We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Harrelson and Kayla Portillo of Back Patio Event Design, LLC and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura and Kayla, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
Laura: I am originally from Hockessin, DE. Growing up in a strict Catholic household, private school and as a year round, national level swimmer I was constantly surrounded by structure and organization. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, however, once I moved away to college and ultimately San Diego, I felt prepared and ready to take on more responsibilities that I knew I could manage on my own. Once I met Kayla through a prior career choice, I knew we both had similar goals, especially with wanting to go our own way and start our own business. Putting our hard and soft skills together, creating Back Patio Event Design LLC came together almost effortlessly. I absolutely have my upbringing, household structure, family business background and professional relationship with Kayla to thank for that.
Kayla: Growing up in a small town in Texas, everyone knew everyone and you were treated warmly and as family. This meant that gatherings were always intimate and friendly no matter the size or occasion. Pair that with constant family gatherings and my mother’s catering company and it’s no surprise that I thoroughly enjoy putting together any kind of celebration. The transition from hosting our own personal gatherings to creating events for clients under our own name was a natural transition for Laura and I that can absolutely be attributed to our similar backgrounds.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Back Patio Event Design was created to bring back the warmth and intimate feeling of events and weddings. Both of us grew up in big families who always maintained a constant emphasis on family gatherings around holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings and more. These events were always held on our families’ back patios, thus where the name came from. We love a beautifully designed event with the little details that can make a guest go ‘Wow I love that’. However, the most important aspect to helping our clients plan their wedding is reminding them that this isn’t just a fancy (and expensive) dinner party. This event should be speaking to who the couple is. Reminding every guest in attendance why they are there. Introducing who you are to every ‘plus one’ who may not know you as the couple. Asking ourselves, where is the couple in this event? We believe that this is how we set ourselves apart from other planners. In our first year of business we were able to set ourselves up with a solid business and marketing plan that took almost six months to create. We didn’t jump the gun to launch our social media without a website or vice versa. We took the time to create a plan for every aspect of the business. And then we threw that away and started over. At times it wasn’t easy, however we took those opportunities and challenged ourselves to create something better, something with more meaning. We’re both very proud of the time and care we put into building this business. This isn’t a hobby for us and we hope to keep Back Patio alive for a long time, no matter the path our lives take us. We are truly excited to see how Back Patio pivots now that we have gone from wives to moms with potential moves out of state in our long term futures. We would love to see the Back Patio brand in our home regions if we ever make it back there permanently! Our biggest challenges have been adjusting and pivoting to the needs of clients. It is true that every client is different, however there are absolutely trends in the marketplace with this. COVID being a major factor as well. We will always continue to go above and beyond for our clients. It’s hard for us to say no. However, we have found that creating boundaries was difficult at first when it came to saying yes too many times. We take pride in our hard and most times, sweaty day of event work for our clients. Sometimes that comes with an additional price. We feel comfortable now being able to offer more services and packages to our clients rather than always saying yes and feeling like we may be impacting the business negatively. For that we have to thank our parents first and foremost as well as two industry professionals who we rely heavily on for feedback and constructive criticism: Cate Batchelor Photography and Sugar Rose Flowers. These relationships have helped to continually shape and change our business plan for the better in an ever changing San Diego market.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We would do the following (if COVID wasn’t a thing…): Coffee at Better Buzz then beach day/walk Moonlight Beach; Kayak Mission Bay and lunch at the Catamaran; Wild Animal Park and then wine tasting at Rancho Geujito Vineyards; Walk the OB Pier, South Beach for Tacos, beer and sunset then Electric Wasteband at Winstons; Dinner in the local neighborhood and a show at the Belly Up or Observatory; Walk Balboa at sunset and dinner at the Prado; Trail Walk at Copper Creek Falls; Breakfast at Shore Club (where Laura met her husband) then watch Football in PB (Go EAGLES!); Sunday shopping and brunch at The Del; Take the Coaster to Petco during baseball season, Gaslamp afterwards; Beach bonfire; Day trip to Temecula for wine tasting and dinner in Old Town at 1909.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
100% our parents. Since day one of me(Laura) graduating college, my parents encouraged me to seek outlets to express my creativity but also my business sense. When I wanted to move to San Diego, as the first person in my family to leave the mid-Atlantic area, neither one of them hesitated to ask how they could help. When Kayla and I wanted to start Back Patio Event Design, both our parents jumped at the opportunity to challenge us with the questions we needed to be asked. With families full of entrepreneurs and strong business minded professionals, the outpouring of immediate and ongoing support for us was overwhelming and encouraging.
Linkedin: Back Patio Event Design
Brett Charles Rose Photography, Ashleigh Mitchell Photography, Astray Photography, Cate Batchelor Photography