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A party rental service helps people add a little more spice to their events. Children’s birthday parties are made more fun with a bouncy house, fundraisers make more of a splash with a dunk tank, and weddings get more elegant with a styled tent. Party rental businesses help hosts and hostesses everywhere create lasting memories for themselves and their guests.
Who is this business right for?
This business is excellent for people who enjoy event planning, and who have an appreciation for and understanding of the party equipment that’s on the market today.
What happens during a typical day at a party rental business?
Party rental owner can expect the following to-do list on any given day.
- Researching equipment
- Preparing rental contracts
- Selling rentals to customers
- Repairing and replacing equipment
- Advertising and marketing the business
What is the target market?
The target market depends on where you’re located. If you’re operating in or near a high-income neighborhood, then your clients will likely be homeowners who throw elaborate events for themselves and their loved ones. If you’re in a middle-class neighborhood, you may find that your clientele are the larger organizations (e.g., schools, the VA, community boards, etc.) holding major gatherings from fundraisers to festivals.
How does a party rental business make money?
Party rentals make money by purchasing equipment at wholesale prices and then renting that equipment out for a set fee. Renters will normally pay a deposit or leave their credit card information to cover any accidental or intentional damage the equipment may suffer while the renter has it in their possession.
What is the growth potential for a party rental business?
Growth is highly dependent on the area you serve. If you’re catering more to larger organizations in your area, there may be only a few events they throw a year around the holidays. On the other hand, birthdays, retirement parties, and promotions are everyday occurrences, meaning you’ll have a larger business if you service the full neighborhood.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful party rental business?
It helps to have some experience with party planning before you go into this business. You’ll also need to be detail-oriented and highly organized. Party rentals can get messy when equipment is damaged, so your verbal communication and written contracts need to address potential problems before they have a chance to become full-blown catastrophes.
What are the costs involved in opening a party rental business?
Costs can be quite high. You’ll need to buy all of the equipment to start, and then find a place to house it. Just a single tent can cost thousands of dollars. Party rentals don’t necessarily need a retail space, but you may need one to establish credibility to would-be customers. If you can’t afford to rent a retail space, you can store the equipment in a storage facility, and then have appointment-only showings to potential renters.
What are the steps to start a party rental business?
Once you're ready to start your party rental business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your party rental business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your party rental business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a party rental business?
The best advice for party rentals is to start thinking outside the box. Maybe the people in your area can't afford to spend $100 an hour on an expensive jet ski for a water-themed birthday party, but they can afford to pool their money together to rent a boat to go tubing on the lake. You can rent the boat to party goers, and safety equipment to each person attending. If you live near a ski resort, consider renting skis at group rates for ski parties.
Write up your customer contracts very carefully before you start renting, and ensure they're iron-clad in case of any legal disputes. And while it may be difficult to do, you'll need to invest in quality equipment. The only way you'll become profitable is to get durable goods that can last you through party after party. If you don't have a lot of start-up capital, you can even consider 'renting out' party characters rather than physical equipment. Hire a few talented actors in your area to dress up for children's birthday parties, and then use the profits to start saving money for more physical equipment. Just remember that there are plenty of things that people love to do for the day, but won’t necessarily do again for another year.
Everyone knows what it's like to buy something expensive and then never use it. Your job is to show potential customers that it makes far mores sense to rent equipment for parties than to buy. Being flexible and persuasive are two of the best ways you'll get your business off the ground.
How to promote & market a party rental business
The best way to promote yourself is to start networking with the major organizations—even if your primary market is personal parties. The more you make yourself well known to the party planners of the major events, the more likely it is your name will start to trickle down to the home planners in the area. In addition to forming personal relationships, create a professional website built with the most popular search terms in mind. Once you know what the big draws are in your area (e.g., sporting equipment, luxury toys, etc.), then you can feature those items prominently on your website to hook more people to your services.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
Excellent customer service and quality equipment will attract people back to you. Ensure all deliveries are on time, and that each item is delivered as promised.
How and when to build a team
You’ll likely only need a team if you’re planning on being open 7 days a week in a big rental space. Generally, you can consider doing limited hours or appointment-only rentals to start, so you can save yourself the cost of employees salaries. Just ensure that if you do appointment only, your customers can count on you to get back to them quickly and to schedule an appointment on their schedule and not yours.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a party rental business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a party rental business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your party rental business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Party rental businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.
How much can you charge customers?
This is heavily dependent on where you work. Check rates in your area to see what other businesses are charging before you set your fees in stone. In Michigan, a 20 x 20 foot wedding tent costs $3500 dollars to start and rents for about $225 per weekend. In a wealthier city, you may be able to charge double this amount.
What are the ongoing expenses for a party rental business?
You can expect the following ongoing expenses if you own a party rental business:
- Equipment maintenance/replacement costs
- Rent/storage fees
- Employee salaries
- Website maintenance/advertising costs
How much profit can a party rental business make?
Your profit is determined by how long your equipment lasts, and how much you charge for each rental. In the case of the wedding tent, you would need to rent a $3500 tent (at $225 a weekend) for at least 16 weekends before you started seeing a profit. However, seeing as how a wedding tent can handle far more than 17 weekends, then you enjoy practically unlimited profit after that.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Party rental businesses can consider branching out into everything that an outdoor event may need. From portable toilets to caterers/bartenders, there's a lot of needs to be met for the many party throwers of the world.