Everyone Pitches in to Make a New Restroom Business a Success

It’s all in the family as a small startup involves mom, dad and two small boys in Pennsylvania.

Everyone Pitches in to Make a New Restroom Business a Success

Ryan Henry unwraps a suction hose and gets ready to service restrooms along a route.

Laura Henry and her husband, Ryan, don’t own a huge portable restroom company — but it’s all theirs. That pride of ownership and doing it together has helped them strive for success after just three years in business.

The Henrys, both in their 30s, operate Bradley Services in rural Saltsburg, Pennsylvania, where they own about 80 restrooms from Satellite Industries and PolyPortables.

Their first year was focused on building the business. “It took a little while to get our name out there and get units rented. … After that, we bought maybe another 20 to 30 units, and in 2016, we got another large chunk of 30,” says Laura. “We were nervous, of course. You never know what’s going to happen. We started in the fall … so it wasn’t even a good time.”

But after the portable sanitation company that Ryan was working for left the area, he decided to go out on his own with help from Laura, who is employed as a remedial math and reading teacher at a K-8 Christian school. Laura agreed to serve as the owner of Bradley Services — named after their son. Laura does the office work and billing while Ryan provides the physical labor.

EXPLORE FIVE ISSUES THAT AFFECT LAURA’S PORTABLE SANITATION BUSINESS:

1. RUNNING A FEMALE-OWNED BUSINESS

Creating Bradley Services in 2015 as a sole proprietorship in Laura’s name was a conscious decision. She says, “If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would have thought of having a business, I would have said you were crazy.” But today, the mother of two young boys works in the office on everything from pricing and purchasing to scheduling while Ryan handles the routes.

She is in the process of looking into more opportunities, such as contract jobs and grants available to female-owned businesses. “I know there are opportunities out there,” Laura says, but admits, “It’s a lot of paperwork, and it’s very time-consuming.” While she hasn’t seen any specific advantages to that woman-owned business status yet, Laura says she is hoping to go deeper in her research to make the most of any opportunities available.

2. JUGGLING TWO JOBS AND A FAMILY

Time is certainly at a premium for Laura. It is, as she calls it “busy busy,” but she seems to have a system down that works well. The business phone rings to Laura’s cellphone. If a call comes in during the school day, she returns it as soon as possible on her breaks.

“We may have lost a couple (of clients) who needed something right away,” Laura admits, but for the most part, “It’s really worked pretty well. I’ve always been teaching; I’ve never left it.” She doesn’t anticipate leaving it to focus full time on the restroom business. “It’s what I love to do, and I’ve got the ability to do both,” especially with a flexible schedule and summers off.

In summer, she helps Ryan with the routes — from stocking trucks to cleaning and delivering restrooms. Their two sons, 4-year-old Isaac and 10-year-old Bradley, love to ride along on service routes, helping carry the paper products. The boys also love to help represent the business in local parades; Bradley Services recently won a second-place award for its float in a holiday parade. “We put a green portable restroom on it and had an inflatable Santa coming out of it,” says Laura.

3. TARGETING THEIR SERVICE

The service mix for Bradley Services is about 30 percent construction and 70 percent special events. Many of the construction units are placed 40 to 60 miles away in a faster-growing area.

Locals also plan a lot of fundraising events that require restrooms, and Bradley Services often places about 10 to 12 units for concerts on the weekends.

Laura says they don’t like to turn down events because their inventory runs low. “Last summer, we were busy; there were times we were sold out of units,” she says. They plan to address that shortfall by adding more units in increments of 30 until they can reliably handle demand.

4. SETTING GOALS FOR GROWTH

This summer, there are a lot of goals to meet. “There are things we want to change and grow … we want to get up on the internet, switch over some trucks and maybe update our billing system,” Laura says. Marketing today relies on advertising through a Facebook page as well as small grass-roots efforts (fliers, local newspapers and placemats in diners).

New trucks could also be on the horizon. They currently have a 2000 Chevy 3500 flatbed with a Mason liftgate that they use to transport units with slide-in aluminum 300-gallon waste/150-gallon freshwater tanks from ITI Trailers & Truck Bodies; a 1989 Ford L700 with 1,600-gallon steel tank and Battioni pump (National Vacuum Equipment); a 1999 Chevy 3500 with 350-gallon waste/150-gallon freshwater steel tank and Battioni pump; and a restroom transport trailer.

But Laura realizes growth can mean increased debt, which the Henrys are trying to avoid. “This is a very risky business because there are so many competitors,” she says. “We are very conscious that if we are buying units, we need them and can rent them out. Plus, without having that overhead, it’s a lot less stressful.”

They may add more restrooms after recently being awarded a contract to service the Westmoreland County parks and trails, a job that requires 23 units through November.

5. GIVING BACK TO THEIR COMMUNITIES

“We try to get a good name around the community,” says Laura, a Pennsylvania native who’s proud to serve her rural community. They offer restrooms at a deep discount to local Habitat for Humanity projects, and they also provided units and a baby changer for the It’s A Wonderful Life Festival in Indiana, Pennsylvania, home to a museum devoted to native son film actor Jimmy Stewart.

They also provide about eight to 10 units to an annual summer rock concert series, sponsored by a local news organization, which benefits seriously ill children. It’s an issue the Henrys feel strongly about. Without getting too personal, Laura notes, “We have had experience with having a sick child.”

Helping charities through their business isn’t just a marketing tool, though. She says, “It shows people you care and that you yourself are a person, not just a business.” 



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