Kathy Stiles founded Earlyhouse in 2000 on Yanceyville Road. It quickly became a popular choice for couples planning weddings.
The rustic, wooded site with a scenic pond and gazebo in the middle also became known in recent years for the annual chili cook-off to raise money for kidney disease research. While 2019 was the last year for the cook-off, Earlyhouse continues to be a favorite for event planners.
When Kathy decided to launch the business it gave her the freedom to schedule around her five children’s needs.
“My husband always had a very time-demanding job and my work flexibility suited our family life,” she said. “It also suited my personality and organizational ability.”
She feels successful by how much she loves the work and her interaction with clients and guests.
“It is an honor to be trusted with such an important time, whether it is a wedding, a memorial of someone’s life or any other milestone to be celebrated," she said.
Stiles enjoys following the lives of former clients through the birth of their children, moving into new homes and enjoying family vacations. She knows of some clients who were married at Earlyhouse and went on to have grown children.
The coronavirus has been hard on her business, which has essentially been shut down since March 2020. But it’s hardly the first time she has run into challenges. Of course, weather is a constant potential foe when planning outdoor weddings.
“Fortunately, we have been able to reschedule our spring clients until the fall,” she said. “Because we use much of the outdoors, we also find droughts, hurricanes, cicadas, and even earthquakes can be counted among some of the challenges.”
Stiles advises people interested in starting a business to be flexible with their time.
“Be prepared to give up much of your home time — clients expect to be able to reach you at their convenience,” she said. “Check your competition. Ask yourself, can I offer a service or goods that will enhance the community & is there room for you? Then treat them like colleagues — they can be a great resource for issues, things that arise at the last minute and recommendations if you can’t meet a client’s needs.”