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Rental Biz Ideas: Picnic Tables

A market close to my heart, because I have built a business and watched it thrive there, is picnic table rental.

This is an idea that may sound strange to you at first. Picnic tables?

These are not your local park’s heavy wooden tables. These are tough, lightweight plastic tables with a metal frame to attach the benches and provide support. They fold up into a thin rectangle just a few inches thick, allowing you to transport dozens of them at a time in a standard auto trailer.

The Market

The anchor for business in this market is graduation parties, which keep the business hopping from May into July.

Other events that provide business for picnic table rental companies include corporate events, county fairs, family reunions, and outdoor wedding receptions.

The Costs and Prices

A standard six foot picnic table (which seats six adults) retails for about $270. Most parties will rent no more than three or four tables, so it is quite possible to start out with a small inventory and save up to grow over time. This is what we did, and within a couple of years we were managing an inventory of a couple hundred picnic tables in addition to other products.

Luckily, you can find these tables at big box store like Sams Club. Since it is a seasonal product it usually goes on sale at some point during the year. This is a great time to add tables to your inventory.

The other major necessity is a trailer (and a vehicle that can pull a heavy trailer). If you are starting out with a small number of tables (less than ten) you can actually fit them into the back of most pickup trucks. This requires some form of sidewall, which we built ourselves out of metal pipes and wood boards. For larger quantities of tables it will be difficult to do business without a trailer.

It is completely reasonable to expect somewhere in the $20-$30 range per day per picnic table rental. Even if you only work weekends you can recoup the cost of a table pretty quickly if you get it rented out for both Saturdays and Sundays. It should not be a problem to get at least two or three years of use out of a table if it is treated well.

Accessories and Add-Ons

Picnic table rental can stand on its own as a business, which is a beautiful thing. As the business grows it makes sense to add other products though.

The most natural product line to add to this business is stand-alone tables. Usually six-foot or eight-foot rectangular tables are useful as buffet tables at parties.

Stand-alone chairs are also important. Customers hosting indoor parties will find it preferable to use tables and chairs rather than picnic tables due to the size of the picnic tables.

Complementary Businesses

Tent rental is also a logical complementary business to picnic table rental, since the parties using picnic tables are often outdoors.

Any type of entertainment or dinner rental company will benefit from working together with a picnic table rental company. The parties serviced by picnic table rental businesses may require sound equipment, dance floors, linens, place settings, or any number of related items.

Considerations for Picnic Table Rental

You will have to provide delivery. Picnic tables are too big to easily fit in to most cars, so you will have to provide delivery and pickup for the tables.

Picnic tables are clunky. It is possible to carry these tables by yourself, but you will probably want a partner to help you. A pushcart is also a useful tool.

Picnic tables are easy to clean. If you bring a couple of towels and a bucket of soapy water you can easily clean tables when you pick them up and then immediately drop them off at another party.

In short:

Picnic table rental is a great market to get into. There is a lot of potential for business from a variety of sources so the company can grow and prosper over time.

Rental Biz Ideas: Dinner Party Supplies

Large parties are expensive, so more and more people are choosing to coordinate the details of their party on their own instead of hiring a party planner. The internet and the rise of specialized rental companies have only helped spur this along.

When my sister got married the entire wedding and reception was planned and put together by the family. The reception required the most work and the most rental products of anything we did that weekend. What surprised me most was that there were no companies in the area that offered all of the pieces necessary for putting on a large dinner.

We needed place settings, table cloths, napkins, centerpieces, and serving dishes but had to rent from multiple companies to get everything.

With the popularity of outdoor and do-it-yourself weddings it would not be difficult to start your business and make it known as the go-to company for putting together rental supplies for large dinners.

The Market

The market for dinner party supplies is anchored by wedding receptions, but it can also extend out to other gatherings including reunions, graduation parties, banquets, and fundraisers. Even large family holiday parties could require the use of these products.

Reception halls that host many of these dinners may or may not own all of the products for the use of their customers. You might be able to become their contractor for any needed supplies whenever dinner parties occur. At the very least, you may be able to become their recommended supplier.

Another place to look for referral business is with tent rental and table/chair rental companies. These businesses regularly work with customers who are planning do-it-yourself parties, and recommendations from them can bring in a lot of business for you.

The Products

As mentioned, great dinner party rental products included place settings (plates, bowls, cups, silverware, etc) and linens such as table cloths, table skirts, and napkins.

Accessories and Add-Ons

Table centerpieces are also a great option for rental. I can say from my own wedding experience that putting together centerpieces for dozens of tables to add some atmosphere to the reception was a time-consuming headache. I would have happily chosen a design from the offerings of a rental company and paid to use them for the night.

Serving dishes also make sense as an offering. There is an endless variety of options in this case. Coffee pots, water carafes, platters, utensils, and many other products can be offered.

The Costs and Prices

Aside from the cost of purchasing the products, you will need a way to transport sizeable quantities of the products safely. In most cases a pickup truck or SUV will probably suffice for space, but you will need a way to protect glassware.

The other problem to solve is the cleaning of the products. Most people that rent place settings are not going to have a way to wash large numbers of dishes and silverware, so you will need a system for transporting the dirty products and then washing them.

If you offer linen rental you may need an industrial washing machine and dryer to get the linens sufficiently clean between uses.

