Meet Our Team! Renee Bauman — Certified Wedding Planner and CEO of Hitch Studio

Here comes a top 10 list of questions you’ve ever wanted to know about Renee Bauman, CEO and owner of Hitch Studio — a Certified Wedding Planner, Certified Wedding Venue Professional, author of the Wedding Day Designer, wife, and mother of two. (I consider those last two titles my most important.)

Here are the top 10 questions I get asked:

1.     Why do you enjoy “giving up” all your weekends to work at weddings?

Well, I don’t feel like I’m “giving up” my weekends when I get to spend it with people who have become like friends. I get to see the couples I’ve gotten to know so well GET MARRIED! I get to be with their families that I’ve met through 12 months of meetings and watch them lovingly tear up as their children walk down the aisle together. I’m not giving up anything. I’m gaining wonderful experiences. I don’t have to work weddings. I get to work weddings with the people I’ve grown to love on the happiest day of their lives. Plus, I don’t take it for granted that my husband carries a pretty heavy load while I’m gone on weekends. He cares for our two boys and makes this all possible.

My oldest son will soon be in the soccer/tee-ball/Saturday-morning-sports-age and I promised myself that I wouldn’t miss all his little games. (Wait, little? Those games are a big deal to him.) So after nine non-stop, hard-working years in business, I hope to reach that goal and make it to as many games as possible next summer. Not all, but most. Because I also want my kids to grow up knowing that mom built a business she loves and I want them to see what hard work and dedication looks like.

But, does it get hard? Yes. Have I missed birthday parties, holidays, and weekends at the lake? Yes. Do I miss my family when I’m away? Yes. But my flexible schedule allows me to make up for most of that. I love every day I get to go to work. I am very fulfilled by the work I do, I love the team we have, I love the students I get to mentor because I have the heart of a teacher, I love the families we get to work with, I love our new office space, I love the freedoms I get from being a business owner. I love it so much that I don’t feel like I’m “giving up” much at all.

2.     Didn’t you start Hitch Studio with a business partner? What happened?

Carrie Kuhl and I started Hitch Studio in 2014 as acquaintances…and parted ways as best of friends. We still work in the same building together, we cheer each other on, we are in a Masterminds group together, and we are still each other’s biggest fan. The back story? I moved to Brookings ready to start a design business. It turned out, Carrie wanted to do the same thing! So instead of being competitors in a small Brookings market, we joined forces in 2014 to become Hitch Studio. Carrie was the graphic designer and I was the wedding planner, and together we also owned a retail store (three divisions). After five years of sharing resources, employees, and growing three divisions, the business had grown each of those branches into fully-functioning businesses of their own. It took a while to realize it, but we needed to take our divisions and make them separate businesses. We sold the retail store to another good friend, who carried that dream forward. Now, Carrie Kuhl co-owns UpFrame Creative and Renee Bauman is 100% owner of Hitch Studio since August, 2019.

We know. We are the anomaly. Business partnerships usually don’t work out this way. But with mutual respect and a clearer vision, we ended our business relationship and preserved our close friendship. Love you, Carrie! Cheers to almost 10 years beside each other in business!

3.     You’ve been in business for almost 10 years. Have you had any big revelations along the way?

Yes, three so far.

My first revelation happened in 2013. I had been working at SDN Communications (my first real job out of college) for seven years and started my first graphic design business for six of those years. I was working about 20-30 hours a week for my business and working my corporate job working 40 hours a week. I seriously loved my job at SDN Communications, so how was I ever going to choose? As much as I loved my job, I loved the idea of growing my own business a little bit more. I made a huge life change by leaving SDN in 2013 and starting Hitch Studio in 2014! The epiphany happened when I realized I was taking on too much.

My second revelation happened when Carrie and I parted ways as business partners. It was hard to leave that bit of a “safety net” by having a business partner to lean on. We were resistant, but as several business coaches told us, it was time to get laser-focused on each of our businesses. We didn’t know it, but we were holding each other back. What I realized in yet another life change, was that change is hard, but it allows growth.

The third big revelation happened last summer, if I’m being perfectly honest.

I had two kids at home (one being a baby), I was working 19 weddings per year, and I found myself breast pumping in the back of a sweltering hot van during a wedding, getting 4 hours of sleep week after week with two kids and a husband who just wanted to be with mom. A business coach offered me this advice. “Hitch can’t grow until I let go. I have got to stop trying to be every player on the field and start becoming the coach.” My revelation? I had to design a business that could run itself — as a true CEO.

That’s still a work in progress. But I LOVE the team I’m building!

4.     Why are you such a perfectionist?

It’s just the way I’m wired! I am a Type 1 [Wing 2] on the Enneagram, my top three Strengthfinders are Achiever, Maximizer, and Futuristic. My love language is Acts of Service with a side portion of Words of Affirmation. My “Geniuses” are Invention and Tenacity. Does that help give you some insight on me? I feel like being a “perfectionist” really plays to my strengths and makes me a great wedding planner.

