Following a successful career coordinating events and fundraisers for non-profits, Lisa Ditchkoff embraced the idea of starting her own event business. After relocating from Oklahoma to Alabama and looking for a job, she sought an outlet that would combine her strong work ethic with her heart for helping. Lisa saw a need for a unique venue in the Auburn/Opelika area, as well as the opportunity to help non-profits by reducing high venue expenses and increasing fundraising proceeds.
While Lisa dreamed big, she knew she would need to start small. She began by starting a small event planning business in 2003, operating out of her home for the first year while she built up her clientele. The next year she was able to move to a temporary office location before purchasing a building to renovate as an office.
In 2008, Lisa drove by the former Coca-Cola bottling plant in downtown Opelika and saw a for sale sign. Lisa recalled, “I really wasn’t necessarily ready, but I walked in here – a few of us walked in here – and all I could see was people everywhere . . . in the midst of the worst economic downturn in our country’s history in our lifetime.” She purchased the building and immediately began renovations, opening for her first event in 2010.
Lisa’s success did not come without obstacles. Her dream was big – 33,000 square feet big – with extensive renovations and costs involved. While many were skeptical, Lisa persevered despite the economic downturn and immense size of the project. As a single female facing obstacles, she along with one colleague managed every aspect of the business, from setting up tables and chairs for events to cleaning all 17 toilets well into the night.
With over 33,000 square feet of total space, The Bottling Plant Event Center handles events of any size, from six to 1500 people. From weddings and receptions to corporate conventions, concerts, and everything in-between, The Bottling Plant Event Center has the largest capacity in the area.
As Lisa grew her business, she sought the assistance of The Alabama SBDC at Auburn University for help with marketing and The Alabama SBDC Capital Access Program for assistance with financing. “The SBDC was very helpful with marketing suggestions and the numbers side of everything. I tried securing refinancing several times but the goal didn’t come to fruition until seeking Alabama SBDC’s help and support,” stated Lisa.
The Bottling Plant Event Center has grown to nine employees plus others on a contract basis and now offers in-house catering as well as a full-service bar. In November of 2017 they completed an 8,400 square foot courtyard pavilion, making the venue a one-stop-shop for weddings and events.
Lisa started small, but her dream of a unique event venue filled with people is now a reality, as well as an asset to Opelika and the surrounding areas.