Listen to the Podcast About The Hidden Tower Event Center

Podcast for The Hidden Tower Event Center

Podcast Summary

Kaci DeSpain, operations manager of The Hidden Tower Events Center, joined host Tina Naponelli to discuss her transition from the world of finance to an entrepreneurial journey in the event industry. DeSpain, who is also the operations manager of The Lab in Keokuk, Iowa, shared her backstory that saw her using her degree in Business Management from Luther College to land a job in finance.

While working a full-time job, Kaci completed her Master’s in Business Administration. It was during this time that a unique property on the outskirts of her hometown came up for sale. Being passionate about event planning and sports, she saw an opportunity to amalgamate both interests, and along with her parents, turned their dream into reality. They developed a small wedding venue and an athletic complex that became The Hidden Tower Event Center and The Lab.

With her parents being business owners, DeSpain had the support to take the significant leap of faith required to transition from the corporate finance world to owning an events center. The Hidden Tower Event Center and The Lab opened their doors in July 2023. Amid all the excitement, DeSpain admits the transition was equally scary but entirely worth it.

In conclusion, DeSpain’s inspiring journey showcases how one can successfully bring their passion to life. Her achievements underscore the success The Hidden Tower Event Center has had, making it the go-to place for those aiming for unforgettable experiences in Keokuk, Iowa.

Learn more about The Hidden Tower Event Center

This interview was provided by Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos

Podcast Transcript

Tina (00:24)
All right, welcome Kaci. Thanks for being here. Absolutely. So we have got Kaci DeSpain on today. Kaci is the operations manager of The Hidden Tower and The Lab in Keokuk, Iowa. Did I say that right? I just asked you again. Keokuk, okay. Where she was born and raised as well. Kaci graduated from Keokuk.

Kaci DeSpain (00:27)
I’m glad to be here.

Yep, you got it.

Tina (00:48)
high school in 2017 and then went on to play basketball and study business at Luther College, graduating with a bachelor’s in business management in 2021. After graduating, she moved back to her hometown, Keokuk, and started working in finance. While working full time, she completed her master’s degree in business administration in 2022. And shortly after that, after completing her master’s, a unique property popped up for sale on the edge of her hometown.

Kasey had always had a love for event planning and a strong passion for sports. And she always dreamt about incorporating both of those into her everyday life, but never knew how that would be possible. So this unique property helped her envision that reality. And in December of 2022, the property was purchased and they immediately got to work developing a small wedding venue and a small athletic complex on the same property.

Kaci DeSpain (01:30)

Tina (01:44)
The Hidden Tower and The Lab opened their doors in July of 2023 and they never looked back. What a cool background. So I kind of want to know first about this leap from the finance world into events and wedding. How was that transition?

Kaci DeSpain (01:52)

Yeah, so when I was still in my undergrad at Luther College, I was home for one of my breaks and I was just chatting with my parents and this property was actually for sale at that time. And we just got to talking about, my gosh, all these things you could do out there. Like there’s so many.

Tina (02:19)

Kaci DeSpain (02:20)
things and like I had said I have a very strong passion for event planning. I’ve always loved sports and that’s kind of where me and my parents took this wild idea. At the time it was just an idea.

Tina (02:30)

Kaci DeSpain (02:34)
And my dad had originally built a couple buildings that were on this property years and years and years ago. So that was their big interest for it because he knew what was in it and the layout and kind of what you would be purchasing for the property. But again, it was just an idea, not realistic. I saw two years of school left and I went back to school, went back to my original plan, finished school, got my job in finance. And my parents just one day were like, hey, remember that really crazy

Tina (02:40)

Kaci DeSpain (03:04)
idea that we came up with that property has a chance to be back up for sale what you think would you be in you know and it

Tina (03:13)

Kaci DeSpain (03:14)
from there. So it was a lot of thinking, a very big leap of faith. But both my parents have been business owners their whole life. And I feel like that was a little bit more of a comfort for me to be able to take that big leap of faith because I wasn’t doing it 100 % alone. I was going to have some backup. So it was scary, but super exciting. And it’s totally been worth it.

Tina (03:17)


Mm -hmm.


Absolutely. I’m sure you have learned a lot from them as well in the process too.

