Magic Mike Has Figured Out How to Make Folks Comfortable Using Portable Restrooms

Showman and Louisville-area DJ Mike Benson is a nonstop promoter for the value of quality portable sanitation service

Magic Mike Has Figured Out How to Make Folks Comfortable Using Portable Restrooms

Michael Jenkins and Andy Devore set up units for a local festival. The truck they’re using carries a KeeVac Industries slide-in vacuum unit up front and a flatbed for restroom delivery.

Mike Benson worked as a master of ceremonies for events and as a wedding DJ for years before he became a portable restroom operator. Two skills from his previous career have served him well in his new venture: showmanship and the ability to make people feel at ease.

In four years, A1 Porta Potty has grown from 60 units and one truck to more than 1,000 restrooms, seven trucks and six restroom trailers, plus 76 trash containers, 24 storage containers and 2,500 feet of temporary fencing. The company is located in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, just north of Louisville, Kentucky.

HE’S MAGIC MIKE

His showmanship is apparent in the promotional videos he posts to Facebook, where he uses his DJ name of Magic Mike. He says he started using the name Magic Mike long before the movie of that name came out. In his Facebook videos, he’s a Southern character in the style of Larry the Cable Guy. He starts with, “Hey folks, it’s your old pal Magic Mike right here,” and he shows off how clean his portable restrooms are or perhaps shows where they are going to be in the coming weekend. If he buys new units, he’ll make a video to introduce them. The videos are short and funny, and they get shared.

“More or less people follow me personally as a character,” says Benson, 50. “Magic Mike is like the marketing guru for A1 Porta Potty.”

He had a substantial Facebook following when he was a DJ, so of course he shares the A1 Porta Potty posts with that audience. But he has also built his following by encouraging other businesses, especially local wedding-service vendors, to use Facebook. He shares their posts, and they share his.

Benson started his company in 2015, about the same time that President Donald Trump started his presidential campaign.

“He said, ‘Let’s make America great again.’ So I said, ‘Let Magic Mike make portable restrooms great again,’” Benson recalls. “Then I started doing little videos, little snippets about it, tag lines, things like that. The public grasped hold of it. Festivals started coming to me, and everyone wanted a better service. That’s how it took off.”

Benson uses his Facebook posts to help make people comfortable about using a portable restroom. It’s a skill he developed as a host for wedding receptions, which can be high-anxiety events for the families.


CLEANLINESS COUNTS

“People get really nervous on their wedding day. I would tell them, ‘Hey, you’re in my sandbox now. Let me show you how to make this a great day,” Benson says. “After learning how to put people at ease, it was so much easier for me to do restrooms. I took a more positive approach to it. I’d say, see the A1 Porta Potty logo? It’s OK to use these.”

Benson thinks promoting cleanliness is important to making people comfortable about using portable restrooms. All his service trucks are equipped with pressure washers, and he wants his customers to notice that his crews use them.

“They spray the unit down with a bleach-soap washdown mixture, then they go right behind it and scrub. If there are any dirt stains, they scrub them with a brush. Then they hit it with a pressure washer to wash everything out. It may take a couple of extra minutes, but your customer is also standing there, maybe watching through the window. They see the time that it takes, too, and they’re going to go right behind you when you leave. They’re going to see how fresh it smells and how nice it looks.”

He also makes sure all of his route drivers have a book listing all chemicals used in their cleaning products. That way if anyone questions what’s being used, or if there is a spill or other emergency, the information will be handy.

BRAND LOYAL

Benson likes to stick with one brand in almost every aspect of his business.

A1 Porta Potty has more than 1,000 portable restrooms, and all of them are made by PolyJohn Enterprises. Benson uses the PJN3 standard model, the Comfort XL handicapped-accessible model and PJN3 models with sinks replacing urinals.

His restroom trailers, which include two- and three-station trailers, a four-station unit, a six-station unit and a nine-station trailer, are all made by A Restroom Trailer Co. (ART Co.).

He also uses only one brand of cleaning product — Walex.

“Every chemical I get has the same scent, even the scent rings that you hang in the windows. All the scents match, so it’s not offsetting,” he says.

Almost all of his trucks use Masport pumps.

His truck fleet includes the first truck he bought, a 1997 International with a steel 600-gallon waste and 200-gallon freshwater tank and Masport pump. The cab has severe rust damage on the underside, and the crew refers to that truck as Grandpa. “If your truck breaks down, you’ve got to use Grandpa, so they always try to keep their trucks from breaking down,” Benson says.

The company has two larger vacuum trucks: a 2014 Kenworth with a 1,600-gallon waste, 300-gallon freshwater aluminum tank and a 2012 Ford with a 2,000-gallon waste, 200-gallon freshwater aluminum tank. Both trucks have Masport pumps, and both are able to haul a couple of portable restrooms on the back. A1 Porta Potty uses both trucks for portable restroom servicing and septic pumping. Both trucks were bought used.

A1 Porta Potty also has a KeeVac Industries 300-gallon waste and 150-gallon freshwater aluminum slide-in unit with a Honda power plant. The unit has been mounted on several trucks over the years and is currently on an older Dodge. It’s not in regular use but is outfitted with a gas-heated pressure washer, so it gets sent out when there is an especially dirty restroom to be retrieved.

