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Lauren Wiehe of The Louisburro: Judy, Marty, Lou + Jolene Deliver!

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Donkeys don’t usually come to mind as an animal that obeys commands and follows orders. They’re thought of as stubborn, persnickety and obstinate. But Lauren Wiehe has an incredibly different outlook on these long-eared creatures that she loves to the ninth degree, with four of them living on her Louisburg, Kansas, farm. She is so sure of their dedication and hard work that she and her husband, Eric, have based a business on them, The Louisburro, to hire for events such as weddings and deliver drinks, food or favors to attendees.

“We made the official decision to create The Louisburro in November 2021 and began our LLC in February 2022. The donkeys live on our property as our pasture pets. Our business objective is to bring something special and unique to give your event the extra edge that helps create memories for family and friends,” she shared. “My husband and I come as a team to each event and our children, Nolan, eight, and Dean, six, help around the farm to earn extra money for all their fishing gear. One of our marketing taglines is ‘Donkeys that deliver.’

Lauren refers to her furry “employees” as donkeys or donks, although “burro” can be used; it’s the Spanish word for these little critters. She laughs that the alliterations of Beer Burro or Beverage Burro do have a certain charm and fit these creatures to a T.

Wedding festivities are a big part of her business but clients have also called upon these four-legged beings for couple showers, baby showers, graduation parties, pop-up happy hours and more. “If you can dream it, we can probably make it happen,” she described. “The donkeys typically join in for cocktail hour to serve beverages and help engage guests. Selfies are one of the donk’s specialties.” Working hours for the team are between one to one-and-a-half hours per event.

The Louisburro is focused on working with brides to seamlessly add the donkeys to the event theme. Many couples send their vision boards or colors so that Lauren and Eric can work them into the donkeys’ ensemble. For their presentations, each donkey is groomed to perfection, fully sudsed up and blow dried for a neat and clean appearance. “We’ve done Fourth of July themes, fiestas, disco. We’ve had a Friday, October 13 wedding with cobwebs and bats on the costumes,” she noted. “We tell clients that they shouldn’t be hesitant to ask because we want to fit your aesthetic.” Lauren adds that another part of her business is her wholesale peony farm also located on her Louisburg acreage. Down the road, the couple plans to add a u-pick peony patch to the farm.
With a nod to her love of great musical talent, her four donkeys are named Judy Garland, Martin “Marty” Short, Jolene (named for Dolly Parton’s relationship nemesis) and Lou after Louis Armstrong. Two are trained as delivery animals and one is in the process. Baby Lou is offered for lots of petting and love.

Lauren and Eric train the donkeys to carry coolers that are holders across their backs and deliver bottles of wine, sodas, beers and other liquid refreshments. She notes that it is a trial-and-error process as they expand the donkeys’ offerings to guests. On the horizon is the potential of carrying a flat appetizer tray on their backs, which will take a considerable amount of training.
“At first, training is just walking them and getting them used to walking with us. Then we slowly add weight on their back,” Lauren advised. “We use a reward system of carrots and peppermints to train them. We also try to get them used to noise and being around kids and fast motion.”

Lauren points out that the use of donkeys as delivery animals for events is common in her hometown of Houston, Texas. The concept of using them for weddings has been in the works in the hill country of that region for quite some time. But when she moved north to the Kansas City region she told her husband, who grew up on a large family farm in Piper, Kansas, that is still in operation, that a barnyard full of animals must be in the picture.

“I told my husband that if he moved me to the country as soon as our kids were in school full time I would be requiring a farm with all the animals,” she recalled. “Having animals is therapy to me. It brings peace to me. The donkeys are not difficult to care for. People are gushing and excited to see them at events, and it brings income to my family. We are as busy as we want to be and we’re booking far in advance. We make family plans first and then book up the business.”

Lauren had many animals growing up in Texas but she shares that her understanding of the positivity animals can bring was fully recognized during her time as an educator. “I taught junior high special education and coached volleyball, basketball and tennis. I had and still have a new puppy that started to go to school with me a few days a week,” she stated. “I had several students that hardly said a word in class, mostly scared of being made fun of and afraid to be called on. When my puppy, Petey, would come to school, our quiet students blossomed. After that year, my co-teacher and I added several animals to our classroom, including a rabbit named Bun-bun, a rose-hair tarantula and a hedgehog. We could see a positive mood change for students any time the animals were involved. Students became conversational who otherwise rarely spoke.”

She observes this same behavior with guests that she serves through The Louisburro. Smiles race across faces and conversations begin flowing about these furry servers that might be decked out in a tux or another type of costume matching the bridal theme. They also come equipped with diapers just in case of accidents. “They allow people to interact with each other in situations that they otherwise might not strike up a conversation with a stranger,” she said. “It takes the anxiety out of the small talk or going to an event in which you might not know anyone. Subtle animal therapy and entertainment in one package.”

Though some owners and breeders claim donkeys are not stubborn, they do have minds of their own, and Lauren adamantly states that her donkeys are obstinate. “It’s their personality, and they are not afraid to let me know, gently, when they aren’t happy,” she remarked. “Carrots and peppermint treats motivate them. But at the end of the day, I remind all clients that they are animals and I cannot make them do anything.” She is also quick to point out that not every donkey’s personality is a fit for her business and that disposition is engrained in them at an early age.

But donkeys possess many positive traits that make them perfect for this type of work and the foundation for Lauren’s profitable business. She notes they are one of the easiest and most docile farm animals to work with. “I often tell friends that donkeys are easier to care for than a dog or kids. Water and hay and they are good to go. They thrive with human interaction and each one has a
unique personality.”

While this type of business might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Lauren’s ability to make a success of an off-the-wall idea and build it into a solid enterprise is impressive. Many entrepreneurs look for something that sets them apart from the competition but Lauren hit that goal out of the barnyard. Her advice for others rings true for all business people no matter the mission.
“Stay true to your vision. Be flexible and open to new ideas. Do the weird thing. If everyone looks at you like you’re crazy, you’re headed in the right direction,” she noted. “You don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes you have to pivot, but don’t compromise, and don’t say yes to everything. For me, some things aren’t in the best interest of your business and your animals.”

For particular groups looking for success that The Louisburro can help bring, she shares these ideas. “For brides, do what makes you happy for your big day. Tune everything else out. For potential clients, choose something that will make your day memorable for you. Each event we do is so incredibly unique. From a backyard barbecue birthday to black tie events, we can help make your day exceptionally unique. Make it work for everything but it may not be for everyone. For entrepreneurs, do the weird thing.”

One of the most beloved donkeys for children and adults is Eeyore from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. “Thanks for noticin’ me” was one of the most memorable lines from that book published in 1926 and was voiced by Eeyore. While most Pooh characters are happy, Eeyore, with his tail attached by a pin, reads a bit gloomy. But his responses can be a delightful juxtaposition to the other characters’ dialogue. While Judy, Marty, Jolene and Lou at The Louisburro can be very obstinate and stubborn, even for small creatures, Lauren claims that “noticin’” this team will not be an issue.
“My first donkey that we still own came home in the back of my Infiniti SUV. We drove two hours to pick up that first donkey,” she said. “They’re our pets. Every morning when we feed them, they like to be loved. They like to be talked to. They’re such docile animals. I would say a donkey in general is kind of low key at home. They’re just not a lot of work or not a lot of effort. People love them.”

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