Lynn Easton came to Charlottesville with her family 30 years ago, and has since become a nationally recognized leader in the wedding and design industries. Lynn has garnered worldwide attention and has earned accolades from Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Martha Stewart. And she’s just getting started.
Lynn landed in the event world and hospitality industry thanks to a bit of serendipity. She began her career as a television producer in Manhattan, but after offering to help plan a friend’s wedding, she realized that her skill set for producing live TV translated well into producing events. Fast forward a decade, and Lynn’s been recognized by Vogue as “one of five wedding planners you need to know about.” Her company, Easton Events, continues to dazzle both clients and press alike with celebrity weddings and social events in venues across the globe.
And because she’s always pushing the creative edge and seeking the next challenge, five years ago Lynn co-founded Easton Porter Group with her husband, Dean Porter Andrews. Together, they own and operate Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards and Red Pump Kitchen in Charlottesville, as well as Zero George Hotel and Cannon Green Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. They’ve recently announced plans for a new winery resort and culinary destination in northern Virginia. Every one of their properties has been award-winning. Both this year and last, Easton Porter Group landed a spot on the Inc. 1000 list of fastest-growing privately owned companies in the US.
The Early Years
Creating Easton Events has been a challenging but really fun and rewarding evolution for me. This whole journey started with a friend’s off-handed question: she was getting married and simply asked if I knew any event planners in town. I really didn’t, but I thought — hey, I’ve spent years producing live TV, surely I can pull off a wedding — so I offered to help. “It’ll be my wedding gift to you,” I told her. Well, I guess it was the gift that keeps on giving, many weddings hence! A guest at that wedding approached me about possibly planning another event, which I did, and then word spread, and pretty quickly I realized there was an opportunity here. I had a talent and there was an unmet demand for it in Charlottesville.
In terms of growth, our company never really took baby steps. The first few years I worked non-stop, managing every aspect of the business on my own, learning as I went. My first office was not even an office – just a corner of the kitchen counter in my home, and the initial team looked like, well–it looked like me! Today, many leaps and gallops later, Easton Events has been recognized by Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Martha Stewart Weddings as a top wedding planning firm. We have a team of eight in two offices, producing select events and luxury weddings across the globe.
Because we evolved so organically at first, I’m not sure it ever occurred to me that I could seek advice. There was a lot of trial and error, learning from my mistakes, and just relentlessly moving forward.
It wasn’t until we created Easton Porter Group that I began to formalize my long-range vision and the business plans for Easton Events’ growth. At that point, we had begun pulling together our EPG leadership team. Now I constantly seek advice from our company’s inner circle. From our accountants to our amazing chefs, we’ve got incredible talent on our team, so it’s a true luxury and privilege to be able to pick their brains and lean on the expertise within own organization.
Now that Easton Events is well established, I’m enjoying being able to put more focus and energy into my role as Creative Director of Easton Porter Group. The opportunities are endless with this position, and I’m definitely invested in, but cautious about, our bigger picture picture plans — so hands down am I seeking more advice! We’re collaborating with brand strategists, architects, designers, etc., to advise us on how to scale our brand and our portfolio while staying true to our high-touch and personal style. Consistency of quality across all our endeavors is what distinguishes Easton Porter Group, and it’s what I love.
My MO for hiring has always been to look for young, capable talent, and for someone I can train. That doesn’t mean I’m seeking someone who just follows directions but rather someone who shares our company’s ultra high standards and is not only willing to learn but also to challenge processes that can be improved. I value smarts and personality more than degrees or training. Every person I’ve hired has been shaped by our organization, and vice versa. Cultivating talent and building a dynamo team is a key reason for Easton Events’ and Easton Porter Group’s success, and one of my favorite aspects of our work.
Establishing a Culture
Our culture both at Easton Events and more broadly at Easton Porter Group boils down to one thing: we truly believe in and demand excellence, in every detail, from the way our emails are written to the way we answer the phone. A successful event is built from the bottom up, starting with the tiniest of details. It’s not about varnish on the top, but quality through and through. And that means we have to be authentic, which starts with how we treat each other as colleagues.
It may sound cliché but the Easton Events team really is a family, so yes we have our ups and downs but we encourage and respect each other. The foundation of our teamwork is trust, so our mantra is that if you make a mistake, you fall on the sword. We will all goof up at some point, but when you take responsibility for it you can recover and regain trust, then go on to the next thing.
I have very high standards for how I define my success. About two years ago we reached a benchmark and achieved our goal of being nationally recognized as a luxury destination event planning company. I’m proud that we’re now able to do 10 to 12 select weddings a year out of our two offices in Charlottesville and in Charleston. In fact, I’m proud that we have two offices—that in itself is an achievement! As much as I may think Charlottesville is the best place in the world, it’s a tertiary market in the event planning world, so to be based out of here and still be on the main stage of global wedding planning is not insignificant.
One of our company’s definitive, if not defining moments, was when Dean and I went out on a limb and built Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards as a premier culinary winery and event venue. Despite plenty of nail biting in the early days, in our second year Pippin Hill was named as a one of the “50 Most Romantic” venues in the country by Brides magazine, and last year, was singled out for having the “Best Food in the South” by Brides. Those have been significant turning points.
The Success Formula
Call it grit or call it determination, but whatever you call it, to be successful I believe you have to have singular focus on a clear goal. Which, of course, means you have to be willing to work unbelievably hard. I’ve also learned that to be successful as a groundbreaking entrepreneur you really just have to accept the fact that you’re probably not going to have work/life balance. If you can pull it off, more power to you, but I don’t think it should become just one more thing to beat yourself up over. There are lots of times when my work life is pretty much my life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have fun. I do make time for fun and for things that replenish me. But I’m also committed to working hard, and I hire people who understand that a level of sacrifice is needed for success.
We’re incredibly excited about our new Easton Porter Group project. We recently purchased a historic property outside of Washington, DC, and are developing the winery resort and culinary destination with a restaurant and a full service, beautiful event venue and winery along the lines of Pippin Hill. As Creative Director, this visioning, planning phase is so fun! It gets all my engines firing, and I love working toward a dream, then watching it come to fruition, bit by bit, step by step. It’s the same process as event planning — starting with a vision for the kind of feeling you want your wedding guests to experience, and then we begin building toward that, detail by detail. When we’re developing a new hotel or inn or event venue, we’re guided by the feeling we want our guests to experience — it’s really fun work. We’re artists, I like to think, who create memorable experiences.