lifetime care to adults with a wide range of cognitive abilities. “As a company, I find it crucial to give back to organizations that are overlooked and not mainstream,” Hanks says. “We provide party rentals, decor and tents to make an event of their dreams.”
Of details and flexibility
Of all the challenges that can come with starting a tent and event rental business, finding experienced tent professionals was the most surprising to Hanks. “It’s really a craft for which you need craftsmen who are detail oriented but don’t mind all the changes the hospitality world demands—and usually detail-oriented and flexible traits don’t come in one personality,” she says. “But, we’ve found the best talent. In our company, it’s all about the people.”
Whim Hospitality has experienced fast-paced growth and notable success, and Hanks keeps her eye on what’s trending in the industry. “I am always curious to see what is happening in our industry but I don’t try to model my business around what others are doing,” she says. “The success of Whim Hospitality is built upon personal relationships and how we have been able to promote our brand as high touch—not volume.”