Home » 2015 » January

Rental Business Ideas: Tents

Looking for an almost sure-fire rental business in almost any geographic region?

Tent rental is as close as it gets.

The Market

When there are large events or parties going on tents are needed for comfort and protection from sun and rain. Very few people own a 20’x40′ tent due to the purchase price and the rarity with which they are used, so they must rent one.

The market for tent rental includes personal parties, such as graduation parties and weddings, corporate events, and even public gatherings such as fairs and festivals.

The Costs and Prices

The initial cost of buying a tent can be fairly steep, but the profit margins on this type of product is very good. The prices will vary widely from region to region, but let’s consider a 20 foot by 40 foot frame tent as an example. The cost of this tent is going to be in the $4,000 range, but the rental price will be in the $300-$500+ range (depending on your region). The price of the tent can be easily made up within one season of rentals, and the everything after that is profit.

The Products

The niche of “tent rental” may seem very specific, but there is quite a variety of products within the niche. Some of the basic categories include:

Pop-Up Tents

Pop-up tents are smaller tents which fold up into a rectangular case that you can easily wheel around. They are usually pretty small (often 10 feet by 10 feet or so) but they are light weight and easy to transport.

Pole Tents

Pole tents get into larger sizes with heavy-duty canvas. These tents are a little more complex to set up, as they require staking to hold up the tent structurally, but they can be used to cover larger party areas.

Their main benefit is the ease of transport compared to frame tents, but their main drawback is the complexity of setup. Also, pole tents can only be set up on grass in most situations. The tent requires staking for structural support, so setting up pole tents on pavement becomes very difficult.

Frame Tents

Frame tents are the sturdiest variety of tent and can come in large sizes. They often look quite elegant, also. Frame tents take up the most space when transporting, but they are quite durable and are easier to set up because they are not structurally held up by staking.

Accessories and Add-Ons

With a main business of tent rental there are some great accessories that can be added to the business’s product offering to increase sales.

A common accessory is sidewalls for the tent, which can be attached to create an enclosed space. Some sidewalls include windows to let light in. We always charged more for windowed sidewalls at Picnic Table Rental.

Another accessory is lighting, or really any form of decoration, that can be hung along the edges of the tent. This creates a great atmospheric effect for parties.

Complementary Businesses

Tent rental companies can partner with rental companies that specialize in tables and chairs, entertainment, or music and dance floors to create referral business for each other. Tent companies could also logically start to provide services like these as their business grows.

What Is Needed to Start This Biz?

Tent rental is one of the more labor-intensive rental businesses, due to the setup and tear-down of the tents, but the potential income will be worthwhile.

The most basic necessity for this type of business is a truck. Tents can take up a good deal of space. For pop-up tents and pole tents you can probably get by with a pickup truck when you start out. Frame tents require a trailer or enclosed truck because they require the transportation of frame poles that are usually twenty feet long.

Most tents come with a staking system so that the tent can be fastened to the ground (preventing it from taking off like a kite). You are going to find that staking tents down just is not feasible for many customers. They may want the tent on their driveway, extending out from their garage, or they might have a sprinkler system in the yard that you DO NOT want to damage.

In picnic table rental we added concrete blocks and plastic barrels to our inventory. If a water source was available at the tent site we would tie the tent down to the barrels and fill them with water to weight the whole tent down. These are inexpensive solutions to the staking problem.

Also, this business requires a crew of workers. Most tents are impossible to set up alone. Even a two-person crew may be too small for some tents, though you can make it work if you plan and practice setup ahead of time.

Considerations for Tent Rental

When starting up a tent rental business here are a few things to consider:

Extra care needs to be taken with the canvas. We had a policy of always laying out a tarp on the ground before spreading out the tent canvas. We even used a tarp that was a different color on each side so that we could always have the same side facing the ground. This protected the canvas from dirt, especially the underside of the canvas which people can look at when they are sitting under the tent. It is difficult to keep this clean, but it makes your company look much more professional.

Tents can break. It was rare, but there were occasions in our business when tent components broke while in a customer’s possession. Sometimes it was the weather, sometimes it was the customer’s fault. We had to make an extra trip in each case to troubleshoot the problem and get the tent back up, which is inconvenient and can throw a wrench in your schedule.

Customers don’t always listen to your specifications. This is one of the main frustrations for tent rental businesses. A 20×20 foot tent requires more than a 20×20 space to set up because it requires stakes to be set a few feet out from the tent. There has to be a sufficient clearing between buildings, trees, and fences.

