Story by John Cantor
Joe Wesley, a Kentucky rental business owner, brought a “winter wonderland” to the students of Middle Tennessee State University in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day 2021. Wesley wondered how he’d be able to keep this business going after a year when nearly all of his plans had been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
When Wesley was asked if they were able to book enough events to make the high costs of running a rental party business worth it, he replied simply with “No.”
In 2020 they were down 83% on revenue.
The business “Party On Air Xtreme Inflatables,” was started in Danville, Kentucky by Wesley’s wife Ashley and a friend of hers in 2014.
“I used to have a motorcycle and A.T.V. business, got out of that and started doing the rental business with my wife full time,” said Wesley.
When Wesley ran his motorcycle business he would do about 500 orders a day.
“There are a lot of similarities in dealing with people. The party and event rental business is not any different on the customer side,” said Wesley.
Although, there were some significant changes.
“With the motorcycle stuff you could do everything perfectly, almost give it to them free, have it to them yesterday, and they could still not be happy,” said Wesley.
“With the party and event rentals, as long as we did what we we’re supposed to, the customer’s happy to give you whatever the price is. Ya know, it’s something for their kids usually…They’re always happy to see us, happy to pay us, just happy,” said Wesley.
“In the beginning we started out as backyard parties, birthdays, and so on. Kind of grew and started doing schools and churches and corporate events and that kept growing,” said Wesley.
“We began to focus on corporate events, high school, college, young adult age. Our inventory has kind of changed throughout time for stuff that’s fun for young adults, college kids, even older adults,” said Wesley.
The company has been chosen by a local newspaper poll for reader’s choice for best rental company a few times in recent years.
“We really focused on our cleanliness and promptness…having good equipment and being presentable,” said Wesley.
As the company seemed to be growing more and more each year the Covid-19 induced pandemic nearly brought all of their larger business plans to a stand-still.
“We still did a bunch of events, but we had to kind of focus on backyard events. So we had to transition from what we were working towards. The colleges, schools, churches, corporate events, because all that stuff just stopped,” said Wesley.
“It’s starting to open up a little bit more. That’s been great to see, a blessing for us,” said Wesley.
“Stuff’s starting to open up that was not existent last year. I’m hopeful, but cautious at the same time,” said Wesley.
Recovering the business is a slow process.
“What’s made it tricky now is with Covid, we had to lay some employees off and now some of them have found other jobs or they’re able to get unemployment and ya know getting them back to work and finding new employees is really tough right now,” said Wesley.
The company will travel anywhere customers are willing to pay, the farthest place they’ve been so far being Madison, Wisconsin.
“We were supposed to go back this last summer, but Covid had to go cancel that,” said Wesley.
Despite these difficulties Wesley and his wife have been able to stay afloat in a time when many businesses old and new are closing down.
“We were fortunate to be on a business side and try to really be conservative with debt. That really saved us,” said Wesley.
“But there are a lot of other businesses that weren’t stable going into Covid and they’ve either had to file bankruptcy or go out of business. So on our end there’s less competition,” said Wesley.
When asked if he wished to still have his old motorcycle business in a time where he might be making more money that way, Wesley expressed he did not regret leaving it.
“The e-commerce business has been crazy with Covid because you can just stay home on the computer and order whatever you want. But saying that, I wouldn’t go back to it for anything, just because it’s a cutthroat business. There’s no loyalty with it,” said Wesley.
“I’m not the best talker, but I enjoy being around people and having that face to face interaction is priceless for me,” said Wesley.
“I’m just grateful to still be here in business with Covid. It’s been very difficult to say the least. I’m 36. I don’t think I had any grey hair a year ago, and now I see it pop up everywhere,” said Wesley.
“I just hope we have the opportunity to keep making people happy and just be profitable to provide for our family,” said Wesley.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Ashley Barrientos, email email@example.com.
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