Today’s guest post is written by Morgan Montgomery, the co-owner of Paisley & Jade.
Three years ago, my business partner and I launched a vintage & eclectic rental company in the mid-size market of Richmond, Virginia. You may know Richmond as a southern city, home to the monuments and the former capital of the confederacy, but here, we call it the land of “we do things this way because that’s how they have always been done”.
When we opened for business in June of 2012, we were met with a lot of confused stares. How could a company who rents things like vintage taxidermy, chaise lounges and candlesticks succeed? Now that we have three years under our belt, we’ve heard from numerous folks that while at the same time they were congratulating us on launching a business, they truly didn’t think it could be sustained in our market, and we are proud to have not only carved out a niche for ourselves, but grown our business exponentially year over year.
Before we launched, there wasn’t a company like us in our market, nor was there demand for one. By implementing a few key strategies, we built a successful business fulfilling a need that didn’t exist!
Invest in Branding (but be open to change!)
Since our business model didn’t exist in the market, we knew that in order to capture our audience and ideal clients that our branding would have to be 100% on point, as we would not have the luxury of our clients being able to reference something they already knew. We invested heavily in the branding and website design of our company, a move that has paid off in spades. When potential clients visit our website, it is immediately obvious what it is we do, and our biggest strength (our depth of inventory) is prominently on display. When we launched, we loved our brand and company identity, but realized within a few months that we had to correct a crucial mistake. In the process of developing our business plan and identity, we had purposely stayed away from the word “vintage”, worried that it pigeonholed us and trapped us into what ultimately could be a passing trend. We opted for the word “eclectic” instead, but since we had created something unknown, we had to relate it to verbiage our potential clients and vendor partners understood – so back to “vintage” we went! This tweak made a huge difference, and taught us a valuable lesson about client perception.
Your Network is Key
One of the biggest mountains we’ve had to climb in creating our niche is that our service is not something our clients NEED, but rather what they WANT. As a luxury service, our clients do not need our items in order to have their event. Guests can sit on standard folding chairs as opposed to our mismatched wooden ones, and a cake will display just fine on a 3’ round with a linen instead of on a vintage sideboard – and because of that, we needed a way to reinforce our clients’ desire to utilize our collection as much as possible. We worked with our vendor partners to show them how much of an asset we could be to them – for photographers, we sold them on the idea of having something “different” to photograph, and something that would help their images stand out if they were pursuing publication. Caterers and bakers want their displays to look as best as possible, and our inventory allows them to enhance their presentation. We worked with and educated our vendor friends and partners (through casual conversations, over lunches and by participating in styled shoots) on how we could all work together to create a better and higher end product. They, in turn, relayed the benefit of our services as it related to the quality of product they would provide to their clients – increasing the number of times our business was referred by them, and increasing our exposure and bookings.
Show Confidence in Yourself & Your Ability to be a Trendsetter
It sounds simple, but the more confidence you have in what you do, the more confidence others will have! Do your research, and have conversation points prepared for when you inevitably are asked “…and you think people will pay for this?”. When you’re launching something that hasn’t been done before in your market, you are already a leader and a trendsetter, so it’s important to live up to those expectations. When we have a crazy idea about something new & different that we’d love to see our clients do with our inventory, we do it first! And then we photograph it, and blog about it, and share it on social media – all demonstrating to a wide audience that we have confidence in our ideas and in ourselves!
Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done at all. By having a clear vision, utilizing our professional contacts and having confidence in our own abilities, we’ve turned our once-critics into our some of the biggest fans of our thriving niche business.
Morgan Montgomery, CPCE, is the co-owner of Paisley & Jade, a vintage & eclectic rental company based in Richmond, Virginia and serving mid-atlantic engaged couples, event planners, photographers and filmmakers.