My Journey Starting a Party Rental Business

Introduction

Starting a business is daunting, especially when you have no prior experience or guidance. In August 2018, I took a leap of faith and embarked on a journey to start my first business—a party rental business. Little did I know that this venture would teach me valuable lessons about entrepreneurship, shape my perspective on business, and lay the foundation for my future businesses.

In August 2018, my grandfather’s failing health in Mexico was a wake-up call for me. I went with my dad to Mexico to visit my grandfather. I witnessed the emotional and financial toll my father experienced during this time. This made me contemplate my own future. My father and I were on a bus on our way to visit my grandmother in our hometown after visiting my grandfather, who was hospitalized in the city. The journey to our town is about 4 hours long. Like many Mexican dads, my dad doesn’t have the capacity to express his emotions, and I didn’t have any words of consolation for him, so we sat in silence and uncertainty.

Financial Realizations: Acting with Urgency

At just 23 years old, I asked myself an important question while sitting on that bus: Would I have the financial stability to provide for myself, my father, and my future family? I started to think of how I had to take control of my finances and change the trajectory of my life. In my head, I repeated: I have to actually budget, actually save, plan for retirement, and increase my income!

As I was looking out the window from the bus my father and I were in, it was as if a lightbulb turned on. I remember thinking, “I will start a party rental business.Instead of telling myself the various reasons why I shouldn’t, I remember thinking, “I live in Los Angeles, the weather is nice most of the year, and people are always throwing parties. There is a MARKET for it!

Acquiring a Party Rental Business: Embarking on a New Journey

I was still in Mexico when I went through the OfferUp app on my phone and started looking for party rental businesses being sold. One after another, I started going through them, contacting the seller, and praying that I would choose the right one.

Once I returned to Los Angeles, I went to my credit union, Schools First, to obtain a loan to buy a retiring party rental business. Once I got to Los Angeles, doubt kicked in, and I started to hesitate. Like any other first-gen daughter, I asked my parents for their opinion. When I told them that the business I liked was $10,000, they told me “Pues tu veras“. (which translates in English to it is up to you) That was not the answer I was looking for, but as you know, I decided to buy the business.

So armed with no knowledge or guidance about running a business, I took a leap of faith. Accompanied by my father, uncle, and two of his workers, I ventured into a two-car garage filled with party rental equipment. Tables, chairs, heaters, jumpers, and linens were stacked high. Together, we loaded everything into my uncle’s truck, and after wiring the money to the retiring owner, I officially became the new owner.

I remember driving across Downtown Los Angeles to get back home as the sun was beginning to set. I had a smile on my face of both excitement and nervousness. And also the thought of, “What did I just do?”

Picture of the sunset of when I bought my business. Downtown Los Angeles Buildings are displayed.
View of Downtown Los Angeles

Early Struggles and Lessons: Navigating the Unknown and Enjoying the Highs

As a new entrepreneur, the first few months were challenging. I had inherited a few clients from the former owner, but the business remained relatively slow. Doubts crept in, and I worried about repaying the loan. In my little journal, I wrote, “It’s been two months. Well, last month, I only had two customers.” I thought have I made a mistake in buying this business? Did I get myself into more debt?

My Business Journal Entry
Journal entry: 10-17-18

I embraced the power of online platforms. I created a Yelp business account for my party rental business. Gradually, clients started to find me. They called, seeking quotes and services. I faced new challenges, such as creating invoices. But a resourceful memory of an invoice shared during my college days proved to be invaluable. I customized it to suit my needs. Seeking further guidance, I contacted the former owner, who directed me to a store where I could get personalized invoices.

With each new client, I acquired, a sense of excitement and relief washed over me. I wasn’t concerned about immediate profits; I only wanted to repay the loan and my personal debt. I meticulously managed my finances, saving every dollar possible. In 18 months, I paid off about $30,000. ($10,000 for the party business, $10,000 in consumer debt, and $10,000 for my graduate program, and I saved $10,000 for emergencies.)  Looking back, I would have rewarded myself more throughout the journey. In the next blog post, I will discuss what I would have done differently to avoid burnout as a new business owner.

Overcoming Customer Service Challenges: Building Systems and Practicing Effective Communication

Customer service was an aspect of entrepreneurship that initially terrified me. Due to my childhood upbringing, I was scared of making mistakes. I was scared clients would not like my work and ask for a refund. I would almost be on the verge of tears, but interaction after interaction made me more confident. Eventually, I had a plan for how to interact with clients.

Another reason that motivated me to improve my customer service and interaction was the not-so-great experiences of being a service business. (last-minute cancellations, clients not submitting payment, event location having a complicated landscape to set up, etc.) To make things easier, I had to create systems in place. (non-refundable deposit, paying in full before the event date, sending pictures of the venue, asking for specific measurements, etc.) I learned to communicate with my clients about my systems and rules to avoid any future complications. This is the thing about being a business owner; you have to learn that you will make mistakes and also have the flexibility to adapt and adapt quickly.

Conclusion: My reflection on owning a Party Rental Business

I learned a lot while running the party rental business. As of now (July 2023), the party rental business is being run by my dad as a side hustle. I have considered selling the business, and I calculate it to be worth about $8,000, but since we have both the space and are a big extended family, our party rental equipment comes in handy.

Owning and managing a party rental business was never in my plans. I think this is the reason I never scale the business. If I had started the business from a strategic place and not from a place of urgency, I think I would have had the perspective to scale the business. However, the business allowed me to enter the world of entrepreneurship. It taught me to play different roles in my business. And now, thanks to the experience, I run Sierra Mexican Cuisine with a more strategic outlook. Thinking that my grandfather’s declining health was a wake-up call for me is bittersweet, but I am happy that it brought me to my purpose.

Quinceañera Party-Lilac and Silver themed colors.

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