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CEA Minority-Owned Business Winner: Packing Upscale Picnic Experiences

By Elizabeth White, posted May 6, 2022
MINORITY-OWNED BUSINESS | ELABORATE OUTINGS-LUXURY PICNICS Michelle Bethea, Owner & Founder | Year Founded: 2021 | Employees: 2 (Photo by Madeline Gray)
Michelle Bethea launched Elaborate Outings-Luxury Picnics in August of last year to feature an intimate and sophisticated dining experience without walls.
 
Bethea said she strives to “please palates in an atmosphere of celebration with decor so amazing it makes you forget that you are not dining inside.”
 
A pop-up picnic, as she refers to it, includes not your typical picnic fare of paper plates and napkins. Instead, lavish table settings are set up with fine china, elegant linens and fresh-cut flower bouquets. Fluffy pillows or soft, cozy blankets are laid about.
 
Wilmington offers an ideal location for hosting the events, she said. Popular settings include sunrises and sunsets at the beach, parks or gardens along with food catered to specific occasions or tastes.
 
“Business is growing tremendously, and I have recently become an LLC,” she said.
 
The trend, which ballooned nationally during the pandemic, caught on as people expanded their outdoor experiences.
 
“People saw the experiences I was offering as a way to get outside and be safe,” Bethea said. “It’s something different and people love trying new things that work.”
 
Not missing a detail when thinking about what makes customers feel comfortable, Bethea offered a portable sink with hand soap during the pandemic.
 
Being able to move her picnics indoors during the wintertime months was key for her business.
 
Tiese Roxbury, owner of The Self- Love Museum – a spot in downtown Wilmington for photographers and social-media-friendly selfies – was particularly helpful in offering Bathea an indoor option.
 
“She really helped me stay open this past winter,” Bethea said.
 
Besides the setting, food is of course the star of the show.
 
Bethea relies on collaborations with different local businesses such as Rebecca’s Charcuterie Board and Premier Catering for her menu selections. The Little Bar Cart NC and The Sweetest Temptation are tapped when the menu calls for that special something.
 
Bethea enjoys what she does and admits there are challenges that come along with starting up your own business. Trying to figure out how much staff to bring on board, compensation and time management are her current struggles.
 
With a business greatly affected by the weather, figuring out the logistics for her “beachnics” in an area known for its beaches presents its own set of challenges.
 
“I started my business in the fall,” she said. “So it was easy to have an evening picnic, but now I’m seeing the summer rush with parking and finding the perfect location has not been so easy.”
 
With business continuing to grow, Bethea has her eye on future plans.
 
“I plan on throwing more elaborate events and expanding my event services,” she said. “I’m also hoping to have my own stationary location to host indoor options in the event of bad weather and an immediately available backup location.”

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