Kaci DeSpain (03:42)
my God, I have learned so much and I continue to learn so much every single day.

Tina (03:48)
So when you said in the background that I was reading, so when you said they, so you three own the property, is that correct? And then do they help you work the events as well or do you have a team over there?

Kaci DeSpain (03:54)
Yes. Yes.

Yes, so they do help work some events. They’re very busy with with their other jobs and their other businesses, but they do like to be out here as much as possible, especially my dad with the sports side. He’s a sportsman. He loves being on that side and my mom has always loved a bit planning and decorating and all that stuff, so she really likes help on the other side. So I kind of have one for each, but then we do. We have a small little staff that.

Tina (04:04)
I bet.



Kaci DeSpain (04:27)
helps for events and everything else. But it’s just the three of us for day -to -day operations. Yes. Yes.

Tina (04:29)

Wow, that’s awesome. Very cool. Very cool. Now, so I think we can all, you know, imagine what the difference is between your finance background and then events and even sports as well. But how are those worlds coming together and how are they alike and how are you using all of your talents now?

Kaci DeSpain (04:52)
Yes, so different, but yeah, so alike. It’s kind of the same planning process for both, right? And I’ve learned, you know, I kind of, when I first started it, I was like, here’s this gym. It’s going to be used for volleyball tournaments and basketball tournaments and all of that, which it is, and that’s great. But it’s also, you know, it is a hit for little kids’ birthday parties. And…

Tina (05:09)

my gosh, yeah.

Kaci DeSpain (05:15)
sports banquets and just different things like that. So it’s kind of cool how seeing the gym being an event hall as well. So I feel like they’re really almost two in the same. It’s what preference do you want? You know, are you going to rent something on the sporty side when kids can run crazy or on the elegant side or some people do both. So it just depends. Yeah.

Tina (05:25)


Right. That’s so nice. Very cool. Yeah, everybody’s got some options and that’s definitely appealing to probably people that are coming on and looking, right?

Kaci DeSpain (05:51)
Yes, absolutely, absolutely. And it can be a little confusing sometimes because there are two different businesses on one property, and you’re only a year in, so it’s still getting everybody familiar with this is this, this is that, but we’re all one.

Tina (05:54)


Absolutely. Now how did you come up with the names for most of them?

Kaci DeSpain (06:09)
Yeah, so The Hidden Tower, that one took us a while. We kind of didn’t, we’ve tossed so many ideas around, but this property has been around for years and years and years. And there’s still a water tower on the property from like the late 1800s. It’s been here forever. Yeah. And you can see it from the highway, but when you’re at our venue, you can just kind of barely see it peeping over the trees.

Tina (06:20)

my gosh.


Kaci DeSpain (06:35)
So that’s kind of where that’s come from. We’ve had a lot of fun ideas of how to possibly vamp it up and move it and stuff, but again, it’s been around since the late 1890s. That’s been a little bit of a process.

Tina (06:45)
Right? Wow.

Kaci DeSpain (06:49)
But then The Lab, we came up with that just because there’s not a ton of youth sports in our area as much as there was. And so we really wanted to try to build something back up and be able to create an opportunity for younger athletes with their athletic development. And so it’s kind of, you know, your athletic skills are being developed in The Lab. That was kind of the thought process behind that.

Tina (06:59)
Mm -hmm.

Very cool. Nice. All righty. And now so do you host events in the Hidden Tower as well or is that strictly weddings?

Kaci DeSpain (07:25)
Nope, we host other types of events too and we rent it out for pretty much anything. We have had a lot of banquets, we just had prom, our grad season is popular out here as well. So we do a little bit of everything, but we also like to put on some of our own stuff. We’ve had a couple comedians here that have…

Tina (07:34)
I’m fine.

That’s cool.

Kaci DeSpain (07:45)
We’re super fun and we plan to continue that throughout the winter months. And then we have a, you know, a dead night in the summer. We’ll have a band out here every once in a while or something like that. So we try to have a little bit of our own fun out here when it’s not being rented. Yeah.

Tina (07:50)

Absolutely, definitely necessary as well. How big is the town?