It was always difficult to deal with this type of situation. Do you spend the time to try setting up the tent, knowing it will be a tight squeeze (if it can even fit at all)? Do you simply leave without setting up the tent? If so, do you still charge the customer? It is a tricky situation.

Local laws might also require utility location to be completed before a tent is staked down. The customers need to be made aware of this and have it taken care of before your tent delivery.

Don’t let people cancel without paying due to good weather. Some customers will book your tent in case the weather is bad, and then they will call you up the morning of the event and try to cancel the rental if the weather is good. At this point it is too late for you to rent out the tent again for that day, so you will lose the opportunity to make an income with your product unless you have a clear and sound cancellation policy in place ahead of time that ensures at least partial payment for cancellations.

Bad weather may force you to bail. This only happened to us once in several years of tent rentals, but it may affect you depending on the weather in your geographic region. Strong winds or storms might prevent you from being able to set up a tent for a customer. If this is the case it is best to cut your losses and move on. Trying to get the tent up in horrible weather can ruin the tent or cause damage to the customer’s property.

You need to help your potential customers envision the tent at their event. Provide pictures of the tents in your inventory on your company’s website. Show the tent with tables and chairs set up inside, like they would be at a party. Show the tent set up at some of the events you have worked for. Provide a diagram that shows table and chair configurations that will fit inside the tent. Make it as easy as possible for the customer to both envision the tent in use and verify that it will work for their needs.

In short:

Tent rental is a fantastic side business. The demand is high for tent rental in almost every area because it is a product that many people need on occasion, but few people own. The startup cost is high, but it can pay for itself quickly.

Setting a Cancellation Policy for Your Rental Business

Imagine this:

You are loading up the truck to make a delivery for your rental business. Moments before you leave a call comes in from the very customer you are about to deliver to, and they want to cancel their order. Maybe you are delivering chairs for an outdoor wedding, and poor weather has forced them to a different venue. Or perhaps they ordered a tent to protect a party in case it rained, and it happens to be a beautiful sunny day.

What do you do?

Without a policy in place you can lose a lot of sales this way. It is essential to craft a deposit and cancellation policy for your rental business so that you have something to fall back on when these situations arise.


First, it is wise to collect a deposit from the customer in order for them to secure their order with you. This gives some assurance that you won’t lose everything (namely, the ability to rent out your product to anybody on that day) if the customer pulls out at the last minute.

The balance can then be paid when the products are delivered.

The right deposit will differ from one industry to the next. You could ask for 25% of the total price up front, or even for 50%. You could also test different deposit percentages over time to see how customers react. 25-35% is a good, safe range that gets the customer to commit without scaring them off. They will see it as a risk to commit too much money before the product is delivered.

Set a Cancellation/Alteration Deadline

Changes or cancellations to a customer’s order in the days leading up to the actual rental period can hurt your business. You may not have time to get a cancelled item rented out with just a few days’ notice, so you lose the potential income from that product.

Set a deadline for order alterations and for outright cancellation. A week or two before the delivery date is a good range. It could even be a month, but this is getting to be pretty far out from delivery day. A couple of weeks should be sufficient notice if the customer needs to make a change to their order. Setting a deadline too far out from the delivery date transfers too much risk to the customer and may prevent them from doing business with you at all.

If the customer cancels before the deadline they should forfeit their deposit, but not be required to pay the difference.

If the customer cancels after the deadline they should be made to pay the full rental price because it is too close to the rental date to have get the product rented out again, so the customer is preventing you from making an income with that product on the day they had originally reserved it.

When the Weather Forces Cancellation

The weather can cause a tricky situation in some industries. A tent rental company should make a customer pay full price if they cancel at the last minute due to beautiful weather making the tent unnecessary.

If the weather prevents the setup of the tent by your company (due to lightning or very strong winds) you may choose not to charge the customer the full price. This is a difficult situation, since the customer is not causing the setup problem in any way.

This is the type of situation that is much smoother with a clear cancellation policy. You can decide ahead of time to charge full price, even for weather cancellations. You could also decide to only charge the deposit in this instance so that your company doesn’t lose out on all of the income from the transaction but the customer doesn’t have to pay full price for a tent that they cannot use due to factors outside of their control.


How to Set Up an Email List For Your Small Business

Our last post talked about why your business needs to have an email list. Now, let’s take a look at the mechanics of the email list.

Getting the list set up is pretty simple, but before starting it is important to know that collecting email addresses and manually typing them into the “To” section of your email is NOT the way to go.

Aside from the hassle of such a process, it can cause problems with spam laws because the recipients of the emails do not have an opportunity to “double opt-in.” The double opt-in means that the customer signs up for the email list and then confirms their interest in the list by clicking a link in a confirmation email. This prevents customers from being added to the list if they do not want to be on it.

