How To Start A Party Rental Business
Do you want to start a party rental business? If you said YES, then here is the only guide you will need from the top party rental experts in the world on how to start a party rental business with little to no experience.
The party rental industry is not too expensive to get started (low barrier to entry) and you can recoup your initial investment very quickly (high ROI). Making money isn’t hard in the party rental business industry. The challenge is setting up and growing your business in a way that allows you to work ON your business not IN your business.
Too many operators miss key steps when starting their business that have long term consequences. Money is great, but any successful business owner will tell you that TIME is much more valuable than money. If you don’t want to look back in a few years with tons of regret, learn from our mistakes so you can go much farther and faster than learning through trial and error.
NOTE: This is not legal, safety, or financial advice. Consult with a legal advisor to see if these recommendations are right for you.
Start A Party Rental Business By Following These Steps
1) Choose A Party Rental Business Name
Choosing a name for your business is very exciting (and very hard). It’s best to choose a name that’s unique, but most inexperienced operators choose a name filled with keywords like “bounce” and “party” so they end up blending in with all of their competitors’ names. Having keywords in your domain name or business name becomes a major headache once you grow past a certain point. People searching for your business specifically end up going to your competitors because all of your competitors show up when their search includes the word “bounce”. It’s best not include any keywords in my business name or domain name so you can have a very strong and unique domain/brand.
For example, our company name is Bounce My House Party Rentals and even though we’ve been around for years… we have to compete with even the smallest companies in our area when people search for us by name. When we founded Event Hawk we tried to avoid this and it worked… when you search Event Hawk on Google no other marketing agency shows up because it’s unique and doesn’t have any keywords in the name or domain. Think Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft… their name has nothing to do with what they sell.
2) Choose Inventory & Equipment For Your Party Rental Business
So what rental equipment should you buy to start out with? The biggest mistake you can make is buying what your future competitors have. Many of your businesses have items on their website’s that do not rent well. Most new operators make the mistake of looking at what other websites have and buying whatever they think looks nice. BIG MISTAKE!
Much of what you should be buying depends on your location among other factors but here’s a general guide guide of what you should start with.
What To Buy For Your Party Rental Business:
- Wet/Dry Bounce House Slide Combos: If you’re getting into inflatables then this is definitely what you want to start off with. They are great Summer renters and can also be used in the colder months. Customers love the perceived value of “2 in 1” since it’s a bounce house with a slide. Many units are even considered 3 in 1, 4 in 1, and we’ve even seen 7 in 1 units that include double slides, basketball hoops, pop ups, and more.
- Water Slides: Great summer renters.
- Obstacle Courses: Popular for schools and churches but wouldn’t recommend buying one your first year. You want to start with items that go out frequently. You can easily rent out 10 bounce house combos for every 1 obstacle course so be mindful of items that take up space but don’t get rented often. It’s easy to fall into the mentality of wanting to have at least 1 of everything so you don’t turn away any calls, but this way of thinking ultimately hurts your bottom line.
- Inflatable Interactive Games: Popular for schools and churches but wouldn’t recommend buying one your first year or two. You want to start with items that go out frequently. You can easily rent out 20 bounce house combos for every 1 interactive so be mindful of items that take up space but don’t get rented often. It’s easy to fall into the mentality of wanting to have at least 1 of everything so you don’t turn away any calls, but this way of thinking ultimately hurts your bottom line.
- Dunk Tanks: Dunk tanks have a lot of potential and are usually easy to set up since they are usually designed for “drop and go”. But they usually need to be towed so you often have to decide between towing a dunk tank or a trailer. You can place the dunk tank in the trailer too (there are also collapsible dunk tanks) but you have to consider how often they get rented out. You want to start with items that go out frequently. You can easily rent out 10 bounce house combos for every 1 dunk tank so be mindful of items that take up space but don’t get rented often. It’s easy to fall into the mentality of wanting to have at least 1 of everything so you don’t turn away any calls, but this way of thinking ultimately hurts your bottom line.
- Mechanical Bull: While there is demand for mechanical bulls, the safety and insurance requirements make them highly NOT RECOMMENDED for newer operators. Insurance costs skyrocket for having one of these in your inventory and they are high risk when it comes to injuries. From a logistical standpoint you’ll need to leave an attendant to operate the bull so these are good rental items to add to your inventory when you have a large amount of staff.
- Games: These are great addons to build up your order. The most popular options are Giant Connect 4 and Giant Jenga. Most games can be purchased on Amazon and require little maintenance.
- Concessions: Cotton candy, snow cone, and pop corn machines are the top 3 addons that you’ll find on most websites. They’re honestly overrated and require a lot more work than they’re worth. After offering them for 5 years, we decided to discontinue them because the cleaning and repairs (usually due to poor handling during loading/unloading) just weren’t worth what we could charge.
