Indiana Portable Restroom Provider Changes Image to Pull in New Customers

After losing a major customer, the rebranded Julie’s Johns sprouts a pair of shapely legs on its company logo and adopts a feminine attitude to attract a new clientele.
Indiana Portable Restroom Provider Changes Image to Pull in New Customers
Donnie Rodgers takes a portable restroom (Satellite Industries) off of the back of their 2016 Dodge Ram truck with a 400-gallon waste and 200-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank and Conde (Westmoor) pump from Best Enterprises.

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A few years ago, when Donnie Rodgers, owner of Rock Solid Sewer and Septic in Whiteland, Indiana, lost a longtime government contract providing more than 500 portable restrooms to a military base, he was dumbfounded, stressed out and lost.

“Losing that contract was like a death. I had to grieve that,” he recalls.

Cue Donnie’s clever and compassionate wife, Julie, who decided that a reboot of the business might be a new beginning for them both.

Drawing on her previous unpleasant experiences using portable restrooms — never to her liking on level of cleanliness — Julie realized she had a viable and marketable idea. So, shortly after Donnie lost his contract, she started Julie’s Johns, merging Donnie’s knowledge of the restroom industry with her savvy knowledge of special events, and focused her niche on providing service to weddings, proms, parties and other upscale events and venues.

Julie’s Johns, which uses the tagline “Party Potty Services,” services a three-county area (about a one-hour radius) from its headquarters in Whiteland, located about 13 miles south of Indianapolis.

Julie and Donnie, the only two employees, rent luxury restroom trailers as well as 80 green Signature Series event units from PolyJohn Enterprises; 28 gray Taurus units, 50 green Taurus units and six Liberty ADA units from Satellite Industries; and four Boudoir units and 25 hand-washing stations from PolyPortables.

Their fleet includes a 2016 Dodge Ram 5500 4x4 with 400-gallon waste/200-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank and Conde (Westmoor) pump from Best Enterprises; a 2005 7600 Series International with a hook lift from Stellar Industries and 3,600-gallon steel tank and 360 Challenger (National Vacuum Equipment) pump from Quality Tank and Equipment; and a 1999 4900 Series International with a 1,100-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater steel tank and Battioni Pagani pump from Quality Tank and Equipment.

While almost 90 percent of their business is providing portable units to special events, they still provide septic tank pumping services, a holdover from Donnie’s previous company.

The female factor

Julie, 50, is the sole owner of Julie’s Johns, even though Donnie, 50, does most of the heavy lifting and cleaning due to his wife’s struggles with fibromyalgia. And while the company does tout her ownership on its website, Julie is researching becoming a certified Women-Owned Small Business through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s WOSB program. Donnie, who served in the U.S. Marines, hopes to impart the knowledge of winning government contracts he gained as a Veteran-Owned Business.

“It’s all really kind of new to us, the perks of being woman-owned,” says Julie, who is also conscious of catering to the female purchaser.

“When weddings are planned, most generally it’s the women doing the calling,” Julie says. Capitalizing on all the “girl power” is something she hopes will make Julie’s Johns and its niche focus stand out in a market crowded with portable sanitation choices.

Cleanliness is key

Even though her husband was a provider, you could say Julie had a love-hate relationship with portable restrooms. She never found them clean enough, and she felt most women expect a bit more when using a portable restroom.

Julie’s appreciation for spotless restrooms infuses her entire business. “Cleanliness is huge, and it has to be when you’re dealing with women. If you’re looking at us and you’re looking at somebody else, the difference is cleanliness (of units),” says Julie. “I expect Julie’s Johns to be as clean as our toilet is at home. I think that’s very important to a woman, especially a bride.”

Having a woman at the helm, she believes, does help ensure such meticulous attention to detail, such as power washing the exterior of each unit at each service and including GOJO hand sanitizer in all units at no extra charge. Julie also demands that units used on construction sites (a small portion of their business) are never used at a wedding or other high-end event.

And she knows this approach is working. At one wedding venue, Julie’s Johns provided multiple units every weekend for two years. The one time the venue opted for another provider, Julie heard from the venue’s owner, complaining about a competitor’s poor service and cleanliness. “She (the owner) was just amazed at the difference,” Julie says. “That is something that we are very proud of.”

Building a new brand

For Julie, creating a new business meant having a strong logo and brand to identify it and its target audience. Her logo, highlighted in red, features a pair of shapely legs topped by a toilet seat.

“I envisioned legs and a toilet, so I started looking on the internet,” says Julie, who had a clear idea of what she wanted. She used a designer they had previously worked with, who delivered the logo they have today. “I wanted something that was feminine, sassy and elegant. I think my designer nailed it. I wanted something that would say ‘a woman owns this company.’”

And while Julie says she was sure that most women would find the logo fun and appealing, she wasn’t sure how men would take it. Julie says infrequently some people see the image and are puzzled over what her company does; she says they have never heard anything derogatory about their logo.

Get the party started

In the 1990s, Julie worked at a flower shop. “I think maybe that was something that put the idea of weddings and parties into my head,” she says, recalling she liked “the girlie aspect” of the events the best.

To that end, she works to bring much-appreciated amenities to her business. That’s especially important in summer, when Julie’s Johns could line up 16 or more weddings in June alone.

That’s where Julie’s high-end restroom trailers shine. Her inventory includes a new three-stall unit from Satellite Suites and a Porta Lisa two-stall model from JAG Mobile Solutions.

The company also offers four very roomy Boudoir flushable units from PolyPortables that include motion-activated lights, coat hook, full-length mirror, towel dispenser, shelf and hand-wash station, all inside the unit.

In the Boudoir units, Donnie says, “The amenities are very nice and ideal for someone who can’t afford a trailer.”

Spreading the word

When Julie’s Johns started, word-of-mouth brought in most of their business, and it continues to do so. But they have tried other methods of advertising along the way. In their first year, they set up a booth at the Johnson County Fair as well as the county’s bridal show, but didn’t feel they reaped enough business to set up again (although they did take out an ad in the print bridal guide).

Now they’ve expanded to promoting their business online, paying about $600 per month for Google ads to increase their search engine optimization (SEO). In addition to paying an up-front fee to design the website, they also pay a monthly fee for monitoring and updating the site.

“The advertising with Google does seem to be working,” says Julie. “We worked with Dave Philpott, president of PICS International (in Indianapolis), to come up with a site that would be appealing to women. I didn’t want it to look too industrial.”

In terms of gauging effectiveness, Julie says, “Dave sends us a report monthly from Google Analytics. Search words are ‘portable toilets’ and ‘restroom trailers.’” And while Julie’s Johns may not always end up at the top of the SEO search now, they’re working to change that. “Our goal is to be able to funnel more advertising money into our Google ad in the next year to always be on top.”


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