RACINE — Please be seated.
Ciara Ready, a Racine native, may have revolutionized sitting on the grass and sharing a meal together along Lake Michigan with her new business, X-Clusive Picnics.
Gone are the days of balancing plates on your lap. Ready assembles pop-up picnic settings with handmade tables, fluffy pillows, a lush rug and other decorations to make outdoor — and indoor — dining more than just a quick bite. They can be set up at outdoor locations, like North Beach, or even indoor locations like a living room.
“To be able to enjoy the environment, listen to birds chirping. It’s beautiful to just sit outside and enjoy friendship, family,” said Ready, 35, as she looked out at the water near Samuel Myers Park, where she had set up an example of a picnic setting.
‘An aha moment’
Ready is a full-time registered nurse with three children. She said she got the idea to start a new business for picnic settings earlier in March and opened for bookings in June.
“It was kind of like an ah-ha moment,” Ready said. “I was scrolling on TikTok and started seeing these different event planners doing the picnic idea because of the pandemic.”
TikTok picnics are yet another trend hailing from the app. The COVID-19 pandemic called for more outdoor activities, and users got creative; they transformed regular blanket-on-the-grass picnic settings to full-blown ambient, too-pretty-to-eat-at spreads.
“I always had, like, a passion to decorate … For my children’s birthdays and whatnot, I’ll go all out with decoration,” Ready said.
The picnic settings are perfect for proposals, date nights, girls’ nights, even movie nights — anything calling for a little bit more than just paper plates and napkins.
But they can also be set up “just because,” Ready said.
“Who doesn’t like eating?” she said, laughing.
Passing it down
Ready is one of 12 children. Her younger sister, Lashonda Russell, has worked side-by-side with her, though they are not yet official business partners. It’s more of a sister thing.
“I’ve been looking up to her ever since I was younger,” Russell, 28, said. “I’m her number one fan.”
Ready got her creativity from her mother, who draws, among other artsy endeavors. Watching HGTV and pinning things to her Pinterest board has also helped Ready develop her creative side.
But besides having an eye for aesthetics, Ready thanks her mother for her work ethic.
“I remember growing up, and she worked very hard. Seeing her … struggle, because it’s 12 of us,” Ready said. “The most important thing is that she raised us the best that she could. … Some of us have veered in the direction of picking those qualities up from her.”
“The focus and determination,” Russell chimed in.
At a time when loved ones are able to come together safely again, Ready said she wants to be able to provide intimate settings for those special moments.
“It’s how people catch up with each other, especially after quarantine,” Ready said. “Gathering around the table, I feel like, it’s so important, because that’s how conversations are built, memories are built.”
Ready said she plans to remain a nurse while owning her business. Her current goal is to “focus on right now. Later, I’ll build on the foundation.”
X-Clusive Picnics can personalize picnic settings for pretty much any occasion.