Derby also provides opportunities for independent entrepreneurs. Sarah Havens is a Louisville native who studied theatre and costume design in college and was fascinated by the way people used hats as a form of expression. After working for theatre companies in Cincinnati, Ohio and Newport, R.I., Havens decided to start her own millinery company in Louisville earlier this year. She says the tradition of women wearing Derby hats was the main reason she returned home. Havens has a workshop in the Hope Mills Building in Germantown, and her hats are being sold at 21c Museum Hotel and the Gifthorse.
Laura Wallace of City Concierge Louisville is another entrepreneur who built her business on Derby. Wallace says she got the idea of being an independent concierge three years ago after losing her position as concierge at the Brown Hotel. During Derby week her former employer kept calling her for help, and she thought there might be an opportunity since most hotels don’t have their own concierges anymore.
Wallace made a name for herself during her first year in business when she was able to procure 12 seats on Millionaire’s Row for a client just a few days before Derby. She charges up to $55 an hour for her services, which include everything from getting someone into a jewelry store after hours to arranging limos. Wallace does business all year, but things pick up at the beginning of May.
“My friends know that Derby week is when I don’t sleep for four or five days,” Wallace says. “There are no dinners or going out to parties for Laura. When Derby comes I’ll get a lot of last minute calls from people who want impossible things and it’s my job to try and make the impossible happen.”