Mother-Daughter in the Business of ‘Making Amazingly Beautiful Celebrations’

Camarillo, California-based Maravilla Gardens is a family legacy that evolved from lemon orchard into wedding venue
May 23, 2024 9:30 AM ET

Originally published on U.S. Bank company blog

For more than a decade, Jen Loller and her mom, Jo Maravilla, have jointly run a thriving outdoor wedding venue business while also juggling the joys and logistical challenges of a multi-generational family.

“There’s really no other way to describe running a business with your own mother than to say, our business and personal lives are interwoven. We’re not just coworkers, we are family, and support each other emotionally as well,” said Loller, whose two sons grew into adults while she helped manage Maravilla Gardens in Camarillo, California. “It’s like a big nest, as if we are birds collecting branches and building a nest to support both the business and our lives together.”

The roots of Maravilla Gardens go back to some of Loller’s earliest memories. When she was four, her parents – Jo and Tony Maravilla – purchased a lemon orchard in the Ventura County foothills. They turned it into a nursery, started up a landscaping contracting business and also built the family’s home on the property.

Pinched by the early 2000s recession, her parents decided to diversify their business by adding a wedding venue to the scenic grounds. Her father, Tony Maravilla, who designed and installed landscaping for his business, methodically created the venue grounds. Jo Maravilla, meanwhile, enlisted her knowledge of gardening, a trade she developed during her many years of running a plant nursery on the property, and turned the wedding venue into a joint project they were excited to work on as a team. In addition to running the nursery, Jo Maravilla kept the office straight for all three businesses.

During that time, Loller lived in Sacramento and was busy raising her young family. But she stayed in close touch with her parents and found that her artistic eye – Loller holds a degree in studio art – could benefit their business. She helped create a website that showcased the wedding venue’s scenic setting, doubling the number of ceremonies in a year. Within a few years the Maravillas decided to focus solely on weddings at the six-acre property. Loller and her family moved back to Camarillo in 2010 so she could jointly run the business with her mom, and today lives in her childhood home that overlooks the reception area.

“When people visit, they always comment on how the site has such an amazing flow – from the cocktail and reception areas the views overlook agricultural land that can’t be developed” because the base of the valley is a flood plain, she said.

Maravilla Gardens’ relationship with U.S. Bank began 15 years ago with predecessor company Union Bank. Over the years, Maravilla Gardens has worked with the bank for financing including a Small Business Administration loan, said Priscilla Valles, small business specialist at U.S. Bank.

“I’m honored that they trust me as an honest advisor who will always be here to support this family legacy business for years to come,” Valles said.

“There’s really no other way to describe running a business with your own mother than to say, our business and personal lives are interwoven. We’re not just coworkers, we are family, and support each other emotionally as well."

– Jen Loller, who runs Maravilla Gardens with her mom, Jo Maravilla

Camarillo’s year-round sunshine and mountain views have turned the Southern California city into a destination for outdoor weddings in recent years. While the eight permitted venues in the area are technically competitors, they’ve also banded together to help market the region. The Camarillo wedding venue community also provided immeasurable practical and emotional support to each other during the nerve-racking months when all events in the state were canceled due to Covid.

For Maravilla Gardens, the shutdown was particularly painful because the lavish landscaping needs constant attention.

“Our business is, literally, alive,” Loller said with a laugh. “We had to stay on top of all of the maintenance of the gardens even though we couldn’t hold any events.”

When the pandemic hit, Maravilla Gardens had 58 weddings booked for the 2020 season, set to begin in less than two weeks. Suddenly 58 couples, made up of 116 engaged people in the middle of their wedding planning, began calling to express anxiety, grief, and an intense annoyance over the loss of control they were experiencing, Loller said

“The wedding industry is a joyful, energetic, and vibrant business, that requires teamwork, all while guiding a host of interesting and sometimes challenging clients,” she said. “My job was to listen, support, and assist each couple in picking dates that would postpone their forthcoming nuptials to what ended up being as long as three years past their original wedding date. I found myself in the trenches, performing the role of a makeshift wedding therapist. Let’s just say that I empathized my heart out!”

Now the wedding industry is returning to a new normal, and Jo Maravilla and her daughter are starting to plan ahead. Jo Maravilla celebrated her 83rd birthday in April. While she continues to be involved in owning the business, she’s also thinking ahead to her eventual retirement.

“This property was previously owned by a member of the Camarillo family. It is now our family legacy, and the business is a big part of what my parents have built to pass on,” Loller said. “Running a business that makes amazingly beautiful celebrations possible for so many couples is an honor. Over the years couples have returned for anniversary, family, and maternity photo shoots. It is a wonderful purpose to create a setting where beautiful moments happen on very important days. It doesn’t get much better than that.”