How to Start a Boutique Event Rental Business

I'm thrilled when I get a chance to talk with brand-new, fresh, excited, motivated boutique event rental pros. As they start planning out how to start a vintage rental business or a lounge furniture hire business or a one-of-a-kind tabletop rental business, they have so many questions— and I love to get in on the ground floor as they dream up what their company could be.

There are a million places to begin when it comes to starting a successful event rental business. I have quite a few opinions on the subject but I wanted to share three initial steps to focus on.

1. Start with a Good Plan

I’m not talking about a sterile document you’ll present to a bank. I’m talking about articulating and expressing your dreams, plans, and goals. This is the absolute best place to start before you buy a stick of furniture, meet your first client, or consider what your logo should look like.

A good business plan is worth its weight in gold. If you don’t have one or don’t know where to start, please check out The Simple Plan from Sage Wedding Pros. Whether you opt for one of their incredible workshops or hire Michelle and Kelly for one-on-one business planning, you will be thrilled with the results. 

They really know the event industry and are fantastic consultants who can help you get where you want to go. They’ll help you clarify your vision, plan for the future, and get your event rental business started on the right foot.

​2. Go Pro for your Contract

Speaking of the right foot, you’ll absolutely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it need a solid contract for your event rental business. Whether you’re planning to just rent 10 tables a few weekends per year or have dreams of a multi-location rental empire, a professional rental agreement is a must. You can start with this template from Annette Stepanian (attorney for creatives) and customize it to suit your needs.

Please please please don’t just “borrow” another rental company’s contract. Not only is that unethical, it isn’t going to cover all your bases. Spending the time to think about how you’ll handle different scenarios in your rental business isn’t just a passing whim. It can be a springboard for setting you apart, creating your unique value proposition, and helping you to build a company that is about more than just forks and chairs.

As a rental business owner, you have the opportunity to create culture. By that, I mean, a culture for your employees, a collection that doesn’t exist anywhere else yet, and potentially art that has never been seen before. Don’t waste that opportunity by trying to do it like others aruond you. Set yourself up for success by not taking short-cuts— even with seemingly boring things like contracts.

3. Get Yo’self a Rental System

Obviously, I’m biased about this last point but I highly recommend that you start on day one with a software system to manage your rental inventory and orders. While I have seen some boutique event rental businesses become successful without one at first, they always always always tell me later that they wish they had started using a rental management system sooner.

Here’s the deal: running an event rental company is hard work. Sure it is fun to buy inventory, curate your collection, style events, make things pretty. But at the end of the day (and by that, I often mean 2 am pick-ups at venues in the middle of nowhere with little light and pillows playing hide-and-seek), there is a lot of moving, hauling, detail planning, communication, logistics, and sweat involved.

Just as I think you should start with a great business plan and a solid contract, I think that your system for keeping track of rental items and orders is crucial right from the beginning. Why try to come up with your own wheel, struggle as you grow, and then have to implement a new system when you’re busy? Better to start with a system that can grow with you as you add inventory, orders, clients, and services.

In case you haven’t already, we think you should check out RW Elephant to show off your great products, help you know what’s going where when, and make running your rental business a little more fun.

Happy Renting!

BONUS! We also think these three steps are relevant and super important for established boutique event rental businesses. Even if you aren’t “just starting out,” we think you should spend time on your plan, contract, and system.

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