5.     Was writing a book on your bucket list?

Yes! Amidst the pandemic of 2020, I wrote the Wedding Day Designer, a wedding planning guidebook, modeled after the checklists I made for my own wedding. It’s 158-pages of insider’s tips to help couples feel accomplished as they plan. It was also the “oh shit” plan if the event industry didn’t bounce back from Covid restrictions.

6.     Why is volunteering so important to you?

You get as much as you give — so I am a strong believer in giving back to my community. I am involved with a Masterminds group of five entrepreneurs, the Area Development Corporation Board, and am a founding member of the Downtown Brookings Board. I am a graduate of the Dakota Rising Fellowship program and in past years, served on the Brookings Chamber of Commerce Board, Women In Leadership & Learning (WILL) board, taught at SDSU, and have volunteered my time in many other ways. I think volunteering opens doors to so many connections and helps me feel like I’m part of something bigger. Like I’m making an impact on things that matter beyond me and my small business.

7.     How do you keep your company culture so positive?

I get asked a lot about the employee culture at Hitch Studio since I employ 40+ women — like if we ever get catty or have fights. We don’t. But that’s because I’ve set a work culture of fun, positivity, hard work, being proud of what you “built”, and always doing more than what’s expected. I surprise them with bonuses or gifts and since the majority of employees are part-time, I think it’s important to get us all together to build rapport and friendships. So, twice a year, we hold “All-Employee Retreats”. I ask a lot of my employees. I ask for early mornings and late nights, heavy lifting and intense tasks. And my expectations are sky high. Which is why I also like to reward them with an evening at our employee retreat, where we focus on gratitude, a life lesson/skill, and they receive a gift and food/drink. I also share goals and updates for Hitch and keep it very fun and upbeat. I just want them to feel appreciated and then share the knowledge they gained and the love they felt with others. We’ve had topics like floral arranging, dancing lessons, self-defense training, yoga + love languages, dinner etiquette, public speaking 101, how to match your skin tones to the best color clothing for you, etc. This fall we’re doing a cooking class! Every summer we have a book club, which makes relationship-building a year-round effort.

8.     What are your top five favorite business books?

  • Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
  • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • Any book about discovering more about yourself and your core characteristics (like your Working Genius, your Enneagram, your Strengthsfinder, etc.)

9.     What do you like doing in your free time?

If I have a free night, I love to go on walks. If I have a free weekend, I love to do/go/try something new — and hang out with my little family. If I have a free 7-10 days, I love to travel. I’ve made it a goal to leave the country every-other year since 2001. In those years, I’ve been to:

  • 2001 — Canada
  • 2003 — London
  • 2005 — Paris
  • 2007 — Mexico
  • 2009 — Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Budapest
  • 2011 — Ireland
  • 2013 — I was just starting a business, which was a worldly adventure of its own.
  • 2015 — Peru
  • 2017 — Jamaica
  • 2019 — Hawaii (hey, I know it’s not international, but I left the actual country and so I think it counts) 🙂
  • 2021 — Mexico
  • 2023 — Spain

10.   What’s your favorite wedding you’ve ever worked on?

While every wedding has a special place in my heart, I do have a favorite.

Let me tell you a story about Tanner and Libbi. The summer of 2020 (on the brink of the pandemic), they stood in a church waiting for their rehearsal to start the night before their big wedding day. The bride went looking for her groom…only to find that he was on the phone with the clinic. He had tested positive for Covid. Not knowing what to do, everyone vacated the church. Unsure if their wedding would take place the next day, Tanner and Libbi decided to get married that night anyway. So, they had a ceremony via video call with their Pastor — and the video call dropped its internet connection before the end of the ceremony. So they finished their vows over the phone. They settled on a Wendy’s drive through for dinner and spent the next two weeks both sick with Covid in their apartment instead of having a reception or taking a honeymoon.

This was the winning story out of 84 entries.

I had an idea…to gift a wedding to a couple that Covid made impossible to have. So, I made 22 phone calls…and all 22 vendors said yes. Together, we gifted the winning couple a wedding worth $33,000 of 100% free and donated services. Everything from the meal, to the photography, to the DJ, stationery, videography, the venue, and flowers — and even the wedding planner 😉 — was gifted to the lucky couple.

Tanner and Libbi have a beautiful marriage, but that night, I could see it in their eyes. They were SO GRATEFUL that they got to have the beautiful wedding they never got. My heart was completely full. I think all the other wedding vendors would agree: You could say we were the lucky ones. When the pandemic was TAKING AWAY business from all vendors in the wedding industry that year, every vendor still found it in their hearts to GIVE. That’s the magic of marriage — and this industry I love.

You made it! A full top 10 list of Renee. All of this to say…I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life. And in return, Hitch is helping me build a life I love.

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