WEDDING- Nuptial tune-up: What in the Sam Hill is that?
A little over a decade ago, while still a UVA student and part-time musician, Hank Wells realized that his guitar-hero dreams were changing. As he started lining up gigs for bands at UVA fraternities, he soon realized he was heading into a career in music– but not not as a rock star.
"I quickly realized I was better suited for the business end than the performance end," says Wells, who soon found himself booking bands into fraternities at other colleges.
"It grew organically," says Wells as his business began taking advantage of the then-young technology called the internet that allowed him to increase his geographical reach into the mid-Atlantic states and the deeper south.
Something else was happening. Those early fraternity clients began tying the knot, and Well realized that he'd stumbled upon a lucrative niche: weddings.
Today, nearly 14 years after its humble frat house start, his company, Sam Hill Entertainment, is a full service entertainment firm with 10 employees booking musical acts for events from New York to New Orleans but with a particular focus on wedding receptions.
Named for the old saying, as well as for a song penned by Wells' own high school band, the company offers a stable of more than 100 bands ranging from reggae to classic rock, from '80s cover bands to full swing orchestras.
The prices also range– from under $1,500 to over $10,000, says Wells– allowing a bride or groom to find a group that fit their budget.
While most of the economy flounders, Wells is among several wedding vendors who say their businesses haven't been hit too hard– at least yet.
"People are still getting married," he says, "and they tend not to skimp on the big day."
In fact, Wells says Sam Hill has recently added a New York office to handle the growing business in and around the Big Apple.
"It's a huge move, going into a new market. You've got to look before you leap," says Wells, who says that, despite his caution, he's excited to continue to expand.
"We won't be rolling out five new offices anytime soon," he says, "but we are looking to make more moves like that."