Stephanie Stevens, Owner & CEO of Bell Gate Farm, is the mastermind behind a state-of-the-art event venue built into a historic & rustic bank barn in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Lehigh Valley. She is truly the design, marketing, and creative force of a relatively new business which generated reputable accolades instantly.
"Bell Gate Farm is by no means boring and with Stephanie’s production background she works directly with clients to come up with imaginative ways to make their event stand out. "
She was told it couldn’t be done. But prior to the inception of Bell Gate Farm, Stephanie worked her way up, in a record 3 months, from Receptionist to Account Supervisor in New York City at one of the top advertising firms in the world.
It wasn’t until a touch of fate in a Manhattan bar one night, that Stephanie landed her dream job of Executive Producer in the Experiential Marketing world, which at the time was a new phenomenon, that had the power to reach a large portion of a consumer base and hold attention for an average of 12 minutes as opposed to traditional marketing’s 60 second media buys. It was a game changer for the marketing world.
She held the privilege of creating and producing the experiential marketing plans for some of the most reputable and respected blue-chip companies in and around the world: American Express, Microsoft, Virgin Mobile, Johnson & Johnson, and Marriott to name a few. Their demand for innovative initiatives to reach their consumers tasked her with producing events never done before. As such, she was introduced to extremely talented artists like Sting and Lady Gaga, and had the extreme pleasure of working on a team with some of the greatest minds in the marketing business to execute seemingly impossible events like: taking over the entirety of Times Square for the Microsoft Kinect launch; which featured 500 perfectly choreographed pop up dancers and a live performance by Lady Sovereign and Ne-Yo, a Grand Opening Sale for Toys R Us at midnight, a VIP afterparty at the Hard Rock Café, the largest ever media buy on the giant screens and the first ever non Toys R Us advertisement on theirs, a Media Event with Mark Wahlberg, and Modular House Build Outs where consumers and media alike could experience the product. All of these were happening at the same time, on the same day, in the most traveled and difficult to permit area of Manhattan with just 3 weeks of prep time. A producer is responsible for every element, every line item, every budget number, every staff member, absolutely everything, and Stephanie rose to the occasion every time. It takes a great deal of courage, ability to multi-task, and just enough crazy to pull off. 16 years based in New York and travelling around the country to produce events like the one mentioned above, taught Stephanie that anything is possible. Any splendid result can be done, at any time, with the right experience and the ingenuity of the perfect team.
“In my years in experiential marketing, I became an expert in creating something out of nothing. If we needed a stage in an empty field, I was the one who was relied on to know the proper regulations, supplies needed and how to flawlessly execute that event on time, on budget, and with great satisfaction to my clients and their consumers. A large part of executing an event is by thoughtfully considering the ‘what ifs,’ and being ready to tackle potential problems head on,” says Stephanie. “I translated this knowledge into Bell Gate Farm from the start by being prepared for any kind of event from major headliners to kids birthday parties. We have built in speakers and enough power both internally and exteriorly to ensure there are no issues for 3rd party vendors. The space can be turnkey, or a blank slate based on the vision of the client. We can, have, and will host every event imaginable.” Stephanie wanted Bell Gate Farm to be a place where the seemingly impossible was possible, at a more affordable price, and with more value than her competitors.
Too often, specifically in the wedding industry, which has become our most often held event, prices are hiked solely because of the word “wedding”. She knows, because she personally tested it. The market is notorious for over charging clients and being so restrictive in their services that clients feel boxed in, like their event is cookie cutter, or unimaginative. Bell Gate Farm is by no means boring, and with Stephanie’s production background she works directly with clients to come up with imaginative ways to make their event stand out.
One client with an affinity for Blue Man Group held a birthday party and Stephanie created an enclosed tent with UV lights inside so guests could don a painter’s outfit over their party gear and splatter paint every which way to their hearts content. After the party, the canvas used as the tent, was a beautiful take away for the birthday girl. It’s not uncommon to drive down Bell Gate Road and see a myriad of large glamping tents set up in Parker’s Pixie Hollow. This area was a nod to a client with an affinity for the Gilmore Girls. Unique and one of a kind events is what Bell Gate Farm does best. “You don’t just sign a contract and walk away until event time here,” says Stevens, “we are working with clients right up and through event day because we want them to show up and feel just as relaxed as a guest.”
Stephanie’s experience as an Executive Producer also taught her a lot about humanity and corporate America. She wanted to create a business model no other company has quite figured out how to do; a true non-hierarchical organization where staff feel like family and have a genuine work life balance. Every ad agency in the country has a page in their new business presentations which highlights that very idea, but in Stephanie’s experience, it wasn’t ever implemented, not really. Instead it was more of a rallying cry. She was going to change that.
In fact, Stephanie puts both her staff and clients top of mind in everything she does. In a business world where “being nice” is often frowned upon, it is the sole tenant to Stephanie’s philosophy, one she won’t apologize for or compromise on, and it is the reason Bell Gate Farm has seen such a tremendous amount of success so quickly. Awards like Best Event Venue in Bell Gate’s infancy, and every year since, were not as exciting to her as the award for Best Small Business to work for and Most Creative Venue in her hometown, the Lehigh Valley.
At the start of Bell Gate Farm Stephanie took an insanely small marketing budget of $1000 and turned it into a media buy valued at 20 times that by using her real-life story as a way to create buzz. At that time, Stephanie had suffered several tragic and monumental life changes in just six months. The loss of her Mother whilst pregnant, the dissolution of her months-old marriage, raising a beautiful baby essentially as a single parent, no real income coming in, and the prospect that her childhood home could be lost within a few years if she stood by and did nothing. Instead of bowing under that pressure, she used that intense emotive grief to tell a personal story, and it not only worked, but it also helped others in similar or same circumstances stand up and say, “all is not lost, I too can triumph in the face of adversity”. Stephanie is proof that a successful business can also be personal.
An ardent supporter of philanthropy like her parents before her, Stephanie supports small businesses like Yoga Lab, Sonnie Glass, and Family Made Soaps and Such by offering the grounds at no charge for sales or class purposes. Through donating the space, she has helped local non-profit organizations raise over 2 million dollars in the last three years. Organizations include: Truth for Women, VAST, The American Cancer Society, The Leukemia Lymphoma Society, and multiple animal shelters to name a few.
Stephanie transformed her childhood home into the business that it is today by being innovative, hardworking, hands on, and determined. No woman is an island. Stephanie realizes that everyone who has touched her professional career from mentors to employees is part of her great success and she thanks them whole heartedly.
Thus, Stephanie is able to maintain the property and farm out the 233.3 acres it sits upon so it can remain open space as her father intended, precisely because she used adversity to her advantage. By all accounts, Bell Gate Farm is a love story. It is an homage and a monument of sorts to the love Stephanie had for her parents, and the new love she found within her beautiful daughter, Parker.IE
Owner & CEO of Bell Gate Farm
Bell Gate Farm was once one of 3 of the largest farms in Pennsylvania, and visitors would travel hundreds of miles to visit these pastoral lands. Situated and nestled at the bottom of a Valley further reinforces what we know historically about the property. Built upon a spring would have given the occupants plenty of water and the resources needed to survive the daily structure of life like cooking, smoking meats, and keeping perishable foods cold.