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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.

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