Kaci DeSpain (08:07)
So Keokuk is not very big. I don’t even know. I feel like the last thing I saw or said our population was a little over 9 ,000 and I would think it might be even a little bit smaller than that. I don’t know if we are quite that big. But we are as far south in the state of Iowa as you could possibly imagine. A lot of people haven’t heard of it. We call ourselves the Florida of Iowa because we’re that little.

Tina (08:10)


Mm -hmm.

my gosh. That’s hilarious.

Kaci DeSpain (08:34)
border Illinois and Missouri. We’re five minutes, five minutes Missouri. So.

Tina (08:36)
Okay. Nice. What like big town are you closest to?

Kaci DeSpain (08:43)
Depends on what you classify as a big town. We’re two hours and 45 minutes from St. Louis. Yeah, and then I would say Iowa City like an hour and a half hour 40. No.

Tina (08:46)

that’s not bad at all. That’s good. Now we’ve got a little bit more of a perception then. Perfect. And I guess what size, I’m not talking about size, what size are each event spaces and what’s the capacities that you can hold at each of them?

Kaci DeSpain (09:03)

So our event center with tables, chairs, set up, all of that, our capacity is 300. Depending on the type of event, I might recommend a different size. Like with weddings, I always say 280, just because weddings always have a lot more of the extra tables and stuff like that, so I always say 280. Our capacity in the gym is like 542. It’s a full -size college gym, so she’s very nice and spacey.

Tina (09:20)


Holy cow.

Kaci DeSpain (09:43)
And again, depends on your event. You’re not going to fit 542 people in there when there’s a basketball game going on. But depending on the type of event, we could fit up to 542 people in there.

Tina (09:48)

That’s awesome. That is definitely massive. I got to come out and see the spot one time soon. Very cool. Now, probably, you know, you’ll have a lot of answers for this, but What makes each of your venues unique and what makes them stand out?

Kaci DeSpain (10:00)
Yes, yes, absolutely.

Yeah, I think it’s unique because like I said, we’re in a small town and there’s not too many venues in our area. There’s some, but there’s not a lot. So we’re kind of unique in its own, especially to Keokuk because Keokuk doesn’t have really any wedding venues or large venues like that.

Tina (10:31)
Mm -hmm.

Kaci DeSpain (10:32)
But I think we’re unique because of where we’re located. We’re on 43 acres. We’re like hidden back here. Again, hence The Hidden Tower. We’re hidden back here, but yet we’re literally just right off the highway. So it’s not far at all. So it’s kind of one of those where if you’re looking to escape the big and the crazy and you want something calm, it’s definitely very relaxed and big and open, but you can be right back into town and find it.

Tina (10:43)



Kaci DeSpain (11:02)
Five minutes, you know?

Tina (11:03)
Very cool.

Kaci DeSpain (11:04)
And so, yeah, I think that makes us unique. And I think that the fact that my dad built some of the buildings out here way, way back when I was literally a baby, it makes it super cool and unique. And I don’t know, I’m just excited because of where we’re located. We have so much room to grow and and make big changes and we still are making big changes. You know, we’re only we’re not even a year into all of this yet. So we’ve got a lot to still do out here.

Tina (11:13)
Mm -hmm.


That’s really cool. It seems like a really special place for sure. You have space for like a hotel even right there. Right? Yes. Wow. Like people literally would not have to go anywhere. Just come for the weekend for the wedding. You don’t even have to leave. That’s awesome. Stay tuned. I love that. All right. So segueing a little bit more into specifically weddings.

Kaci DeSpain (11:40)
Right, right. There’s all kinds of things you can do out here. So you can see behind me, like, look at all this.

That’s kind of what we’re thinking. So you never know, maybe someday.

Tina (12:03)
I wanna talk about some trends that you’re seeing. I feel like everyone’s trying to like stand out these days, right? Especially on social media, with content and whatnot. So what are you seeing? Couples do now.

Kaci DeSpain (12:13)
Yeah, I feel the same way. I feel like a lot of people are trying to stand out and do their own thing, but yet I feel like everything is becoming so simple. I feel like it’s not as, I don’t want to say over the top. I feel like it’s very simple and plain and elegant, but I always feel like there’s dramatic florals. I just.

Tina (12:23)

Yes, I’ve been hearing that lately.