The last couple years, Benson has been buying new models, all from Ram. Two of them, a 2017 and 2019 were outfitted by PortaLogix. They have 950-gallon aluminum waste tanks and 350-gallon freshwater tanks in the bed of the truck. They both have Masport pumps.

A 2018 Ram was outfitted by Bruder Tank with a 950-gallon waste and 300-gallon freshwater aluminum tank and a Masport pump.

The company also has three trailers to haul restrooms, two of them made by Liquid Waste Industries.

FINDING NEW MARKETS

Benson has a knack for finding new places to put portable restrooms. For example, he approached local campgrounds and RV parks and offered restrooms to individual campers for occasions when they might have a lot of visitors.

“My approach would be: If people are coming over for the weekend, why use your trailer? Why not get a port-a-potty? We can pump the port-a-potty, and you can save the trailer.’ Or, let’s say it’s a Memorial Day weekend and there are a lot of people. Don’t let them run in and out of the camper. Let them use a port-a-potty. Campgrounds liked it because it cut down the use of their facilities. We eventually grew into pumping their septics.”

For another example, A1 Porta Potty was placing restrooms at parking lots where many RVs would set up for Thunder Over Louisville, a big air show and fireworks display. It’s one of the preliminary events before the Kentucky Derby.

“Thousands of people come to town,” Benson says. “They go to lots on both sides of the river, and they just stay. We went to these parking lots and set up port-a-potty rentals. Then we took that to another level. We would go back on Sunday and park at the parking lot exits to pump their campers before they left. We charged $25. It saved them a lot of time waiting to dump. This past Thunder, we probably pumped 60 to 75 campers in one lot.”

He also promotes putting portable restrooms at home swimming pools so people don’t have to run in and out of the house so much.

Most of his business, though, is at construction sites, plus festivals and weddings. The local economy is booming, and one of his investors had a landscaping company and knew a lot of builders.

“We approached the builders and said, ‘What if we could do this and make a better restroom?’ All the builders jumped on board right away,” Benson says. “That’s where it started to take off. Then I took it to the next level by changing the word ‘party’ to ‘potty’ in my marketing. Have a barbecue potty, a birthday potty, wedding potty, pool potty. We’re not having a party, we’re having a potty.”

It’s the social media activity, Benson says, that spurred his company’s growth.

“It was the voice. People laughed, and people grasped ahold of it,” he says. “The concept of selling the merchandise went right along with it.”

TO THE WWETT SHOW

Benson makes a point of going to the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show every year. He bought his company’s first truck from a posting on the sales bulletin board there. He likes to make contact with the companies that make the products he uses.

“I love going to talk to them, and actually they love talking to me, just because of the entrepreneurial part of taking a restroom and making it great again and being the positive guy,” Benson says. His vendors get him together with newcomers to the industry.

“They want to introduce me to people who have just started in the restroom business and talk to them about being positive in it,” he says. “I tell them, don’t think its negative and that it’s the worst thing out there. That’s what (the public sometimes) thinks, but do things to make it better.”

That’s Benson’s philosophy about portable restroom business in a nutshell: Make it better.

“Make people not scared to use them,” he says. “Doing the fun videos was to get in front of people saying, ‘They’re OK to use. They’re going to be clean.’ It was a great concept, and it took off.”


In the air for charity

Every year just before Thanksgiving, Mike Benson, the owner of A1 Porta Potty in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, spends five days and four nights living on a platform hoisted 60 feet in the air on a scissor lift. He basically lives in a box and drops a bucket down on a rope for food and beverages. Of course, he also has a portable restroom from A1 Porta Potty on the platform.

The point is to generate excitement for a charity known as Bikes or Bust, which provides bicycles to local children for Christmas. It was started by a Louisville, Kentucky, radio personality known as Dingo, and he challenged Benson — a well-known personality from his former career as a wedding DJ and stage host — to get involved.

Benson was all-in from the beginning. The first year, he helped out on the ground. The second year, and every year since, he’s been up in the air and talking on the radio every 15 minutes to encourage people to donate bicycles or money. They’d rather have bicycles.

“The idea is to bring a physical bicycle,” Benson says. “You don’t want to give a child money on Christmas Day. You want him or her to see a bicycle. You want them to have a smile on their face, because there’s a shiny new bicycle that they weren’t expecting.”

The bicycles Benson collects on the Indiana side of the Ohio River get distributed by The Salvation Army. The bicycles Dingo collects on the Louisville side of the river are distributed by the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign. The first year, they brought in 650 bikes. In 2018, it rose to 2,541 bikes.

Benson and his counterpart go up on the platform at 5 a.m. on a Thursday, and they don’t come down until 8 a.m. Monday.

“The morning that we go up, there’s nothing on the ground beneath us,” Benson says. “And when we come down, there’s a mass of bicycles.”

Benson says living on the platform is exciting because of what’s happening below, but it isn’t fun. “There’s very limited space where you can actually move around up there, and with the weather around here, you never know what’s going to happen,” Benson says.

One year there was a tornado warning. That prompted a lowering of the platform to about 10 feet off the ground so he could get down if necessary. Last winter there was an ice storm the first day Benson went up.

Benson is proud of the way the community has responded to the charity drive.

“Families would buy a bike and bring it to us. They would tell their children what the purpose of doing this is, the gift of giving. On my side, some builders and some charitable groups would start challenging people. Police would challenge firefighters.”



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