- Tables & Chairs: While there are many addons you can add to your inventory, tables and chairs are the what your customers will ask about most. But should you rent out tables and chairs? It’s a very tough call because while they are in high demand, you have to rent out a high volume of them to be profitable and the space, cleaning, and transportation requirements make them a big hinderance on smaller companies. I personally would recommend you start with no more than (8) 6′ folding tables that you can get from Walmart or Sams Club and 50 black chairs from a company like Tent and Table.
- Tents: If there’s one thing you need to approach with TONS of caution, it’s tents. Tents can be a great source of revenue and are typically in high demand. But they also come with high risk since they can collapse and serious injury can occur if you make a mistake during setup. They also require a larger team than inflatables do so it’s important to consider how much help you actually have and the level of experience your helpers bring to the company. Hiring high school kids may work for inflatables but you’ll need to make sure that those setting up your tents are more mature/responsible.
- Foam Machines: Create an experience rather than just renting out an item. There are drop and go foam machine and staffed foam machines that are meant to create an experience rather than a rental item.
- Yard Cards: Grew in popularity after Covid. Good addon item but challenging to store/keep track of.
Where to buy:
Here’s a list of manufacturers, their website, and in stock lists if they have them. It’s important to know when you’re order will ship as sometimes it can take 6-9 months for you to receive your order.
Things to look out for:
- Ship dates: When will your items ship?
- Reviews: What kind of reputation does the company have?
- Insurance: Is the company insured in case someone gets hurt due to manufacturing defects?
- Warranty: Will the company cover repairs/replacement due to manufacturing defects? For how long?
3) Purchase Tools & Accessories For Your Party Rental Business
Now that you have your rental equipment, it’s time to get the tools that will help make your job easier.
- Dolly: Harbor freight or auto dolly
- Stakes: Make sure you have enough for each anchor point.
- Sandbags: Used when setting up on a hard surface where you can’t stake into the ground.
- Tarps: Keep your units clean.
- Straps: For strapping down the inflatable after it’s rolled. The ones that come with inflatables can be hard to use.
- Rags: Microfiber cleaning rags are best.
- Cleaning supplies: Odoban, Simple Green, or any other non corrosive disinfectant cleaner will work.
- Shop vac: Help remove water from units.
- Toolbox: For emergencies
- First aid kit: For emergencies
- Emergency kit: Straps, flex tape, clips, rope, scissors
- Ratchet straps: For tying down items in the truck/trailer.
- Rolling straps (optional): Help you roll the inflatables.
4) Select A Delivery Vehicle
You’ll need a reliable vehicle to deliver rentals. Popular options are:
- Van: Good option but consider the low roof and low tow capabilities if you decide to use a trailer.
- Pickup Truck: Great beginner option and you can always add a trailer later on.
- Truck & Trailer: Most popular option for small/medium sized companies but can be difficult to drive especially when reversing. You’ll need a reliable/responsible team if you’re using this option.
- Box Truck: Popular option for medium/large companies. Be sure to consider repairs and delays due to repairs.
- Rent/Lease: Penske offers great short and long term lease options that make can be a great option depending on your business model.
5) Acquire Storage For Your Party Rental Business
So where do you go with all of this stuff? Here are 3 popular options to stare your tools and rental equipment.
- Garage: Great start point if you’re only starting with a few units.
- Trailer/Van: If you have a small amount of inventory or have an extra trailer you can use this option to store your units.
- Storage Unit: Excellent option when you outgrow your garage but don’t want to pay high rent. Make sure you have 24/7 access as many storage places only allow you to access your space during set hours which may not work for your business model.
- Warehouse: Great for medium/large companies and requires many considerations.
6) Set Policies & Procedures For Your Party Rental Business
It’s important to define your policies but it’s totally fine if you don’t have them set in place your first year. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling.
- Pricing: Price yourself in line with other businesses in your area. It’s better to price yourself high and then offer a grand opening special than to undercut your market.
- Tips: Appreciated but not mandatory
- Damage waivers: Get customers to pay a 7% damage waiver fee in case they accidentally damage your equipment (abuse isn’t covered).
- Deposits: Best practice is to collect a deposit upon booking to secure their reservation.
- Refunds: Best practice is to have a non refundable security deposit (if your state allows it) or a cancellation fee.
- Rescheduling policy / Raincheck: Common practice is to offer the customer the option to reschedule due to weather as long as the equipment hasn’t left the warehouse yet (or 24 hours before their event)
- Delivery fees: This is a must. You can set a delivery fee per mile ($2/mile) or a flat fee depending on distance ($49 if under 10 miles, $69 if 10-20 miles, etc). Remember that you have to drive to the customer to deliver, drive back to the warehouse, drive back to the customer to pick up, and then drive back to the warehouse again. You are essentially making the trip 4 times so don’t cut yourself short!