Kaci DeSpain (12:37)
Yup, I just feel like there’s always a lot of florals and everything else is pretty simple. And then I feel like the candid photos and you see all the apps with the polaroids and all of that has become even more popular than what it has been. I feel like that’s been a trend for a while now.

Tina (12:48)

Right. And even only being in the industry for, you know, a little over a year, right? I’m sure things have changed so much even in the last year.

Kaci DeSpain (13:02)
It has and I’ve gotten married within, you know, the last year or so. So I feel like so much has changed just since I’ve started my wedding planning, which really wasn’t that long ago. It’s crazy how much things change.

Tina (13:06)
Yeah. wow. That’s awesome. Seriously. I bet.

Absolutely. That’s what makes this industry fun, that’s who, you know. There’s always something to learn.

Kaci DeSpain (13:21)
It is. Nothing, no two events are ever alike. They’re always so different and that’s what I like and with like the last few events I’ve had out here, I’m like, this is just so fun because I feel like it’s, you know, so different than anything I’ve seen before and so it’s fun.

Tina (13:25)

Thank you.

Right, seriously. So what trends are you loving to see lately?

Kaci DeSpain (13:42)
I love… Hmm. That’s a good question.

I don’t know. I really like it, the trend of keeping it all in one space. People not really doing no dramatic change with like ceremony and reception. Like you walk into the ceremony and everything is there. I just think that’s a really fun.

Tina (13:53)


Kaci DeSpain (14:08)
less stressful trend for a lot of people that I’ve, especially now working in weddings, you really love that. You love it when people do that route because it makes everybody breathe a little bit more. But I love that. And then have you heard of like the Lotus drinks? They’re really popular down here.

Tina (14:10)
100%. Right. Yep.

So true.



Kaci DeSpain (14:30)
And it’s like a plant -based energy drink, I guess you could. So a lot of people have been incorporating, like, Lotus trailers at their wedding for like, or like having it at their bar and having like that incorporated with their signature drinks, which I think is fun. It’s something different. You know, have your alcohol, you have your caffeine, and some people mix it, you know, put it together. So I think that that’s something that’s been kind of different and fun too.

Tina (14:33)

I’m funny.

Fun. Yeah.

Absolutely. Some people need that. Very cool. Yeah. I love that. I’ve been loving like the more non -traditional stuff lately, right? I feel like people are kind of like doing what they want, finally, right?

Kaci DeSpain (15:06)
Yes, yes, I do too. I think a lot of the traditions have kind of went window.

Tina (15:11)
Yeah, thank goodness. So what trends are you not loving lately and what’s like something kind of cringe that you’ve seen lately?

Kaci DeSpain (15:23)
Yeah, I don’t I guess I don’t know maybe how much of a trend trends they still are but I’ve I’ve just never loved the garter toss I I just don’t I could never I don’t like to I don’t I don’t love the choreographed dances I

Tina (15:31)
Yes, I hear you. It’s so uncomfortable.

Thank you.

No, you don’t like this?

Kaci DeSpain (15:48)
When like a father -daughter does it things like that, but again, it’s just cuz like I would be too embarrassed to do it So when other people do it, I’m just like, yeah

Tina (15:55)
Makes you sweat. Step out of the room for that one. Too funny. But what advice can you give couples that are just starting out on this journey trying to find venues and also even just trying to find any type of wedding vendors?

Kaci DeSpain (16:04)

Yeah, if you think you’re early, you’re probably not. Which is true. It’s kind of crazy how far out the wedding industry books. I think that again, I didn’t really realize until I started playing my own wedding and then opening this business. But when my fiance and I were looking, we didn’t have this place yet. So we were looking at other venues and we thought we were way ahead of the game. We were looking a year and a half out from when we were.

Tina (16:18)

Mm -hmm.

my gosh. Yeah. Slim pickings. Jeez.

Kaci DeSpain (16:44)
and we were wrong. We were wrong. There was slim pickings. So my suggestion is just get the big things done right away. Know what you want and get those booked right away and then the rest will fall into place.

Tina (16:57)

100%. Where do you think that like couples should really invest in these days? What areas?