To begin an email list we need to do four things:

  1. Sign up for an email provider
  2. Create opt-in forms for your list
  3. Get people signed up
  4. Send them emails

1. Finding an Email Provider

Signing up for an email service provider is essential. It may be difficult to get yourself to pay for a service that you feel could be done yourself for free, but there are many benefits to doing so:

-Most providers start their service with a low-price or free trial and price only goes up as the number of your subscribers grows

-The service will automate the sending of email, even if you list has hundreds or thousands of members

-The service will automatically provide double-opt ins for list joining

-They will provide forms for your website that allow customers to sign up for you list by entering their email – you just have to copy and paste the form code

-They can automatically send pre-written emails in a predetermined sequence and timing to each customer that joins the list

-They will provide statistics about the number of customers opening emails, clicking links in emails, etc.

There are many email providers out there, but Aweber and Mailchimp are the two most well-known. You can compare and contrast the two, but in the end you need to just pick on and go with it. I have used Aweber for a couple of years and I love it.

2. Create Opt-In Forms

Email service providers will help you to easily generate sign up forms for your list and will provide you with the code for the form that you can easily copy and paste into your website, allowing visitors to join your list and get regular updates from your business.

You can choose the look and outlay of your opt-in form, and which fields are included.

As you have probably seen on many websites, most forms ask for your name and email address to sign up for a list. Some simply ask for your email. Some may ask for more information.

If it is relevant to your business you can ask for more information, such as phone number or zip code. The more fields you add to the form the lower your opt-in rates will typically be (opt-in rates is the average percentage of people visiting your site who signs up for the email list). However, the opt-ins that you do get from a form with more fields tend to be “warmer” customers who are especially interested in your business and your offerings – they took the time to fill in a long form with more of their personal information because they were so interested.

Once the form is created you simply paste the code into your site. The typical recommendation is to include an opt-in form on the top-right corner of your website and at the bottom of any blog posts (if they read your posts to the bottom the visitors are obviously interested in the information you are sharing).

3. Get People Signed Up

Once the form is up you simply allow it to collect members of your email list. You should not do this passively, however.

A good way to increase the rate of your opt-ins is to test different opt-in forms. You should try changing colors, changing designs, changing wording, and changing anything else you can think of. Test two versions against each other to see which gets a better opt-in rate, and then test a new version against the winner.

Another method for increasing opt-ins is to offer something free in exchange for signing up for the email list. It works best if this is a digital product that helps lead to the use of your services, and is included in the first automatic email as soon as the customer signs up for the list.

As an example, say you run a rental company that offers concession machines. You might offer a PDF guide that explains the proper concession offerings for different party settings.

It does not have to be elaborate, just useful. The concessions guide helps customers solve the problem of which concessions are appropriate for their event, which in turn helps them decide to do business with your company. It also encourages the customer to sign up for your email list to get the guide, and as a result they will get more useful updates from you over time.

4. Write emails

The tough part of managing an email list is keeping in regular contact with your members. If you go too long between emails your customer will forget who you are or why they are on your list, and they will probably unsubscribe.

If you send emails out too often the customers can get annoyed and unsubscribe.

There are two types of emails that can be sent through your email service provider, and a little bit of planning with them will help you maintain healthy contact with your list.


The first type of email is an “autoresponder.” This is an email that is written in advance and is automatically sent out to each customer after they sign up for your list.  I like to have eight to twelve emails written in an autoresponder list. Each email provides some valuable information to the subscriber and does not ask for anything in return, except for any questions that the subscriber would like answered.

I set up my autoresponders so that the customer gets:

  • the immediate email with their free guide that I advertised to encourage their opt-in
  • another informative email the following day that gives them a quick win by helping them to solve a problem easily
  • the next email exactly one week after they opted in to the list
  • and then more emails every week or two after.

By the time the subscriber has received a dozen emails from me they should be familiar with me and trust me (and my business).

I set my autoresponders to go out on specific days each week after the first three are sent. My weekly autoresponders only go out on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which opens up the other days of the week for broadcast emails. We will get to those in a minute.

To illustrate my process: if the customer subscribes to the list on a Tuesday they will immediately receive an email with their free guide.

On Wednesday they will receive the informative “quick win” email.

The next email is scheduled to be sent at exactly one week after the initial email. The reasoning is that if they customer was free and able to subscribe to the list at 2pm on a Tuesday, they are likely to have the same schedule and be available and online at that time each week.

