California Sisters Pay Tribute to Their Father by Dreaming Big as New PROs

California sisters invest an inheritance from their father in a restroom trailer and carry on his entrepreneurial spirit with their own business

California Sisters Pay Tribute to Their Father by Dreaming Big as New PROs

The high-end trailer from Comforts of Home Services is lowered and features an ADA unit with a ramp.

With funds from their father’s estate, advice from their mother and an abundance of enthusiasm and excitement, two 50-something sisters from Clovis, California, bought a high-end restroom trailer at the end of 2018 and started a business, King of Thrones.

At first glance, the women seem like an unlikely pair to work in the portable sanitation industry: Lori Lyons Webster is a hairdresser/manicurist, while Lisa Lyons Rodriquez is a florist. But on the other hand, they’ve both been self-employed, grew up on a farm driving various types of heavy equipment, were familiar with restroom trailers from a customer perspective and have occupations that give them contacts in the wedding industry.

The sisters are hoping the business will be their eventual ticket out of their current jobs and provide a good source of income in their retirement years. “We’re not afraid of work, but there are easier ways,” Lori says. “This is something we can do and keep going.”

Their late father, James Lyons, was a farmer and also worked for the University of California at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center as head physical plant manager. Their mother, Robbie, recommended they spend their inheritance on something of lasting value. They found that value in portable sanitation.

“More and more it (restroom trailers) is needed around here because everybody’s doing the outdoor venues,” Lori says. “We just thought it would be a very successful business to get into.”

SHOPPING FOR A TRAILER

After researching the industry, they chose Comforts of Home Services as a restroom trailer provider and took a trip to Aurora, Illinois, to tour the factory and hammer out the details of their order. The sisters left money to treat everyone at the factory to pizzas and sodas on the day they started production. “That’s exactly what my dad would do,” Lisa says. “We were trying to carry on a tradition.”

The delivered unit features two women’s stalls, one stall/one urinal on the men’s side and an ADA-compliant stall, as well as a kit that lowers the trailer almost to the ground. Other touches include a retractable awning, automatic shut-off faucets, 225-gallon water storage and an onboard generator. In November 2018, when they heard the unit was on its way, a moment of panic set in as the reality of the situation hit them. The sisters would face many challenges in the coming months, but they proved up to the task.

WHERE TO BEGIN

With delivery imminent, endless details had to be attended to — coming up with a name, creating a website, buying supplies, ordering business cards, finding RV dump stations for waste disposal, writing contracts, setting up bookkeeping. “We hadn’t even gotten a logo done or anything,” Lori admits. “We really didn’t know where to start.”

The women realized they needed help and reached out to marketing consultants Montana Paxton and Devon Clement. Playing off their last name, Lisa came up with the name and Paxton and Clement designed a logo (a lion with his paw on a toilet) and set up the website. The sisters also relied heavily on Aaron Ward, Comforts of Home Services general manager. “It’s not that we had problems; we just had to get used to the characteristics of the trailer,” Lisa says. “We were venturing into a new industry we’d never been in before.”

JUGGLING JOBS

Until King of Thrones is solid enough for them to go full time with it, the sisters are stuck in that in-between spot where they’re each working two jobs. “It does make it hard,” Lisa says. “Lori works long hours, 7 in the morning to 7 at night, lots of times. It’s all been worth it, but it’s hard.” Right now the thrill of starting the new venture is providing the energy needed to maintain their schedule, but it’s not sustainable for the long term.

MONEY MATTERS

On the expense side, startup costs quickly mounted — consulting and legal fees, $200 a month liability insurance, $1,000 vinyl wrapping, trailer supplies, uniforms — and they soon had to draw on more of their inheritance. On the revenue side, figuring out appropriate pricing has been tricky. Although their trailer has some unique features, they do have to consider competition. They don’t want to price themselves out of the market, but they also don’t want to undersell themselves. And all expenses have to be covered, as well as profit. They eventually met with an accountant who gave them some ideas. Fine-tuning the price continues to be an ongoing process.

WEARING ALL HATS

Although the sisters have gotten much help from family, consultants and even a friendly competitor, as with many startups, the bulk of the work falls to them and involves a wide range of activities, many of them unfamiliar. Hitching up the 22-foot trailer and backing it into tight spots — no sweat. Using a computer — a bit daunting. But they’re willing to figuring everything out. They’re catching on to the digital age and now market themselves on their website and Facebook in addition to attending bridal shows and lining themselves up with venues.

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING

Lisa reports she nearly had to resuscitate Lori when they saw the $6,000 tax, license and registration fees from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. They’ve also had a surprise involving their ADA-compliant stall. As proud as they are to offer that amenity, they’ve found everyone tends to use that one instead of using the other stalls. “So your waste tank fills up faster because (the ADA stall) uses more water,” Lori says. “So we have to stand out there. It makes us look mean sometimes, but we have to be strict.”


ENJOY THE RIDE

The sisters did 21 events in their first 11 months — including donating the unit for a fundraiser — all with positive reviews. They’re already considering expansion. They are currently pulling the trailer with a 2007 1-ton diesel Chevy Duramax pickup and don’t have plans to purchase a vacuum truck for the time being.

Each event had its own challenges, some more harrowing than others. Without a sense of humor, it could become overwhelming.

“We’ve been in situations where we’ve had to pull that trailer uphill and down by the river and we’re slipping on the lawn,” Lisa says. “But we’re laughing. At least we aren’t killing each other.” Lori adds, “It’s not just a business. There have been a lot of things where we’re scared to death, but honestly, we’ve had a lot of laughs and we just keep going forward. Everything has been challenging, but it’s been good.”

Their family couldn’t be happier for them. “Our mom is 86, and if she isn’t in the truck with us to deliver, she’s standing out in the yard waving to us,” Lori says. “She’s proud of us.”  



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