Early on in the pandemic, when one of the safest ways to visit with loved ones was to meet one another outside, Trey Hiller watched picnics in the park rise in popularity and saw an opportunity to start his own luxury picnic business.
After months of planning, preparing and surveying the public, Hiller, a marketing and management senior, launched Chic City Picnics, a San Marcos-based picnic service, in September. His goal was to help people enjoy the outdoors without the stress of planning it.
Hiller started mapping out how he wanted Chic City Picnics to look and what he wanted customers to experience back in February. He sent surveys out to residents at student apartments and asked students on campus what they would want to see from a picnic business.
Once he figured out prices and picnic themes, Hiller's friend Lauren Bice, a marketing senior, helped polish the business model and worked on marketing Chic City Picnics on social media. Hiller said he took inspiration from TikTok and Instagram for the business' image and would take those ideas to Bice to refine them to fit Chic City Picnics' aesthetic.
"I saw what [picnic companies on social media] did and how extravagant their stuff was and so I kind of would show Lauren, 'hey, this is what I want to do,' and then she'd be like, 'maybe you should do this' or 'maybe you should consider this color theme or this designer,'" Hiller said. "So, I kind of took my idea and took it to Lauren, and then she kind of refined it and made it prettier or better."
Chic City Picnics offers customers a "neutral theme" or a "pink theme." Each base package comes with a picnic table, a rug or picnic blanket, pillows for each guest, table settings, candles and candle holders, a table runner and faux or dried floral decorations.
Picnics last two hours and customers can bring their own food and beverages as they are currently not provided by Chic City Picnics. The price of a picnic for one to four guests is $100 and any add-ons such as real flower arrangements are an additional charge.
If a customer wants real flowers at their picnic, Hiller and Bice partner with The Floral Studio, a local flower shop, to make arrangements. Hiller said he is looking to partner with other local businesses to create charcuterie boards and desserts.
"I definitely really want to just support and champion local San Marcos businesses," Hiller said. "I'm just really making sure that we're embracing the San Marcos community and helping elevate not only us as a company, but other companies around us and making sure that they're not falling behind as well."
By setting up the picnics outdoors, Hiller wants to highlight the river and the beauty of San Marcos parks. He hopes doing this will make people appreciate San Marcos for the sights it has to offer.
"We currently offer locations at Rio Vista — I know the actual Rio Vista itself is always super crowded, but we found a location a little further down the river, kind of like tucked away where it's like super private and super intimate," Hiller said. "Then we offer Five Mile Dam as well."
Hiller is trying to work with Texas State to add Sewell Park as a picnic location option. Customers can also book picnics in private areas, such as their own backyard.
When designing the business model of Chic City Picnics, Hiller and Bice wanted to ensure it was appealing to college students, their target market. Bice said she hopes the business will become something students look to when they want something relatively inexpensive and fun to do with their friends.
"As a college student, I love doing spontaneous things. And I feel like most things that we do aren't necessarily like super planned ... you can grab a blanket, you can grab some food and you can have a picnic. But how often do you get to have a luxury picnic? So, I think it's just a really spontaneous and really fun thing to say that you got to do," Bice said.
Chic City Picnics' first customer, Namrah Quazi, found out about the business through Instagram and booked a picnic to celebrate her husband's birthday. From Kyle, Texas, Quazi is not familiar with San Marcos but said Hiller set up an unforgettable picnic experience in a secluded area along the river.
"We had a really great time," Quazi said. "My husband was pleasantly surprised. He was totally not expecting that. He was just like, 'oh my god, this is the best thing ever.' So, we had a really great time. It was really nice."
Quazi has since recommended the business to her friends, relatives and coworkers in the San Marcos area. She said she looks forward to seeing the business grow.
"San Marcos is so pretty, especially with the [river]," Quazi said. "Because it's a college town, a lot of people who do go out want to be outdoors a lot so it's a really great concept. Especially if people just want to spend time together on a date or have lunch together or something. I think it's a very great idea, especially in that area."
While Chic City Picnics is just getting started, Hiller and Bice aim to keep planning well-thought-out themes and arrangements in hopes of expanding their business throughout the community.
"I just think it'll be great to see it expand really to Texas State students," Bice said. "I think it's just a great way to be involved in the local community and also [support] our local community."