Two creative women and one wicked idea sparked the first-of-its-kind experience along Virginia Beach’s coastline — a luxury pop-up picnic that slows down the pace of life and takes in the serene surroundings of our beaches, backyards and even living rooms on a rainy or winter’s day.
Abbey and Hayley Hester launched The VB Picnic Co. in September of 2020 while working full time at a local accounting firm. One month later, they traded audits for picnics.
How It All Began
Abbey and Hayley are twin sisters who are as thick as thieves. They love doing life together which has led them to some rather coincidental experiences; they both attended Virginia Tech, graduated with a degree in Business Information Technology, earned the same GPA down to the tenth point and started a career at the same workplace.
During the pandemic, they purchased a home together and started spending a lot of time in the sand. This opened a creative outlet for them to spend time designing, styling and shopping — which inspired various home projects and decor as well as styled beachside meetups with their loved ones outdoors. “We thought a lot of people would like the same setup,” Hayley explains.
Abbey shares how it launched, “We started the picnic on the side [of their IT job] and thought we would get 1-2 bookings on the weekends.” Hayley jumps in, “We did both [jobs] for a month, but within one month, we resigned from our jobs and made the decision to take this full time.” They admit the picnic idea was a last-minute business decision born from COVID which turned out to be a different path than they originally envisioned in their heads. Initially, they anticipated launching into entrepreneurship with their online boutique called Rebel and Wren (the dresses worn in the photographs are from their shop), though the stars aligned above their curated picnic experience and created a business that took off beyond their wildest dreams.
Book a picnic with The VB Picnic Co. to enjoy a luxurious, Bohemian-style setup at a location of your choice, equipped for parties of two all the way up to 40 people. “We come to you and pop up on the beach or in your backyard to celebrate special moments big and small,” Abbey shares. “We are here for all kinds of milestones, from anniversaries and birthdays to bridal and baby showers. We have recently had requests for micro-weddings and elopements due to COVID as well,” Hayley adds.
Most commonly found near the dunes at the North End, Sandbridge or Chick’s Beach, each picnic creates a special and intimate ambiance with everything you need to enjoy a meal picnic-style, such as a table, pillows, dinnerware and candles. The only thing you’ll need to bring is your cuisine of choice.
The VB Picnic Co. has two picnic packages to choose from which serve up to 12 guests: one is the classic option which includes a charcuterie board from our friend and former Spotlight, Long Board Charcuterie, or you may select to picnic at the Delta VB Bayfront hotel on Shore Dr., which welcomes you to order from their restaurant, The Tin Cup. If you have a party size larger than 12, you may book a custom event.
Abbey and Hayley run the show entirely on their own and what many people don’t see is the hard work happening behind the scenes from setup to clean up. From long, sandy runs loading and unloading the equipment and decor at the beach to dishwashing and preparing for the next meetup, these two are entrepreneurs with dedication and hustle.
Abbey and Hayley hope their clients and the community enjoy the uniqueness of their event offering. “How many normal dinner reservations have you been to for your anniversary every year. This is not a dinner reservation — we create an experience and something to really remember,” Hayley shares.
Abbey says, “The VB Picnic Co. is something to do for fun. You experience the outdoors, enjoy fun decor and the luxury of having something set up for you.”
Partnerships | Community Influence
The gals make it heartwarmingly clear that they couldn’t have grown their picnic business without the support of the community. “Everyone is so willing to support; our following has blown up and we credit the community for that,” Hayley says.
“Part of our success is because of locals’ desire to spend time outdoors. We never understood the power of owning a small business, but the second we opened, we gained so much respect for others in the area,” Abbey shares.
The VB Picnic Co. now has three partnerships that add a special local flair to their offering. Long Board Charcuterie, owned by Katie Huger, has been involved since day one and Abbey and Hayley refer to their collaboration as a sister company. Abbey explains, “We launched [the business] without a real rhyme or reason and Katie saved us!” Hayley continues, “We knew we wanted to include a charcuterie board at our picnics and we began booking up so quickly… it was a natural fit. We didn’t know it would be permanent at the time but she has become such a good friend and support system.”
The sisters also use local flower shop Horticulture Design Co. for fresh arrangements which can be added to any picnic package. Their connection with Delta VB Bayfront hotel is the newest partnership and we sense only more incredible things to come.
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
The ladies’ proudest moment? “That we are a business! We are doing the damn thing. I wake up every day so proud that this is what I do for a living,” Hayley says with a smile.
Abbey explains, “We are so grateful to do this and to do it ourselves. We experienced one side of life [Corporate career] and moving into this has been a big game-changer.” Hayley jumps back in, “We help people make surprises happen and make people happy. That feels really good too.”
Business growth has been a big obstacle for the sister duo. “Keeping up with growth and taking the big steps forward have been challenging.” While growth can be difficult, it has blossomed the business in ways they didn’t expect, allowing them to purchase a van to help with storage and transportation as well as grow their team to help fulfill orders and demand.
The gals have an announcement up their sleeve and we are so excited to reveal a short mention of what’s to come! The VB Picnic Co. is expanding into retail to sell picnic staples and items you often find in their packages including beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers and more. The launch date is TBD but stay tuned to their Instagram for more details soon.
Advice for Aspiring Business Owners
What advice do they have for those looking to start a small business? “Do it!”
“Just start. It doesn’t have to be an instant, overnight success. You can start without having everything figured out. You learn as you go and you will be pushed to make decisions,” Abbey shares.
Hayley says, “Once you get the ball rolling, it will keep rolling. Starting our online boutique over the picnic co. felt more comfortable — there weren’t others to look up to as far as picnics go but the unconventional thing was far more successful.” Abbey and Hayley are a living example to keep an open mind and chase your dreams. You never know which opportunity awaits you around the corner.
Experience All The VB Picnic Co. Has to Offer
Visit their website to learn more details or book a picnic package for your next celebration or date night. You may also purchase a gift card to share with family and friends. Follow along on Instagram and Tik Tok to keep up with the gals in real-time.