Show and Tell

In new PRO Web videos, we’ll ride shotgun with Michigan contractor Gretchen Menard

We want you to meet PRO Gretchen Menard. Spend some time with her on the job. Learn about her daily routine and hear what she has to say about the challenges of running her portable sanitation business, Poopy’s Potties, in Holly, Mich.

We profiled Menard’s one-woman party and special event business in 2009. At that time, we learned that a can-do attitude, a dose of marketing savvy and a sense of humor helped her preserve a small business facing many growing pains. Menard changed course from a general service provider with several employees to a small, thriving owner-operator specialty company.

More than a year after the story about Poopy’s Potties was published, we went out in search of an enthusiastic PRO to create a series of Web videos about the industry. Menard’s name was on the list of folks we were considering for the video diaries. When I told her about our plans to post videos from a contractor’s perspective at the PRO website (www.promonthly.com), she quickly accepted the challenge.

So starting in January, we’ll be riding shotgun with Menard on her service routes. She’ll take us along when she’s delivering restrooms, servicing equipment and dumping her loads. She’ll introduce us to the friends and relatives who help her keep the business humming along and the customers she deals with every day. In short, she’ll be able to “show’’ and “tell’’ the story of her business.

WHY VIDEO?

The concept is simple. While contractor profile stories are great — and we get positive feedback from readers and the companies we feature in the magazine — short, documentary-style videos by contractors will allow us to provide a new depth of coverage of the portable sanitation industry. Now, in addition to the popular magazine content, we’ll be able to fully utilize the 21st century communication technologies available on the Web.

Through the use of compact high definition (or HD) digital video cameras, we’ll be able to give you an up-close day-in-the-life glimpse of one of your industry colleagues. You will be able to see the nuances of Menard’s service techniques on location. You’ll hear her commentary on service and disposal issues whenever a topic comes to mind. You’ll get the visual messages people want today in addition to the magazine stories you enjoy.

Since we last left Menard in the pages of PRO, her business has had some exciting developments. Chief among them is a new specialty — serving film and television production crews working in the nearby metro-Detroit area. In 2008, the state of Michigan passed a tax incentive program aimed at attracting television and film companies. Tax credits covering about 40 percent of production-related expenses have swelled the film industry in Michigan, which has gone from a few to 50 movies filmed in the state annually.

Positioned as a boutique supplier of upscale single restroom units and small restroom trailers, Menard has been able to seize opportunities related to the film industry. She landed a job providing trailers for the Transformers 3 movie set. And currently she’s got a five-day-a-week job shadowing the production company for the new ABC-TV crime drama, Detroit 187. Menard couldn’t be happier with the turn of events.

FRANTIC PACE

“I love it. Every single day I get to move to different locations where they’re filming. You never know what you’re going to do the next day,’’ Menard says. The pace can be frantic, as they ask her at a moment’s notice to move a trailer down the block or into an alley to keep it out of the camera’s eye.

“The trailer often stays hooked up to the truck the whole day,’’ she explains. “They’ll have me move it a couple hundred feet and I’ll pull down the stairs and sit and wait.’’

Menard’s two newest trailers from Comforts of Home Services Inc. are small, two-place units she sought for maneuverability on movie sets and insulated for use through the cold Midwestern winter. “I’ve never worked with a trailer in the winter before. It will be a challenge and freezing will be an issue,’’ she says.

The film and television work and the myriad of challenges Menard faces as she continues her one-woman operation will provide many topics for her PRO video diaries. She’s dabbled in YouTube videos, having produced a few clips to educate her customers and friends about a job that people seem very curious about. She says she’s eager to share her stories with fellow contractors who may relate to her, and hopes that the general public sees the videos and gains a better understanding about the critical work being done by PROs.

And as for adapting to the digital video technology?

“At first I wasn’t so comfortable (appearing on camera), but now it doesn’t bother me at all,’’ Menard says. “We are in a video age.’’



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