Women Lead the Way in Portable Sanitation Industry

Interested in Business & Technology ?

Get Business & Technology articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Business & Technology + Get Alerts

Approximately 8.2 million American women currently run their own companies. So it should come as no surprise the number of women in charge of portable sanitation companies is on the rise. Women are stepping away from their roles as office managers and finding their voices in a predominantly male industry. 

“I think being a woman-owned business gives us that ability to understand the customers’ needs and really focus on that niche market,” says Tammy Thompson-Oreskovic, owner of Arnold’s Environmental Services in Saukville, Wis.

Being a woman helps Thompson-Oreskovic relate to the customers in charge of placing restroom rental orders and scheduling events. “Women are the decision-makers for portable restrooms, whether it is a weekend unit, a wedding or a black-tie event,” she says. “Women are more particular, and I think they’re more concerned about the cleanliness and how the units look and making sure their guests are happy. We’re just more concerned about those kinds of things. We don’t look at it so much as a function and a necessary evil; we look at it as something that will enhance the experience.” 

WBE certification 

Thompson-Oreskovic started Arnold’s with her husband, Pat, 21 years ago, and became a licensed woman-owned business enterprise (WBE) in 2009 when she completed state certification. 

“I went for the certification through the state to further help us get government projects,” Thompson-Oreskovic says. “It just seemed like a natural next step because I had been running the company pretty much since the beginning.” 

According to the U.S. Small Business Association, “a firm must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more women, and primarily managed by one or more women.” Federal size standards determine if a company qualifies as a “small” business based on the number of employees or average annual revenue. 

With extensive interviews and plenty of paperwork, the certification process is not something to be taken lightly. “It’s a lengthy process because you have to prove you are 100 percent involved with the business,” Thompson-Oreskovic says. “They’re trying to get away from a man running the business and the wife or spouse working in the office part time. You have to be able to prove you’re in the decision-making process, you’re at the forefront, and you’re the president. All final decisions run through you.” 

Thompson-Oreskovic says a feeling of accomplishment comes along with the certification. “Going through the process for me was very affirming,” she says. “It made me realize that I definitely know what I’m doing.” 

Leading the way 

Gretchen Hole, owner and operator of Swanky Restroom Trailers and Poopy’s Potties in Holly, Mich., is not state certified as a WBE, but that doesn’t make her feel any less honored to be leading the way for women in the portable sanitation industry. 

“I feel very proud to be a woman-owned and -operated business,” Hole says. “It is important to show that women can do all aspects in this field.” 

As the sole proprietor of her companies, Hole does everything except pump out the one-of-a-kind trailers for Swanky Restroom Trailers. “It is more cost-efficient for me to hire another pumper to empty my trailers compared to having a pumper truck myself,” she says. 

She has a long list of contacts to call on for restroom pumping, and in return, those contractors refer customers to Hole for trailer rentals. “The pumper is making money and so am I,” she says. 

Being a woman in the industry has its advantages, even if it does surprise a few people. “I would say at least 60 percent or more of my customers are pleasantly surprised that it’s a female showing up for delivery and setup,” Hole says. “I mostly deliver to women for parties, so many of them say they are happy to see a female out delivering their restroom.” She says it’s nice to receive compliments for working in the portable restroom field. 

Primary connection makes an impact 

Hole and Thompson-Oreskovic are the principal contacts for their respective businesses when customers call. “I am all hands-on, from the first phone call or email that comes through to the pickup after the event,” Hole says.   

Thompson-Oreskovic also takes charge with selling her business. “My forte is sales and marketing,” she says. “I have done everything in the business.” 

Nancy Gump, vice president of Andy Gump Temporary Site Services in Southern California, notes that it makes a difference when customers speak directly to her when they call. “I find out what customers’ needs are, and it isn’t always necessarily selling them the most expensive equipment,” she says. “Everybody has different needs. You want customers to realize that your goal is for portable restrooms to be one of the reasons that an event is a success.” 

Determination pays off 

Being the minority in the portable restroom industry can have its setbacks, but all three women agree that persistence and hard work have aided in their success. “It’s definitely a man’s world,” Gump says. “You have to constantly prove yourself. I was told when I was younger that sometimes the problem working with women is that they get too emotional. 

“You have to learn how to get a tougher skin, and not take things so personally. I’m a pretty determined person, so if somebody says I can’t do something, then I say ‘watch me.’ I think that’s what has helped me. I’m driven. I like to see what’s on the next horizon and what new challenge we can bring.” 

Hole credits close attention to detail and embracing new technologies and marketing strategies for her success. “I like to try new ideas, either a marketing technique, new equipment or redesigning a trailer,” she says. “On holidays or events, I leave little inexpensive gifts in our trailers for customers, like chocolates on Valentine’s Day, a basket of Peeps on Easter, or a random T-shirt giveaway with my logo. Little things like that go a long way.”   

Developing a personal brand and staying focused is the common thread of advice for women considering entering the industry. “The more you’re willing to learn and the more you’re willing to understand, the more successful you will be,” Gump says. 

Hole believes more women in the industry would add another dimension to a rich network of strong, empowered portable restroom operators. “It is very male dominated — more women should to get into this field,” she says. “It is very rewarding and there’s never a dull moment!”  

FINAL THOUGHT

Are you a female owner of a portable sanitation business? If so, what has been your experience? We want to hear your voice! 

Add your comments below or send me an email at kim.peterson@colepublishing.com.



Discussion

Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.