From a garage to grand events
Over the past 10 years, companies in the event rental industry have gone up and down with the economy, but one constant remains — people continue to celebrate. In the past few years, party rental companies have honed the skills of remaining flexible and focusing on the customer. These are the same skills that have sustained FLEXX Productions, Fort Collins, Colo., from the start.
FLEXX Productions handles several local events in Fort Collins and the surrounding area, including festivals, college events, trade shows and construction site work. In addition to a growing linen inventory, the company carries all types of equipment, including large-scale tents, lighting and power generation.
The company showroom and office area looks like an event in itself, and includes handmade farm tables, fresh flower arrangements and large framed photos of past events. Located in a small industrial park, near a main road, the company has a convenient entry and exit area, with bays for loading trucks. However, all this came from humble beginnings.
“Like many rental companies, our very first location was in a garage,” says Darci Clymer-Clark, director of events and marketing. “In 2004, we moved into about 4,000 sq. ft. of our current location. In 2009, we took over another 4,000 sq. ft. in our same complex. In 2011, we were fortunate enough to have the location next to our ‘main’ location open up. We were then able to consolidate, expand and add in a 1,000-sq.-ft. showroom and office. Now we have a total of 12,000 sq. ft. and three storage containers.”
The company was co-founded by Phil Gottula and now boasts a corporate team of seven individuals, several of whom have previous rental experience, in addition to warehouse, linen and delivery staff members.
“We believe that we have the best staff around and instill in them that our clients are our boss,” Clymer-Clark says. “For the first seven years in business we did not do any formal marketing, so 100 percent of our growth was based on word of mouth. We still believe word of mouth is our best advertisement. Every year when we develop our marketing strategy and budget, our first focus is on client appreciation. If you take care of your clients, your clients will take care of you.”
One major element of FLEXX’s market is philanthropy. The company works with the local colleges and university, providing rentals for several charity events each year. Several of the events are annual, Clymer-Clark says, creating a hefty schedule for the company.
“We have the pleasure of working and supporting wonderful charities. We love that we have the ability to give back to our community. One of our larger events is ‘Bike MS.’ We made the connection through one of our great relationships on the Colorado State University campus. The main difficulty is the overall magnitude and the logistics. There are months of planning and an entire FLEXX team working with the MS team to ensure a seamless event,” she says.
One focus for FLEXX in recent years has been growing inventory, from tents to linens and everything in-between. Recent acquisitions include specialty linens, in addition to the necessary washers, dryers and a mangler for processing.
“We had slowly been purchasing basic linens — white, black, ivory, hunter green — but sub-renting specialty linens over our first seven years,” Clymer-Clark says. “Without the room to process linens, we didn’t want to dive into the linen market. We decided with our expansion in 2011 that we had the room and capabilities to process linens in-house. This has allowed us to provide better selection and service to our clientele, while providing an additional profit line to the company.”
Clymer-Clark says the goal is always to buy the best, with the budget they have. “FLEXX was not created with deep pockets backing us,” she says. “We have made our purchases based on high quality products that are going to last us. Our clients notice the higher quality. Between our higher quality product and our customer service, our clients have never had an issue with a slightly higher price tag.”
Among other items, the company owns two huge tricycles, which started out as a bit of fun, but have turned out to be great rental items, Clymer-Clark says. Employees use them at festivals where cars and motorized vehicles aren’t allowed.
The company also offers power rental, including lighting, power distribution, temporary heating, air conditioning and small construction equipment. The rentals have expanded into a company division, called FLEXX Power & Support. The company also uses biodiesel for all power and temporary heating and air conditioning in an effort to be a “green” company.
Part of the inventory expansion has been changing the way their company is displayed in its showroom and online. FLEXX is active in the social media sphere, with an updated blog on its website, updates on Pinterest and Twitter, and several photos on its Facebook page of local events.
Clymer-Clark says for both the showroom and its online presence, FLEXX focuses on what’s popular and what trends are coming up, rather than displaying each piece they have available.
“Events are design-based. Event rental showrooms should be based on current and future trends. Not only does staying up on the latest trend keep our clients intrigued and coming to us for ideas, but this also keeps our front team from getting bored,” she says. “It motivates our team to read the magazines, follow blogs or watch event-based shows to stay current.”
It also helps that the office culture at FLEXX is party-like in itself, with a creative-friendly atmosphere and a few surprises along the way, she says.
“Being in the event industry can be insanely stressful and intense, from dealing with brides stressed out about their once-in-a-lifetime event to being a seasonal business and trying to make sure you keep the doors open and staff employed in the off season. We try to remember that. Really, we throw parties for a living. How serious can we be? It’s a great day when a new hire finds the Nerf® gun in her desk or the guys have a tricycle race through the warehouse,” Clymer-Clark says.
“Our culture is what makes us unique. Our clients and staff feel that uniqueness and team atmosphere,” she says. “We have surrounded ourselves with a wonderful team that makes it fun to come to work.”