Two college friends have teamed up to launch a new business focusing on their passion for the creative.
Ashley Duchsherer and Aaron Hughes are the owners of Hint of Whimsy, a stylized photography and party planning boutique.
Although the party room used to hold birthday parties and other events can be used as a photo studio, most photo shoots are done on-site. That gives people a more natural environment to be in that will hopefully make them more comfortable in front of the camera.
"We meet with clients and we kind of figure out what their niche is, or what they do as a family, or if it's a little kid, what they love to do," Duchsherer said. "And we create an environment that kind of is them, so they're more comfortable in front of the camera. ... So it's a little more laid back. It definitely makes the kids open up more to us."
"Most of the photography is on location, whether that's Oak Park or their backyard or some random book store," Hughes said. "Wherever they feel most comfortable."
In addition to family photos, Hint of Whimsy also does newborns, weddings and engagements, among other things.
The other part of the business involves planning themed birthday parties for children. The party can either be held in Hint of Whimsy's party room, which can accommodate up to 12 children, or on-site at a location of the family's choosing, whether it be at their home or somewhere else. They will work in communities outside of Minot, but charge mileage for doing so.
"So with that we kind of meet with the mom and the birthday boy or girl, and we kind of talk about what they like to do for a party. If they want it at their house, or if they want to use our space, they can," Duchsherer said. "We've done a lot of different parties."
So far at the parties, smaller children like a lot of games to play, while older children seem to prefer crafts that fit with the party's theme.
Duchsherer said they recently did a mermaid party and a bunny hop, which was a 1950s-themed Easter party. Other themes they've done include a Paris fashion party, farmers market and puppies.
"And we kind of do parties from start to finish. So we sit down with the client and the kids and find out what they love, and then we create some kind of little theme. And we'll do invites, thank yous, do all the decorating, we just don't do the food," Hughes said. "So the moms usually provide the food. And then we work with Sweet & Flour Patisserie usually to pull in some cupcakes or cakes with some of our packages."
They also do photos for the parties, as well, which leaves moms free to enjoy themselves instead of worrying about documenting their child's birthday.
Hint of Whimsy has done everything from a party for a 2-year-old to a sweet 16 party, and they even do parties for adults, as well, such as a small bridal shower.
Duchsherer and Hughes became friends while attending Minot State University, and have taken a lot of classes together over the years. Both are graduating this month, with Duchsherer getting a degree in photography and Hughes one in graphic design.
After doing several class projects together, Duchsherer said they both realized they have similar styles and worked well as a team. They both had aspirations of opening up some kind of business in Minot, and hatched the plan for Hint of Whimsy last year while in Denver on a school trip.
"We were sitting in the hotel one night, just plotting this for three hours," Duchsherer said.
Hint of Whimsy launched March 1 and both hope they will eventually get enough business to make it their full-time jobs. In the meantime, Duchsherer is a stay-at-home mom while Hughes is a student activities coordinator intern at MSU, and is applying to become the full-time coordinator.
Since both women have other responsibilities on top of Hint of Whimsy, there are no regular operating hours. Customers are asked to call 833-6290 when it's convenient for them to set up an appointment.
"And that helps us work around moms' jobs, as well," Hughes said, "which are the primary people we work with."
"Most people can't really be accommodated until the evenings, anyway," Duchsherer added. "So it kind of works out good for us."
The name Duchsherer and Hughes came up with for their business might evoke images of creativity and playfulness, but both women are somewhat ashamed to admit it actually came from a spreadsheet and many hours of methodically going through dozens of words until they finally hit upon a combination they liked.
Hughes said they actually came up with the tagline for the business first: Where smiling faces meet darling design. That turned out to be the easy part.
"We had that, and we loved that, but we needed a name," Duchsherer said.
"Aaron made a spreadsheet, and we found all of these words that we loved, and that were cute and quirky, like we are," she added, noting they spent a lot of time on Thesaurus.com searching for those words.
After bouncing numerous ideas off of friends and family, Hint of Whimsy finally floated to the surface. Both women loved it, even if the process of getting there was less than inspired.
"This is a little embarrassing, actually," Duchsherer said.
"Yeah, not very magical," Hughes added with a laugh.
Even though the way they came up with their name is less than magical, the job itself is everything they dreamed it would be, and that's all that matters.
"It's kind of a dream job," Hughes said. "We get to just celebrate and have fun pretty much all the time. Whether we're planning the event or actually hosting the event, it's almost all fun."
"This is what we wanted," Duchsherer added. "We wanted something that we're both going to love."