Missouri police officer Gregory Haug moonlights by providing VIP restroom service for farm weddings and other events.
Gregory Haug is a 13-year veteran of the Shrewsbury Police Department in suburban St. Louis. Up until 2014, he knew nothing about the portable sanitation industry and never imagined getting involved in it, but after some bad experiences at events and a conversation with a friend, one thing led to another and he soon had a side business on his hands.
The triggering concern was Haug’s perception that having a low-end portable restroom at a high-end event was a bit of a disconnect. When he mentioned this to a friend, the friend told him about the luxury restroom trailers he often saw during work-related travel. That got Haug’s attention, so he did a little research and determined that his area was underserved. He then visited a couple vendors, one of whom recommended he go to the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show. He went to the show and came away with a lot of information, two 10- by 15-foot trailers from Satellite Suites, and a new business, Posh Event Cottages.
Haug is not planning on giving up his day job anytime soon, but in about 10 years he’ll be eligible for retirement from the police force and sees this as a post-retirement career.
1. Keep it Simple
Meshing his two occupations into his schedule has not been a problem, Haug says. Trailers are used almost exclusively on weekends, so the drill is to drop them off on Friday and pick them up on Monday, and there’s usually flexibility in the timing. If he needs to, he can trade days off with someone at the police force.
He runs the business with minimum effort and expense. He has no employees, no office, one truck and an inventory of two units. He contracts for everything else as needed. He operates the business out of his home in Webster Groves, Missouri, and stores the units on a nearby rented lot. He hauls the trailers using his 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and maintains an account with Enterprise Truck Rental for those times he needs an additional vehicle. He also contracts with a licensed waste disposal firm to pump out the trailers after events.
When he needs more labor he has a ready supply of police buddies to help him out. “I’ve trained three of them how to make deliveries, interact with customers, and everything they need to know about setting up and removing a trailer,” he says.
2. Focus On Weddings
Haug initially targeted special events and backyard parties, but once he got linked into the wedding industry his business really took off. He had never heard of farm weddings, but quickly got up to speed on this unique and growing industry. “That seems to be my niche now,” he says. “I’d say 60 to 70 percent of my business is farm weddings.” The venues run the gamut from manicured estates to quaintly rustic properties down gravel roads. If hookups are unavailable, he brings 200 gallons of water and a liquid propane gas generator.
The trailers are a perfect size for weddings. Each is big enough to service up to 150 people and small enough to be easily maneuvered in backyard spaces. Each unit has two stations — one for men, one for women — a speaker system, adjustable air conditioning and heating, hardwood floors, porcelain flush toilets and stainless steel sinks. Haug also furnishes them with fresh-cut flowers.
The trailers are also used at other high-end events. And for a cause that’s dear to his heart, Haug was happy to provide them at a deeply discounted rate at a fundraiser for the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight. “They fly World War II veterans to Washington to see their memorial,” he says.
3. Make a Statement
Haug is so confident his trailers will perfectly complement a lavish event that instead of making them as unobtrusive as possible, he’s covered them in giant flowers that can’t be missed — one in orange, yellow and red daisies and the other in red roses.
“It’s a play on wedding flowers, being daisies and roses,” Haug says. “And it’s a way to let people remember me — I’m the guy with roses on the trailer.” He worked with a graphics design company specializing in vehicle vinyl wrapping.
As a way to differentiate his units, Haug markets them as cottages rather than trailers. “It’s a fancier name for a trailer,” he says. “I’m trying to let my customers know that there’s something different about these. They’re not just trailers.”
4. Tell them Everything
Haug takes full advantage of social media and online marketing tools to get the word out. He posts regularly to Twitter and Facebook, and has created a number of informational YouTube videos in which he shows off the units and personally explains his services. And nobody has to wonder about cost. “I like to be up-front and transparent and let people know my pricing,” he says.
Haug thinks it’s important people know he’s a local guy, not a national firm headquartered somewhere else that shows up on a Google search. He also thinks it’s important to show people what the trailers look like, inside and out. He has posted some videos of the units, but is in the process of hiring an interactive video company to get a better result, something similar to what a Realtor would use to demo a home for sale. “It gives you the view of what it would look like if you were standing inside the trailer and spun around,” he says.
Other marketing efforts include going to happy hours with wedding planners, joining the International Special Events Society and meeting with different vendors in the event business.
5. Listen to Feedback
Haug wants communication to be a two-way street. The videos he created were in direct response to customer questions. He has also extended his service territory out to 200 miles.
When customers started asking for an on-site attendant, he began offering a concierge service and now does so at about half his events. If he’s not available, one of his trained fellow officers fills in. He checks supplies and makes sure everything is clean and working properly, but says his presence is really more of an assurance to the client. He typically wears khakis and a polo shirt, but will accommodate anything the host wants. “If I have to buy a different suit or whatever, I will,” he says.
One of the most pressing customer requests has been for handicap accessibility, and in 2017 he plans to add a handicap unit to the inventory. “That’s what my customers are asking for and I want to make sure I can offer that,” Haug says.