Kaci DeSpain (17:08)
I think that…

You want a venue that’s going to have somebody that’s going to be there the day of your wedding to kind of help coordinate things. I didn’t realize how big and helpful that truly is, is to have somebody kind of running around and doing a lot for you and kind of being your communicator. And then personal opinion, I think investing in the photos is worth it. Photos and the video. I know a lot of people toss around the idea of doing a video of their wedding and

Tina (17:34)

Kaci DeSpain (17:41)
I highly recommend it. Highly.

Tina (17:43)
Right, I’ve had a lot of people that just like say they don’t care about the video. I’m like, but what are you gonna do in 15 years? How are you gonna remember it? Yeah.

Kaci DeSpain (17:52)
That’s what I say, I like invest in a good photographer and do the video. I was like, cause you’ll be happy to have it down the road.

Tina (17:56)
I agree.

I agree for sure. What are I guess random like three questions that you think couples should be asking right off the bat either at a venue or to any type of vendor as well or asking themselves even.

Kaci DeSpain (18:11)
Yes. Definitely kind of like what you just asked. I think you should definitely think about what is important to you and kind of prioritize that list before you start booking because the cost can add up pretty fast. So kind of know where you want to put the money. And then I also think it’s important to ask any vendor about how like

Tina (18:28)

Kaci DeSpain (18:39)
deposits work if they want paid up front if they want paid of all of that because nobody’s the same Everybody is super different so kind of knowing what we want and kind of keeping track of all of that because You’ll have a lot of different people to to pay and it’s not the same

Tina (18:47)

All right. Great advice. Very good advice for sure. Now tell me a little bit about the planning process at your venues right off the bat. Kind of like the booking and the planning process with you all.

Kaci DeSpain (19:10)
Yeah, so we always encourage people to come out here and actually see the space for themselves, especially since a lot of people haven’t been out here before. So we give them the full tour of everything along with our pricing sheet. And so we have three different prices and it all just depends on.

Tina (19:26)
Mm -hmm.

Kaci DeSpain (19:31)
what day of the week you’re wanting to get married. If it’s a weekday, a Friday, a Saturday, that kind of will change your pricing along with, you know, if you want it, do you want it for the weekend or do you just want it for the day? You know, that changes your pricing, too. So we kind of go over all of that in detail and then kind of, I always kind of mention to them to start thinking about their bar and beverages and stuff like that because…

Tina (19:42)


Kaci DeSpain (19:59)
We asked a lot of questions sooner than you think.

Tina (20:02)
The most important part.

Kaci DeSpain (20:04)
The most important part, you have fun. And then I just kind of go through how the contract works. So to secure your date, I give them a calendar to kind of look at, you know, this is what our availability is. If they see a date they want to secure the date, we just require that half of the total amount is due to secure that date. So you got to pay half upfront. And then the other 50 percent isn’t due until 60 days before your wedding, which once you’re 60 days out from your wedding,

I will reach out, we schedule a meeting, we sit down, we go through the layout, the tablecloths, the extra tables, you know, your head table, when you’re getting in to get ready, decorate, all that fun stuff. So I try not to make them have to think about it too much when they’re here for the first time, but kind of let them know, like those are all the things you go over later on. So.

Tina (20:52)

Yeah, absolutely. Very cool. Thanks for sharing that. And you’re giving viewers 10% off packages from this podcast, right? Yes. So nice. Very cool.

Kaci DeSpain (21:07)
Yes, I am. So yeah, look after podcast 10 % off.

Tina (21:13)
Very cool. And so where can they find you to inquire to book what’s the best way to reach out?

Kaci DeSpain (21:17)
Yes, so the best way to reach out is through our website, which is and just reaching out to us through our contact page. We usually get back within 24 hours, whether it’s via phone via email. We always ask people to tell us their preference. So that’s probably the easiest way to get ahold of us. The second easiest way is our phone numbers on that website, too. So feel free to give the office a call or people love to reach out to us through Facebook. So reach out to us through Facebook or

Instagram. We’ll respond to those as well.

Tina (21:50)
Perfect, there you have it. Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

Kaci DeSpain (21:55)
I don’t think I can think of anything right now.

Tina (21:58)
Well, thank you so much for hopping on, Kaci.

Kaci DeSpain (22:01)
Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

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