An estate manager for a country star in Nashville saw the potential for restroom trailer service and dialed in to land exclusive outdoor events.
When Brandon McNeely graduated college about eight years ago, he couldn’t see himself working in an office-cubicle environment, even though he had just earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics.
Soon after, McNeely began working as an estate manager for country music star Ronnie Dunn, of Brooks & Dunn fame, a job that requires regular 10-hour days overseeing the performer’s 17-acre residence and 250-acre farm. As his work duties bounced him back and forth between the properties, McNeely learned he enjoys the energy and excitement surrounding fundraisers and other big events that drew large, well-dressed crowds to Dunn’s properties.
McNeely figured there must be a way for a businessman with entrepreneurial instincts to become a regular part of that excitement. He sifted through various ideas, but when nothing took root, he returned to college about three years ago to get a master’s degree in finance and economics.
RESEARCHING THE MARKET
A few months after earning his master’s degree in May 2011, McNeely stumbled onto his niche while reading about a specialty restroom service company in an online news story. The concept of renting posh privies for business, family or formal affairs might offer everything he desired: independence, flexible hours, fun and exciting events, a service that won’t fade away, and weekend work that allows him to keep the “day job” he loves.
Still, McNeely knew better than to jump into a business before studying and analyzing the idea further. His analysis of the Nashville area’s ability to support a boutique, high-end portable restrooms company led him to Atlanta. He spent a day there with the owner of an upscale portable sanitation company, and the trip reinforced that his business idea was solid.
In January 2012, McNeely and his wife, Kristeen, put his plan into action. He takes a conservative approach to building PoshPrivy. “This business is a baby right now, and we want to pay for everything as we go,” he says. “I don’t believe in assuming debt. I’ll get where I want to go by adding one or two trailers at a time as I can pay for them.”
McNeely bought his first restroom trailer in early 2012 from a portable restroom company in Michigan that was shedding some inventory. This 6-by-8-foot restroom trailer – which he calls “The Petite” – includes a 300-gallon internal waste tank and a 125-gallon onboard freshwater tank. McNeely brought the two-stall 2010 Comforts of Home trailer back to Nashville, and then remodeled it. “It was our first unit, so I wanted to make sure it had a modern, upscale look and feel,” McNeely says.
He started the makeover by removing the unit’s free-standing pedestal sink, replacing vinyl for hardwood-style flooring, then installing designer lighting, floating vanities and automatic touchless faucets. To finish, he repainted the interior with an up-to-date color scheme.
Next he bought a new 2012 three-stall Porta Pal restroom trailer from Rich Specialty Trailers. The 13- foot restroom trailer – which he calls “The Polished” – has a 400-gallon internal waste tank and a 105-gallon freshwater tank.
In fall 2012, McNeely added “The Plush,” an Alpha Mobile Solutions Signature Series 3 featuring two private women’s rooms and one room for men. It comes with a 500-gallon internal waste tank and 125-gallon freshwater tank. Each restroom features amenities including vessel sinks, floating vanities, Corian countertops, stereo, ceramic floors and flatscreen TVs.
Rounding out his inventory is “The Premiere” trailer, another upscale unit made by Rich Specialty Trailers, which McNeely subleases through a partnership with Portable Restrooms LLC. in Charlotte, N.C. This large two-suite trailer – which has a 600-gallon internal waste tank and 200-gallon freshwater tank – includes a working fireplace, as well as hot water, solid marble and granite countertops, designer vanities, and heating and air conditioning for full climate control.
When McNeely was assembling his inventory, he contacting his target markets to alert them to his fledgling business. He services the Nashville area and roughly 100 miles in all directions in middle Tennessee, going after weddings, festivals, large reunions, corporate fundraisers and other events.
McNeely puts himself at the center of the business as the contact person and chief problem-solver. He handles all email communication, and every call placed to PoshPrivy routes to his personal phone.
“I want to be part of my client’s event,” he says. “I take time to make them feel comfortable with me, and assure them I’m genuinely interested in being part of a great wedding, reunion or whatever. When you deal with brides and brides’ mothers, they want the best. This is not just a business proposition for them.”
McNeely believes PoshPrivy’s website and targeted email campaigns play key roles in establishing and building the company’s unique brand. His maxim is “Redefining the portable restroom experience.” That starts with a “clean,” simple website that projects PoshPrivy’s upscale niche. He also works hard to ensure the company pops up prominently when people search for upscale portable restrooms on Google or other Internet search engines.
“If people can’t find you quickly with Google, you don’t exist,” McNeely says. “And once they find you, your website must instantly project your brand and what you’re all about. You don’t have to say much, but you have to say it right.”
That doesn’t mean McNeely just flipped a switch and waited for business to build. He also networks with job-related companies to spread his message by word-of-mouth.
“I started going around to party-tent rental companies because our business is mostly geared toward outdoor events,” McNeely says. “Probably 70 percent of our business (has been) from their referrals.”
At the same time, he targeted event planners to raise awareness of PoshPrivy. For that, targeted emails generate results.
“I spent a couple of days compiling an email list of every event planner I could find around Nashville and middle Tennessee,” McNeely says. “I use a service called MailChimp, which helps me design letters to target event planners who might need my restroom trailers. MailChimp works much better than traditional mail. Event planners need to think of you when giving portable restroom options to their clients.”
Finally, McNeely – who doesn’t own a vacuum truck – partners with a local company to pump out the trailers before hauling them home from the event site. “Most of the events we service last a half-day or so, which means we usually don’t have to pump them until they’re ready to be removed,” he explains. “It’s less trouble for everyone if we get them pumped on the job site right after the event.”
All the while, McNeely builds business through face-to-face contact. “Once we’re in touch with companies that can help us, I try to meet with the owners and essentially sell myself and our product to them,” he said.
Part of “selling himself” means being an expert in the field. Before launching his venture, McNeely joined the Portable Sanitation Association International and attended its annual convention and trade show in 2011. While there, he attended seminars and talked with experts to broaden his knowledge.
More recently, he joined the National Association of Catering and Events to learn all he can about events and how best to service them. He also plans to join the Tennessee Wedding and Events Specialists Association this year. “The more I can network with experts in those areas – people who also need my trailers – the more I’ll learn, and the more ideas and referrals I’ll get.”
Meanwhile, he provides personal touches to complement his restroom trailers. That includes mints, amenity baskets, flower bouquets in the women’s side of the trailers, a personal message for the bride and groom on a chalkboard, and tiki lights that illuminate the path to the trailers after dark.
After all, the more McNeely does to make his portable restrooms pleasing, and perhaps even memorable, the greater the chance he’ll never have to work from the confines of an office cubicle.