- Delivery area: 20-30 miles is a good starting point. You don’t want to drive too far for 1 stop and have to turn down work that’s closer because you traveled farther and won’t be able to meet the deadline.
- Clean on site vs clean at home: Although cleaning your units after every rental is ideal, it can be challenging for businesses of all sizes. A popular option is “spot cleaning” the unit at the customer’s house after every rental to make sure it’s at least presentable. Look for things like mud, cake, candy wrappers, toys, silly string. This way you can check for damages as well. Then, when you deliver the unit to the next customer, you sanitize and clean thoroughly on site. Customers really appreciate seeing you clean the unit and it helps limit complaints about dirty or damaged rentals.
- Setups: Take pictures,
- Customer Pickups: Will you allow customers to pick up smaller items like concessions and tables and chairs? This is not something we would recommend for newer operators and insurance is something you should consider since it may affect your policy/rates.
- Rental period: Most operators offer 4-6 hour rental periods but overnight rentals have been a popular option recently. Just be sure not to overpromise on the delivery time because everyone will want it as early as possible and you may be put in a difficult situation.
- Weekend long rentals:
- Overnight rentals:
- Day before delivery:
9) Choose A Website Builder/Booking Software
Websites can be simple and affordable or complicated and expensive and it’s largely dependent on the choice you make when you start your business website. Websites are only complicated and expensive if you try to build one on your own without guidance. But they are actually simple and affordable if you work with a company that has experience with your industry like the one’s below. Why? Because a safe and effective website requires a domain name, hosting, SSL security, web design, graphic design, booking software, and payment processing. Most importantly, when something breaks you want to know that you’re working with a company that has great support.
- Event Hawk Website
- Inflatable Office (IO)
- WordPress Website: Good do it yourself option that can be integrated with IO or BCN (above). Do not attempt this if you have limited time or limited tech skills.
- Wix: Popular do it yourself option but limited when compared to WordPress (above). You will outgrow this option very quickly so we don’t recommend it but mention it here because you’ll it’s a popular option worldwide.
10) Market Your Party Rental Business
- Google My Business: This gets your business listed on Google Maps and allows you to collect & display Google reviews to build trust. Many new operators don’t do this because they don’t want to list their home address on Google Maps. Listing your address is recommended but not mandatory. Instead, you can choose the setting that says “I deliver goods and services to my customers”.
- Facebook Page: This gives your business a social media presence and increased social proof. You can also post pictures and videos of setups, cleaning, and what it’s like day to day in your business.
- Facebook Marketplace: Post your rentals here until you start generating website traffic. After that never post on Facebook Marketplace again. It’s a very tedious process and customers on there typically want to haggle with you on the price. You’ll also be competing with some very low priced offers so it’s best to work on an exit strategy asap and Google Ads is the best alternative (see below).
- Facebook Groups: Try to find local mom groups and ask the admin if you can market your business. If you’re a mom it should be much easier to get your foot in the door . Just reach out and make it personal. Tell your story and offer a special deal for group members.
- Facebook Boost: Organic reach for Facebook posts is now close to 0%! This means that very few people actually see your Facebook posts unless you share in groups, run ads, or boost posts. Boosting your Facebook posts for a couple dollars here and there gets more eyes on your posts but this strategy isn’t recommended because it’s nearly impossible to track the effectiveness of the boosted posts beyond likes and comments (which don’t always translate to bookings).
- Google Ads: This is the absolute best and fastest way to market your new business. Get your website listed at the very top of the Google search page when people search for things like “bounce house rentals near me”. Checkout our free Google Ads crash course to learn how to do this on your own. Consider hiring a professional marketing company when you’re ready for some serious results that generate tons of high quality traffic to your site for a very low cost per click.
- Google SEO: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires optimizing your website with high quality, relevant content so that Google knows to show your website to the right people. This is a long term process that you should work on slowly because it strengthens your website’s presence on Google organically. Unlike Google Ads, SEO is free but it takes much longer to see results with SEO. This is why we recommend you work on this slowly but don’t rely on it too heavily. A good strategy is to do both, but focus on SEO in the off season and Google Ads in the busy season. Consider hiring a professional SEO marketing company when you’re ready for high quality, relevant content optimized for Google Search.
- Instagram Profile: Instagram is another good platform to show off some more visual aspects of your business. However, the main benefit is really social proof, so don’t expect your business to take off if you only focus on Instagram .
