For Something Old Event Rentals founder Brittney Jones, the path to owning her own business wasn’t a direct one, but the journey led her to a serendipitous encounter.
Prior to starting the vintage furniture rental company based in Morton, Illinois, that she now owns and operates herself, she worked for the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (the USDA Ag Lab for short) in Peoria. When she decided to depart from the Ag Lab in 2012, becoming an entrepreneur was the furthest thing from her mind. Having just become a new mom, staying at home to raise her kids was the top priority.
Despite the startup challenges that comes with starting a family, Brittney had a side passion that would lead her closer to starting a business. Growing up, she was musically inclined and played the cello. Unlike most of us, her talents didn’t fizzle out in the music classes of junior high. She continued on and was a part of a string quartet that would get hired to do weddings throughout Central Illinois.
While experiencing many other couples most joyous occasion, Brittney had gotten to know many of the other area industry professionals. One of them was Sara O’Shea, the founder of Behind Every Bride and So Chic Events. Although it may have seemed innocent enough at the time, Brittney asked Sara if she thought there was a market for vintage furniture and quirky, decorative items in the industry. Sara said she thought so—if marketed right.
What prompted Brittney to ask such a question, was the number of requests from her friends wanting to borrow her stuff from around the house for their various events. In May 2014, the decision was made to start a business that could fill the niche that was missing throughout the central part of the state.
PEN had the chance to spend some time with Brittney to find out more about the process of starting Something Old Event Rentals, peek inside the storage units that house all the inventory and learn about the big plans she has in store.
How did go about starting your business?
I just tried to collect things off a list I had made to keep around. The wedding industry isn’t a “right away” type of thing, and when I started that spring I had zero clients. I would do things for friends and people I knew. But in August, I did my first wedding Behind Every Bride bridal show and started to get noticed more.
My first “real” client rented from me in November of that year. So it takes time, but allowed me to build up an inventory.
Where do you find all of these unique items?
Craigslist is a great starting place. I also go to flea markets. I’m on various Facebook groups, and have gotten into a network of other vintage rental businesses from across the country. Sometimes they can’t get to something or it won’t fit for them, so they let me know.
Do you have any competition in the area?
The wedding industry in Central Illinois has been very open to me. Since I’m doing something that nobody else really does, it has helped with relationships. For example, I rent sofas and chairs, and nobody around here does that besides me. Of course there are other rental companies, but my stuff has variety and isn’t all alike. I can offer clients that unique piece of furniture that works perfectly for their event.
How did you first get the word out about Something Old Event Rentals?
I did my website right away, knowing that was very important in today’s market. That’s how I shop. I first marketed the business using social media, such as Facebook and Instagram. The wedding industry is very visual, and both those apps are good for that. It’s interesting to see brides contacting me on Instagram and their moms contacting me on Facebook.
After growing a following on social media, in 2015 some of my followers started contacting me for events. All of that has led to word of mouth and more awareness of what I’m doing. This year, I already have four times the events as last year.
How did you register the business?
I’m operating as a sole proprietor right now, but I’m talking with an attorney and working on an LLC. At first I wasn’t real confident that this would be a real business, but now with the growth and more events booked next year I would definitely say it is.
Did you have any help or mentoring while starting?
I learned from other peer businesses in the network through the Facebook group. I did try a more conventional route initially, but scheduling was an issue. I got deterred, however, I learned different things online and watching videos on YouTube.
What other projects have you been working on?
Something else I’m really excited about is the Spruce Wedding Company. It’s a wedding alternative that creates boutique “pop-up” style wedding for 10-25 guests. You could call it a local elopement.
It’s an all-inclusive package where I create a theme for a day and plan the entire thing from start to finish. That takes all of pressure off of the couple so they can just enjoy the day. Packages start at $3,500 which makes it a much cheaper alternative than a traditional wedding. The process only takes about 2-3 weeks, so turn around is quicker as well.
“Camp Spruce” is the first one in October, and is at an old Girls Scout park in Pekin. The campground theme goes with the setting.
What has been the best way to help your business grow?
Clients and word of mouth. My rental business is continuing to grow. April and May 2017 are almost completely booked. I would eventually like to have a bigger space to display the inventory in a better way. Someday, I would really like to have my own venue.
It takes time. I’ve been reinvesting the earnings back into the business and that has helped the business grow.
Where can we find you online and in person to contact you about an event?
My preferred way of contact is via email. You can see more online at somethingoldeventrentals.com and follow me @SomethingOldEventRentals on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll also be at the Behind Every Bride Bridal Showcase on Saturday, August 14th.