When you can’t get exactly what you want, sometimes you have to create it yourself. For the team behind Omaha Fashion Week, the problem was a space; the solution was creating a 30,000-square-foot event venue.
“It was met out of need. We couldn’t find a good home for Omaha Fashion Week,” founder Nick Hudson explains. “We tried different venues. We tried using tents outdoors.”
Hudson and his wife, Brook—who serves as producer—struggled for eight years to execute the event in spaces that were not quite the right size. Some spaces had policies that limited the environment creatively, others came with visually distracting fixtures or features. Weather was an unpredictable factor when tents were involved. “Other [event planners] had the same problems,” Hudson says. “I think there was just a gap.”
The Hudsons discussed ideas to solve some of these problems with Greg and Molly Cutchall of Cutchall Management, who eventually became their partners in Omaha Fashion Week and a new endeavor—Omaha Design Center. The facility opened in spring 2016 and now serves as a permanent home for Omaha Fashion Week. It is also a unique, flexible venue for events during the rest of the year.
“We thought, ‘What if we had a building for the fashion and creative community, and when we’re not using it for Fashion Week, have it available for other events?’” Hudson says.
The Design Center features a range of in-demand amenities like free parking, on-site tables and chairs, a professional catering kitchen, and advanced audiovisual capabilities. Its open layout works for single, large events, or can be divided into as many as five functional rooms, Hudson says. “Anything from a group of 50 through a group of 1,000 we can easily accommodate.”
He describes the atmosphere as “industrial chic,” with polished concrete floors, exposed ceilings, and a gray-and-white palette. Chandeliers add a rich touch. From that simple foundation, “people can come in and make it their own, individually…because every event [should] be different.”
Creativity defines Omaha Fashion Week, so it is no surprise that clients are not only allowed, but encouraged to design the space to suit their individual events. Hudson says, “That importance of design has been a big part of the success.”
A one-of-a-kind lighting system is key to creating a distinctive ambience for every client.
“It’s one thing to just have an empty white space but we actually have something which makes it easy for events to [become unique]; we have a lighting system with which all the walls change color,” Hudson explains. “You can choose any color you want with the touch of a button. It’s like a big color wheel with infinite choices. That was something we invented and created ourselves.”
Experienced event concierges guide clients through the details, a service that has been a factor in the venue’s almost immediate popularity, Hudson says. Last year alone, The Design Center booked 150 events, significantly more than the one-per-week originally projected. Six full-time employees and a flexible part-time team are in place to meet
“Between us, Brook and I have organized something like 2,000 events. Even before The Design Center, we did a lot,” Hudson says. “It’s been really interesting. With our previous experience and this sort of crash course of doing 500 events in three years, we’ve really been working out software and processes to distill some of the ideas and checklists and make events as stress-free as possible.”
It’s gone so well that the owners are now considering expanding.
“We’re definitely looking at additional event spaces and events in general. It’s becoming a multifaceted event business,” Hudson says. “I just love how there are so many different occasions that take place here, from weddings to fundraisers to company events. Often, it’s one of the most significant days of the year for the people planning it, and I love the fact that we get to be part of that.”
Visit omahadesigncenter.com for more information.
This article was printed in the February/March 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.