Monday Profile: Columbus woman starts business creating outdoor date nights

Some people know what they want early on. Some people find it out as they walk, parts of their lives colliding until they stick together and create something new.

The latter includes Franshina Williams from Columbus. Her memories of her mother’s kitchen, her love of hosting gatherings, even her love of photography, all combined into her passion project: hosting luxurious picnics for couples, friends or families.

Williams, the chief teller at BankFirst’s downtown Columbus branch, last year started her fledgling business, The Picnic Ground.

“I saw the idea on social media,” she said. “But it wasn’t anywhere around here, and I thought it would be nice to get it into Golden Triangle territory. Then (the pandemic) came and I said that would be perfect because everyone would have to put their (hall) plans on hold.”

The more she thought about the idea, the better it seemed to her.

“It’s everything I’m passionate about,” she said. “I love shopping, I love photography, I love gatherings. i love it all I want couples or just anyone to get out and have fun at the park or in the comfort of their own home without having to spend a lot of money.”

Williams explained that she posts about her picnic services on social media. The basic package includes a low table complete with crockery and cutlery, rugs for seating and a blanket. Customers who want something extra can add board games and a shelter that ranges in size from a small teepee-style tent to a 10-by-12-foot gazebo.

The idea also had roots in her personal life, she said.

“Growing up, I used to see this in my mom’s kitchen,” she said. “She always set the table and I do the same in my home. (At a picnic) I’ll set the table just like that. It’s less for romance and more for a piece of home.”

Setting up a picnic takes about an hour and a half, she said. She usually meets the clients, hangs around long enough to take a few photos, and then slacks off for the rest of the two-hour date.

Most of her events have taken place at Lake Lowndes, she said, but she offers the Riverwalk as a possible location and will set it up indoors at a client’s upon request. However, some customers have their own ideas.

“I drove all the way to Tupelo and the client suggested the place,” she said. “I googled it to take a look and make sure it’s safe and pretty. I’ve been contacted by people from places as far away as Jackson, but that’s too far to drive, at least for now.”

Williams thinks the picnic idea is a good alternative to restaurants.

“A luxury picnic is just that: it’s luxury,” she said. “I don’t want to see a simple date night where you go to a restaurant. I want to see interaction, conversation, beautiful scenery, nice setup. You don’t have to go to a restaurant and just sit there and look at each other’s faces.”

While indoor setups are welcome, it’s really about being outside for Williams.

“It’s a picnic,” she said. “You should have it in the yard, in the grass.”

Nature has even found its way into the company’s name.

“I wanted the picnic to be perfect, so I came up with ‘Perfect Picnic,'” she said. “That was taken. I tried ‘Magnolia Picnic’ but that was taken. Picnics are usually on the ground, so I invented Picnic Ground.”

Being outside also presents a problem: insects. Williams said one of the first lessons she learned was to take precautions against insects.

“The first one I had was at Lake Lowndes,” she said. “They told me they enjoyed it, but the only thing that mattered was the bugs. I said I would fix it and I did. I bought the gazebo and got a hanging net to keep the bugs out. It all disassembles and folds into a bag.”

Visit The Picnic Ground wherever your social media is for more information.

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