The acquisition cost of the party rental supplies will depend upon what supplies you are starting out with and what designs you get for each.

Rental prices for dinnerware start at roughly $0.50 per piece for a basic design (meaning that each of the plates, the drinking glasses, the knives, the spoons, etc, cost $0.50). Costs go up a little for choices in color and design.

Linens can actually bring a large return on investment. It is not uncommon to see linen rental prices listed near or at their purchase price. They do require a heavy-duty washing machine to keep them in pristine, rentable condition however. You company will also need to offer a variety of shapes and sizes for linens, and eventually a variety of colors and designs.

Complementary Businesses

Tent rental and table/chair rental are potential companies to work with for referrals, but it can also make sense for a dinner supply rental company to branch out into offering these products on their own over time to create a complete solution for the customer.

The “drink service” rental market also has promise. This can include portable bars and the supplies to stock them as well as bar tables and stools.

Finally, entertainment rental also complements this business given that the setting for much of the dinner supply rental business will include music or a DJ. Lights, speakers, and a dance floor could be in high demand among the dinner supply rental customers.

As always, the best way to find out what complementary products your customers want is to listen to them. When customers call you with questions or to book a rental they will ask about products that you do not carry. Over time you will see patterns emerge and it will be clear which markets to expand into.

Considerations for Dinner Party Supply Rental

You will need down time to wash products between rentals. You cannot simply wipe down the products offered in this market – dedicated time will be needed between each rental to thoroughly clean and sanitize dishes and linens. This may limit the frequency with which you can rent out the products.

Start out with basic designs on your products and add more designs over time. The colors and designs used on the linens and place settings are important and customers will have strong opinions about them. The best way to start is with all-white designs, adding selection over time.

Start out with a basic product line and add to your product quantities before widening your selection. It is a difficult temptation to resist, but in this business it will be better to have the capability to provide all of the linens for large parties than to only be able to provide a fraction of the linens and a fraction of the place settings. If you are starting small it is in your best interest to get really good in one product offering before adding other products.

In short:

Dinner party rental is a labor-intensive business that will require some effort after-hours to keep products in good shape, but the industry has promise for business throughout most of the year and can easily work as an evenings-and-weekends business run on the side from home.

 

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.

Deposits

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 Get Ideas for Rental Products

At some point it may just click.

You may be thinking about what kind of business you can start up on the side for extra income, and suddenly it is staring you in the face.

The idea for our party rental business started when we hosted a party and rented the tables from somebody else. The rental company owner mentioned that he was about to close down the business to move on to other things, and we realized it was a business that we could handle on our own, working evenings and weekends after our day jobs.

The same “light-bulb” moment might happen for you, or you may have to do a little bit of thinking and research first.

Getting Ideas for Products

Finding the right product to rent out can be tough. Do you need to buy a product to rent out, or can you use something already lying around the house?

If you need to make a purchase, how much should you spend? And then how long will it take to start turning a profit?

A great product, or a “theme” of rental products, is probably easier to find than you expect. Here are five questions you can ask yourself to start coming up with ideas:

1. Have you ever needed to rent something that you could not find in your area?

When I graduated high school we needed a bunch of tables and chairs for my graduation party. We ended up renting them from a small party rental company, which was the only one in the area at the time. The owner told us that he was about to close the business to pursue other ventures due to some life circumstances.

This left an obvious hole in the market, and we jumped on it. We started up our own party rental business on the side and were able to turn it into a successful venture.

2. Do you live near a recreation area?

You may take for granted that you live near a beach, or near a chain or lakes, or a wilderness area that is popular for camping or canoeing or mountain biking or cross country skiing. Many people that visit these areas, however, come from far away and do not own the recreational equipment that they need for the visit. This provides for a clear rental market.

Even if there are established recreational rental companies in the area you may be able to enter the market by offering unique equipment that the others do not, or by adding value that other companies do not (such as free lessons with rentals of equipment).

3. Do you live in a tourist area?

If visitors are coming to your area, even if it is not for recreational purposes, they still have needs. They might need transportation to get around the city, such as bicycles. They may need a stroller for their kids.

What are some items that you use every day at home which might be difficult to travel with? These are great rental products.

4. Do you have equipment lying around that is only used occasionally?

Many of us own equipment that is only used occasionally. It might be yard equipment like wood splitters and lawn aerators, or even a trailer. This also applies to many of the tools that we own. It might even apply to kitchen appliances, like an ice cream maker, and to hobby items like home beer brewing equipment.

If you are not using a piece of equipment most of the time, somebody else might be willing to pay you to use it instead of purchasing it themselves.

5. Do you live near a lot of businesses?

This almost feels like an “underground” market because it is more of a business-to-business setting instead of business-to-customer and is not as obvious.

Many businesses rent their building, so they also rent many of the accessories inside to furnish it.

There is a legitimate model in renting out plants to businesses to add some life to their building. The rental fee for this service might include regular visits by you to care for the plants. Likewise, artwork and office furniture can also be rented to businesses.

Get Started

Asking these questions should give you a good start on determining whether you already own a product that can be used as the basis for a side rental business.

Looking for more rental product ideas? We recently released a free book with 50 rental product ideas to really help you jump-start your imagination so you can get your business started and off the ground.

For free instant access to this product idea guide simply click below.