- Facebook/Instagram Ads: Marketing your business through paid ads on Facebook and Instagram can be very effective but mainly during the busy season. This is an area you should really consider hiring out OR learning how to do 100% on your own through a program like our Facebook Ads Masterclass. That’s because social media marketing can get very expensive and almost impossible to track if you just “wing it”. But if you do it right, you can integrate your Facebook ads with your Google ads and get insanely high returns for very little spend.
11) Improve Your Party Rental Business Reputation & Reviews
The best way to strengthen your reputation is by generating Google reviews. Having a high number of Google reviews that are relevant and recent makes it easier to get customers who are willing to pay more for the value you bring. This allows you to charge a premium for your service and isolates you from your competitors as “your own market”.
So how do you get more reviews?
- Event Hawk: The reputation management system by Event Hawk™ has proven to be the number one fastest way to generate authentic 5 star Google reviews for your business. It does this through tested texting strategies that ask the customer to leave a review via text at just the right time using just the right words and even includes a review filter that protects you against negative reviews so they’re less likely to go public.
- Manual text: Manually texting your customers to ask them to leave a review after the event makes them more likely to leave a review. Event Hawk automates this process for you and times it better so that it’s more effective.
- Email: Most booking software include an auto email that goes to the customer after the event. Email is not as effective as text but still works sometimes.
12) Acquire License & Registration For Your Party Rental Business
Check with your state to see what kind of license, insurance, and registration requirements you’ll need to meet. Some states like NJ and PA have more strict requirements than others. Regardless of where you are, there’s one thing you definitely want to do and that is to register your business name with your state so no one else uses it. It’s worth checking with your accountant to see which entity type is the best fit for you but here are the main
- Sole Proprietership
- Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)
- C Corporation
- S Corporation
13) Acquire Insurance For Your Party Rental Business
14) Establish Party Rental Business Payroll & Accounting Practices
Payroll and accounting best practices:
- Pay yourself first: Yes you heard right! Pay yourself asap even if you’re brand new and think you should be putting all of your money back into the company. It can be a small percentage like 5-10%. Paying yourself makes it harder to get burnt out and helps keep your finger on the pulse of your business. Too many business owners spend years dumping everything into they company without truly knowing how much they make. Pay yourself something, start small and grow as your business grows.
- Do your own accounting: You need to know how much you’re making and how much your spending. This is hard to do if you wait too long but if you do it weekly it’s much easier to manage.
- Setup your bank accounts strategically: One of the best strategies for managing your business finances is to have at least 2 bank accounts: 1 for income and 1 for expenses. If you really want to be strategic create a 3rd bank account for savings so you can grow your inventory and buy more equipment/vehicles etc. Move money from the income account to the expense account weekly. For example every Thursday, move 60% of the money in your income account to your expense account, move 30% into your savings account, and pay yourself 10%.
- Hire an accountant as soon as you can afford one: While it can feel costly to pay hundreds of dollars per month to an accountant or CPA, it’s worth it to have someone who manages your finances for you and is available for you to call when you have questions about taxes, loans, grants, payroll, or anything else finance related. It’s still important to keep an eye on your own accounting as mentioned above because the reporting provided by accountants is usually monthly or quarterly and when you have a short peak season like we do in party rentals, you need to have information faster so you can make informed decisions.
Paying your employees:
- Pay per job: While this is not recommended mainly because it brings up some legal issues, some newer operators prefer to pay their employees per unit or per job.
- Pay per hour: This is the best way to pay and helps you establish yourself as an actual business so your employees respect you as such.
15) Understand Party Rental Business Safety
Whether it’s you and your team’s safety, or the safety of your customers and their children, there is a high risk of injury in the party rental industry so it’s important to take precautions.
- Back Safety: Wear a back brace and use proper form when lifting
- Trailers: Learn about trailer safety to avoid accidents and serious injury or death.
Your Customer’s Safety
- Staking: Secure bounce houses and inflatables to prevent them from moving due to jumping or wind.
- Inflatable Safety: Set in place safety policies such as: Adult supervision required at all times, no food or sharp objects in the inflatable,
16) Learn How To Clean Your Party Rental Business Equipment
- Never put away your units wet. It’s ok to roll them up while their wet but you’ll need to open them up and dry them out later otherwise they mold very quickly!
- Mold: The best way to fight mold is to avoid it in the first place.
18) Create Necessary Contracts For Your Party Rental Business
Having your customers sign a rental contract is very important. It helps cover you against lawsuits and policy disputes.
There are a few different ways to get a contract for your business.
- Have a lawyer write one up for you. It helps to give them an example template.
- You can use our template found here.
- If you’re using a booking software they may have a template as well.
Learning The Industry Training
- Event Hawk Knowledge Base
- Party Rental Knowledge Group
- Party Rental Bosses Group
- YouTube Channels