The remaining autoresponders are sent out once every week or two, but only on a Wednesdays or Thursdays. My goal with this is to avoid sending multiple emails to a subscriber on the same day by sending a manual broadcast email the same day that an automated autoresponder is sent.

Broadcast Emails

While autoresponder emails contain “evergreen” content that is pertinent to the reader no matter when they read it, broadcast emails are what I would call “current event” messages.

Broadcasts can be written and scheduled ahead of time, but they are sent out all at once to everybody who happens to be on your list on that given day.

The purpose of the broadcast email is to let your readers know about something that is time-specific, such as a sale that you are having, a new product that is available, or some other type of announcement.

As I mentioned above, I schedule my autoresponder messages for Wednesdays and Thursdays so that I can feel free to send broadcast messages any other day of the week without bombarding my subscribers with too many messages on the same day.

Get Started Now!

An email list is a vital component for any business in the internet age. It is essentially a list of your most interested prospects and customers.

Using a properly-planned sequence of autoresponders and broadcasts provides valuable information to your customers while building up a sense of trust in your company. This trust leads to more sales down the line.

Your email list will take time to grow. It will probably start as a slow trickle of sign-ups and will eventually grow into a steady stream. Putting it off will only hinder your ability to effectively market to your list, so don’t wait. The best day to start the email list is today.

I recommend you go check out Aweber. This is an affiliate link, meaning if you decide to sign up for Aweber after clicking on this link I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. In fact, you can try it for your first month of use for only one dollar.

Also, to see an email list in action consider joining the Smart Rental Business email newsletter by filling out the form below.

5 Reasons Your Business Needs an Email List (Not Facebook)

Among the most common regrets of small business owners is not starting an email list for their company right away.

We all have lists to which we are subscribed. Maybe you subscribed to the email list for your favorite coffee shop to know when they are having deals. You might receive updates via email from your favorite sports team or even from a weather service.

What has become obvious as communication moves online is that you need to use email to get your message in front of your best customers .

Email is More Important than Social Media

It is a mistake to believe that building a social media following, like a Facebook group or a Twitter account, provides an adequate means of keeping in touch with your customers.

Social media sites can change their rules or disappear at any time, and you could lose your list of followers overnight.

In addition, the likelihood of your message reaching your fans on these sites is decreasing as the sites become more crowded.

Social media can be an effective way to interact with your customers, but it is secondary to email.

Why is Email so Great?

We have five considerations that make email stand out over any other form of online communication:

1. Email Gets Seen

How many times do you check your email each day?

Probably at least several times. Probably even dozens of times.

Do you at least look at the subject or sender of each email? Almost assuredly yes.

This means that you are seeing just about every email that comes to you, while you are missing updates to social media even if you check it often (a typical Facebook post by a business is seen by less than five percent of the business’s followers, even though they opted in to receiving updates from that business).

Without a doubt, if you want your message to be seen by customers that are interested in what you have to offer email is the way to get it in front of them.

2. You Own Your Email List

The wonderful thing about email lists, and what makes them indispensible, is that you own them.

If your website goes down you can still communicate with your customers who have joined your email list. If Facebook shuts down your page (and you lose all of your followers) you still have your email list.

3. Email Can Boost Your Offers

The customers who have joined your email list are hot leads. They are obviously interested in what you have to offer, and if you send out an occasional deal or promotion to your email list a percentage of them will probably jump at it.

If you build up your list over time you can get big results by offering the list a deal, even if the response rate is only a small percentage.

4. Email Can Build Trust

You should use your email list to build trust, not simply to pitch products.

Email providers make it possible to set up a series of auto-responders, meaning that each time new customer joins your list they can receive a series of emails that you set up ahead of time, on a preset schedule. This can help you to make contact with your subscriber steadily over time to build a level of rapport with them.

Let’s say you have a party rental business. When a customer joins your list you might have it set up to send them an email each week. One week they receive an email with a checklist of items to consider as they prepare to plan a party. The next week you send them an email about planning guest lists and what to expect for a rate of attendance. The following week they learn how to plan the number of tables and seats that they need for a given party. And so on.

The customer receives a valuable email that is useful to them without asking for anything in return. Your business builds trust with that customer and they come to see that you are the expert in your field. When the customer needs advice or products for their party, who do you think they will go to?

5. Email Keeps You Top-of-Mind

Finally, having a customer on your email list helps reinforce the top-of-mind positioning of your company with that customer.

Your services may not be needed on a regular basis, but when they are you will be the company that the customer thinks of first if they are receiving an email from you every couple of weeks. Also, the customer is more likely to refer you to a friend that needs your type of service if you are top-of-mind.

Read the next post in this series on how to set up an email list for your rental company