Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Barbe.
Emily, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I have always loved the arts, and I have always enjoyed collaborating with people. In college, I was able to work at my university’s 3,000-seat auditorium, which allowed me to combine my love for events with what I feel is my calling to service others. Post-college, I moved to NYC and started working in the financial services industry, eventually becoming a financial planner where I’ve been fortunate enough to serve wonderful families. During my decade in the Big Apple, I also continued experiencing many forms of the arts, from attending Broadway shows to co-curating multi-disciplinary events for a not-for-profit creators collective.
While I was enjoying the fast-paced life in the city that never sleeps, I was on the edge of burnout. I was leaving my apartment every morning at 7am and arriving home after 10pm most nights. It was exhausting. Then the pandemic struck, and I found myself unexpectedly in Key West – a place that hadn’t been on my radar – for four months.
That is where I met Michael. He was visiting family in the Keys and our paths crossed. Our backgrounds are very different. Michael has never spent more than three years of his life in one spot, while my parents live in the same house in the Midwest in which I grew up. He is military, I am corporate. But despite these differences, it was an instant alignment. If ever a white night existed, it is Michael who has helped me realize and bring to fruition every dream I’ve held, consciously and subconsciously.
Last November, while I was packing my bags to move to Miami from NYC so I could “try things out” with Michael, he was purchasing a 5-acre property in the Redlands. We both agreed that we wanted to live where space was abundant – me coming from a 600 sq. ft., three-story walk-up apartment and him having a desire to eventually run a bamboo farm.
Opening an event space wasn’t necessarily on our radar at first, but after the 10th person commented on how beautiful the property was and given that we love to entertain, we agreed to turn the old horse pasture into an outdoor garden venue. We would be able to share the beauty and tranquility of this space with others in our community. Our business is the culmination of every facet of my life leading up to this moment, from choosing a career of working with others to being able to host events to creating multiple income streams for our family (I am a financial planner after all!). The sweetest part is we’re getting married next year in our very own venue.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Definitely not! I write about a lot of the struggles in our monthly newsletter. There have been tangible obstacles, like finding funding to build out our dream vision for the venue. When Mike bought the property, we had a blank canvas, which was both exciting and daunting. We’ve spent many late nights discussing how we want to prioritize our seed money; it may seem trivial, but it has been a constant battle of balancing practical things (like bathrooms) with beautiful photoshoot opportunities (like our waterfall) while working within the confines of our startup funds.
Time can be a challenge, too. There are many items on our to-do list for the venue, but we also both have full-time jobs outside of the event space. Coordinating demands from our careers with those of our business and our family can feel overwhelming at times.
There are more intangible struggles, as well. The doubts creep in: “What if nobody likes our space?” “XYZ venue is so much better than ours!” Etc. I remind myself that each of these pain points is a normal part of the growth cycle, and we’re fortunate to have a lot of support from friends, family, and community members to help calm these nerves.
We’ve been impressed with The Gardens of Weber Manor, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Gardens of Weber Manor is both our business and our passion project. It’s an outdoor garden venue nestled in the peaceful but vivacious area of Miami called the Redlands. Our event space is perfect for private gatherings, weddings, corporate events, photoshoots, and community events, such as art galleries and pop-up markets.
The Gardens is known for its tranquility and natural beauty. Paved pathways wind through hundreds of tropical plants, most notably our nine varieties of bamboo. Decades-old oak trees adorn a 2,000 sq ft paved terrace on one side and 2,000 sq ft of natural turf on the other. A water feature is nestled between two stages, providing an air of intimacy and calm for any type of event. At night, bistro lights truly make the space feel enchanted.
In addition to the natural features, The Gardens of Weber Manor offers flexibility and many conveniences. We have a production suite onsite that can accommodate brides, grooms, hair, makeup, outfit changes, or day-of storage for personal belongings. The venue is close enough to the exciting things Miami has to offer but far enough away where it feels like an escape. This was especially important to us personally as we both entered this new phase in our lives looking to get away from the exhausting hustle we each left behind.
Mike and I both greatly value family and friends. We want every person who enters our venue to feel welcomed and that their dream celebration can become reality. One of the most rewarding parts of building this business has been meeting other phenomenal and supportive entrepreneurs along the way.
We aim to be extremely transparent with our pricing, communicative, and accommodative. Event planning can be very stressful, and we find ways to make the process easier for each client.
What was your favorite childhood memory?
This is a tough question! I don’t know that I have a favorite childhood memory, but one of the highlights growing up was going to Cedar Point, a large amusement park on Lake Erie, nearly every summer with my parents and brother from the time I was five years old. It was something that each member of my family looked forward to throughout the years, and the combination of riveting roller coasters, a beautiful beach, and resort amenities appealed to all of us. We were ‘those people’ that would run from ride to ride, trying to squeeze in as many roller coasters before the sun went down. And when we needed to cool off, we’d take a dip in the lake or in one of the resort’s pools.
Fast-forward to August 2021. My brother and I had planned a trip to Cedar Point for my parents as an anniversary gift. Now that I live in Florida and my brother lives in Michigan, we aren’t able to see each other too often, so we thought this would be a fun vacation – both for the thrills and for memory lane. This year was extra special as I would also be able to show Mike a place that was near and dear to me.
Unsurprisingly, he understood how meaningful this place is for me – he’s very perceptive. Surprisingly, Mike had his own plans. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. In an incredibly intimate gesture, he included the people closest to me in one of the places most important to me.
This level of energy and thoughtfulness is something we try to incorporate into every detail and decision we weave into our venue. We understand that a place isn’t just a space but that it carries the power to bring people together and create memories that will last a lifetime.
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Fuentes Photo & Film