Al and Lyndsey Johnson bought a greenhouse located in Solon Springs, Wisconsin, in April 2018. Only a few months later, the structure had been renovated into a gorgeous wedding venue and The Atrium hosted their first happy couple. In 2019, their small business accommodated 18 weddings, and 32 ceremonies are currently booked for 2020.
The land and facilities of The Atrium together offer an intimate and casual atmosphere. The wedding ceremony site boasts benches and an oak tree canopy in the woods. The 30- acre space offers gardens, scenic trails and a bonfire ring. The converted greenhouse space is a private venue rented to only one party at a time and the site also accounts for practical needs such as dressing rooms, tables and chairs for guests, and on-site parking for up to 250 guests.
Al and Lyndsey have enjoyed much success as colleagues. Previously, the couple worked as directors for a bible camp for ten years, then they transitioned into photography for another 10 years and they currently continue to operate their photography business together. They are both dreamers with the ability to talk ideas through and decide which to pursue. When they realized this wedding venue dream was worth pursuing, the couple built many relationships with folks in the area and met Andy Donahue, Center Director at the UW-Superior Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
Andy introduced Al and Lyndsey to the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP) and helped them develop their business plan. Lyndsey said, “We knew the basics, but the class helped us see the bigger scope and helped us become proactive on many of the needed startup topics.”
Andy also helped the couple with several rounds of financial projections and aided them in becoming part of the Student to Business Collaboration. This college partnership brings students and real-world businesses together to build brand recognition, develop a logo and marketing campaign and establish a social media presence.
Lyndsey commented, “Andy made legal things a breeze for us. And he’s a great connector; if he doesn’t know the answer to something, he certainly knows someone who does. He is such a good listener that we joke he is our Business Psychologist.”
Andy helped Al and Lyndsey find a suitable location for their wedding venue business. They ran into difficulties with alcohol and noise permits with locations in downtown Hayward. But they weren’t discouraged. When they stumbled across the green house in Solon Springs, they knew they had found the niche outdoor space they needed.
Accomplishments with UW-Superior SBDC:
- Financial projections
- Business plan
- Location scouting
- Marketing strategies
In the first months after purchasing the greenhouse, Al added all the needed physical elements to meet safety codes and quality control standards. He mentioned, “Meeting the building codes was a challenge, but it was worth it to keep our guests and employees safe and satisfy the commercial, health and fire inspector requirements.”
The event center onsite provides a secondary plan in case of inclement weather. In addition to weddings, the venue is also host to community events such as outdoor movies and school fundraisers as well as photo shoots. “The community is really cheering for us and it feels good to have the local support,” Lyndsey said.
The small business impacts the local economy as well. They hire community residents for setup and tear down as well as bartending at their events. Wedding parties at The Atrium often dine at local restaurants for rehearsal dinners. Their guests shop at area coffee houses and stay at local lodging. They visit gift shops and enjoy golfing and other area attractions while they are in Solon Springs.
Al and Lyndsey hope to expand the offerings at The Atrium in the future. “We like to keep up with changing wedding trends and we are excited to add to the physical space as well,” Lyndsey said, noting they plan to enhance the natural beauty of the space with even more scenic and inviting landscaping elements.