Whether you’ve only got a few hours, want an overnight stay, or even if you’re looking for a day of family fun, Ashten Houseman thrives on taking away the stress of making plans.
Houseman, a North High School graduate who was born and raised in Springfield, launched Envelope Date in 2019 to help and encourage people to enjoy couple-time together the way she enjoys spending time with her husband.
A mom of three, Houseman says date nights have always been important to her and something she’s always looked forward to. And, in their house, she was the one who took care of planning most dates.
“I started thinking, ‘What can I do to create intimate events for people that aren’t as major as a wedding?’” Houseman says. “And I kept thinking about it and couldn’t get it out of my head, and then I was like, ‘What about date nights? People have a hard time figuring out date nights, so what if I give them itineraries?’”
To turn her idea into reality, Houseman says she reached out to Springfield’s Small Business Development Center, which she credits for propelling her forward. She says the center’s coaches supported her idea, cheered her on, and provided the direction she needed to dive into her dream.
Houseman has grown her business using social media by promoting her date nights, and favorite restaurants and activity spots on the Envelope Date Facebook page and Instagram page.
Once someone reaches out to her through social media, they start the process of requesting a date by filling out an online form in which they detail their timeframe, budget, likes, dislikes, and more.
Houseman then personally connect with clients to ask additional questions and confirm dates before locking in plans.
“It’s very much like a mystery. You get your itinerary in the mail a few days in advance of your date,” Houseman says. “Though you could open it then, I encourage people to wait to open it until they’re ready to go. It creates an element of surprise.”
A typical date night envelope includes an itinerary with a place to eat and a thing to do – something engaging that the couple can enjoy together.
Though clients can make date requests, Houseman says most don’t.
“It’s kind of fun to have free range to plan different things for different people,” she says. “I really think that at first it’s a little bit confusing for people, but then it’s like, ‘Why haven’t I always been doing that?’”
Finding inspiration from right here in Springfield, Houseman says she remembers another local entrepreneur – Betty Brown – who used to host Travels with Betty. Houseman described the travels as preplanned trips that would sell out as soon as they were announced.
Housman recalled going on one of the trips that had been planned to Cleveland and says she wants her clients to feel the same kind of excitement she had and to feel taken care of the way she did.
Though Houseman felt like she was just ramping up her business when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, she chose to spend much of the year learning and growing.
“The past year has been a lot of thinking and planning and pivoting. I didn’t know what it would look like in the future, but I wanted to have a plan,” she says. “And now, I’m hitting the ground running.”
When people couldn’t go out, Houseman was able to help a couple by planning an in-home date night for them, which included candlelight and s’mores in the fireplace.
She says she tries her best to give her clients new experiences. If local customers are up for a bit of a drive, sometimes she sends them out of town to a hip neighborhood in Columbus or Cincinnati to explore a new restaurant or activity.
And for out-of-town clients, Houseman often plans an itinerary for within Springfield and Clark County.
“It’s the Champion City, and I know when people come and give it a chance that they will find the beauty in my city and in the community and in the things that we’re doing here,” she says.
And, if a couple is looking to get even farther away, Houseman can help with that, too. Her concierge services have led her to build plans for couples and families as far away as Key West, Chicago, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C.
Want to surprise your partner? Or just don’t want to have to make one more decision? You can take advantage of Houseman’s services by connecting through social media or filling out an interest survey to get your date plans started.
In addition to individualized date planning, Houseman is also working on a monthly date night subscription box that she hopes to launch later this year.
Overall, Houseman is thankful she’s been able to pursue her dream of building her business – both because it’s fulfilling to work doing something she’s passionate about and because of the joy she finds in helping couples connect and enjoy each other’s company.
“It feels like a thing I like to do for people. It doesn’t feel so much like a job,” Houseman says. “I don’t have a typical 9 to 5. My clients are my drive. I want you to go on your date night and really enjoy yourself with no stress.”