Each year in the United States there are over 2.5 million weddings. In addition to that, there are millions of corporate events, including awards galas, holiday parties, and so much more. For all of those events, event planners are looking to book entertainment, caterers, and even smaller detail items, such as linens. With this much activity going on, there is a business for those interested in renting linens for event use.
In the United States, the linen supply market is tied in with the industrial laundry category and is estimated to be worth $16 billion. Further, the industry is growing at a very healthy rate. With nearly 4,500 industrial laundry and linen supply companies in the United States serving a population of over 300 million, there is ample opportunity for new companies to enter the market.
Why Start a Linen Rental Business?
If the above statistics weren’t enough to sell you on why you should start a linen rental business, understand that even though linens are used mostly for wedding receptions, everyone in some way will need linens at some point. Linens are not limited to tablecloths either. Linens also include curtains, napkins, placemats, uniforms, draping for an event, and so much more.
If you are planning to get into the linen rental business, you will be renting out linens to all types of customers for events of all shapes and sizes, depending on the target market that you plan to cater to. A benefit of the linen rental business over other small business options is that for linen rental, the up-front capital is not as intensive. Aside from the equipment, you will need to wash and press the linens after each use, linens themselves are far less expensive to purchase than items needed for other businesses.
To get started, and before you sign any agreements with a landlord, and before you start marketing your services, you need to do some homework. One of the best places to start is by driving through the community that you wish to serve. Identify the various venues, including farms that rent out space for weddings, community centers, churches, schools, large office buildings, etc. Consider dropping into a few of these places to meet with their directors of operations to find out about the events they host, and who they get their linens from. Taking time to do this activity correctly will help you understand the size of the prize and will ensure that you are not trying to set up a shop in a market that doesn’t need what you have to offer.
Conducting Market Research for your Linen Rental Business
As part of your research, aside from visiting local venues and establishments, be sure to consider the niche that you want to serve. A niche market is simply a segment within a larger market. However, within that segment, there needs to be an opportunity to differentiate. As an example, perhaps your linen rental business will be designed to serve those who are environmentally minded. Your differentiator could be in the materials that you use for your linens as well as the chemicals that are used to clean your linens.
Any market can be segmented by the unique needs and preferences of the constituents in the market. For example, niches are commonly defined by the following variables:
- Demographic base including gender, age, income level, education level, and type of residence
- Quality of product desired
- Psychographics including values, interests, behaviors, attitudes
- Geography- the location where your audience lives and works
Marketing your linen rental business can be easier than targeting a broad market. Members of a defined niche tend to have a lot in common in terms of needs, wants, and preferences. If your environmentally friendly linen business is designed to sell to upscale clientele, then you need to ensure that your audience is in more affluent areas, has higher incomes or higher business revenues, and is interested in linen rentals for their various events. If you try to rent environmentally friendly linens (which by design will be higher in cost) to a low-income market that has little to no commerce or business in the area, then it is not likely that your business will persevere.
As you further refine your niche, consider also the level of competition in the area. If there are other linen rental suppliers in the area, is the market large enough for another rental business? Or, if those existing linen rental companies don’t provide the same premium product that you do, perhaps your approach will be just the differentiator that the market needs.
Marketing your Linen Rental Business
As with any new business, your marketing plan needs to be well-thought-out in advance of your opening. Your initial marketing plan should be developed in conjunction with your initial business plan so that you can align your marketing activities to your budget and revenue projections.
In the least, your marketing plan needs to include the following key components:
- Company name, logo, and color palette–Make sure that your linen rental business name has a name that aligns with the services you offer. A title like ‘Distinctive Linen Rental,’ or ‘Eco-Linen Rental & Supply,’ or something similar can easily convey high-end and environmentally friendly options. Once you have your name, have a logo developed that aligns to your name. Be careful to avoid coming up with a logo that has nothing to do with your name and services. Draw in at least one to help with brand recognition. Finally, work with a creative designer that can provide you with brand guidelines and a visual identity that includes colors that can be used in your marketing, how to use your logo, and what to use for specific use cases.
- Website – Look for an e-commerce platform provider that provides a user-friendly and intuitive website design. Make sure your customers can easily find information about your products and can place their rental orders online. As a more sophisticated option, add a chatbot that can answer basic questions and rentals, and offer a click-to-call or email function so that prospective customers can easily get in touch with you if they have questions.
- Social media – Today’s online consumers spend over nine hours per day online, and at least two of those hours are spent engaging with social media. With the digitally-savvy nature of these online consumers, you need to make sure that your business can be found wherever it is that they are looking. Make sure your social media channels and your website are connected and aligned so that you can start to create brand awareness amongst your visitors.
- Direct mail – If you are new to a market, it is wise to work with a list rental provider so that you can send out a high-quality direct mail piece to local businesses and venues. This is a great way to get them on your radar. On your piece, briefly introduce your business, include a call to action, and ensure that your business address, contact information, and social icons are listed.
The market and need for linen rentals is a big one. Taking the time to assess the needs of the market properly can help you to identify your niche. Then, you will have all of the information you need to create your business to serve the identified market. Once you get started, make sure that you continue to assess the market for changing needs, styles, etc. This will keep you on top of the changes and will make sure that you do not become complacent and miss the needs of an evolving marketplace.