Sarah Mullins – A La Crate Rentals

The in-person celebration world has changed a bit in the last few months.  Actually, it pretty much dried up.  That has not stopped Sarah Mullins, the founder of A La Crate Rentals from adapting, improvising and improving her boutique event rental company.
Sarah’s business essentially stocks, curates and hunts down items to be used to decorate and bring life to spaces that celebrations are held.  Typically serving weddings and corporate parties, Sarah has brought wonderful character to all manner of parties.
Listen as Sarah explains the process she went through to start, run and grow her business.  She also details the systems she has to take care of all of the little details.  This was a fascinating interview with a serial entrepreneur that has a lot more to share as her business adapts and grows.

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Authentic Business Adventures Podcast


You have found Authentic Business
Adventures, the business program that brings you

the struggle
stories and triumphant successes

of business owners across the land.
Coming to you remotely but closely,

I’m in Sun Prairie just
outside of Madison.

And Sarah, you are in Madison, I think.

Yeah, I’m in Monona.

And you just a stone’s throw away.

My name is James Kademan, entrepreneur,

author, speaker, and helpful coach to
small business owners across the country.

And I am excited to learn from
Sarah Mullins, the founder of A La Crate Rentals.

How are you doing today?

I’m doing great, thank you.
Thanks for having me.

Well, thanks for being on.

So why don’t you tell us let’s just start.

What is A La Crate Rentals?

So we’re a boutique event rental company.
All right.

So we service the two hundred
and fifty mile radius.


All right.

And we’re about, I’d say 60 percent
weddings and then 40 percent corporate.

So think of any get together

pre-covid when you need

more tables and chairs, backdrops, bars,
furniture, and decor.

All right.
Our niche is that the pieces we carry are

really either one of a kind pieces
that are found,

vintage items we’ve repurposed
or locally handcrafted and made products.

So we’re working with local makers to build tables,

build benches, find mid century modern
sofas, have them reupholstered.

All right.
So a very boutique side of rentals.

So how long have you been around?

Will be nine years.

Nine years in a few weeks.

Holy cow.

Congrats. That’s awesome.

That is.

I think that’s right.


So what made you start this? Because this

had to be a huge undertaking,
just something with inventory,

storage, awareness, marketing,
insert issues here, right?

Yeah, I always say that I’m kind

of a serial preneur or I’ve always
known that I wanted to have a business.

I never knew quite what.

And so

this was the first business that we found

the need through our own
personal experience.

So we got married and we found

that my husband and I found rentals
at the time were,

you know, produced in other countries,
maybe weren’t the quality or had

the character that we would have hoped.
Both being art majors,

we look to move for pieces with stories

themselves that kind of express
who we are as individuals.

All right.
And we got married and found

that that just wasn’t something
that existed and one of the best pieces

of advice that I ever received
as a curious entrepreneur.

A young sponge at times was to move
to an area, find a need and fill it.

And so this happened with our wedding

and we kind of looked at each other and we
ended up making a lot of our inventory.

We ended up selling a lot of it

on Craigslist afterwards, meeting
a lot of couples in a similar boat.


It is just like this
shouldn’t be this hard.

This should be fun. Right?


Best day of your life.

We didn’t have family around and you know,

you don’t need
I don’t know when you’re looking for like

ten, ten of something you can find two. I always
compare it to like shopping at TJ Maxx.


You know, if you go in there looking
for something, you won’t find it.

But right.

If you go in just shopping,
you’ll find a ton of things.

So, OK, so you found this need.

You said, all right, let’s do this.

So you just quit an existing job or close

up a different business or
what were you doing before?

Let’s see.
So I was working in the ad world

in Minneapolis prior and we
had just moved to Madison.

My husband was working for the university,

the extension,
and I was doing multiple jobs.

I had kind of promised myself I wouldn’t
go back to the corporate world.

All right.
And so I, nothing wrong with it.

It was just more of a
challenge for myself.


If I had I was doing framing,
I was doing window displays.

I was doing freelance work.

I was also working for the county
and doing some interesting odds and ends jobs

that kind of came together
to make a full time salary.


And so this was kind
of a new thing to try.

And we like to throw
spaghetti on the wall.

And so we found a little garage
near our house that we rented.

All right.
And so we wanted it away from the house.

And so we just started we we got the lease

for the space, which was a garage
before we had a name for the business we

started collecting before we
had a name for the business.

All right.

We just kind of went about it like
you would any creative project.

Like you got to get the wheel spinning
in and see what happens.

Right, start somewhere.

Yeah, it was a low investment
and we weren’t the types.

We did do a business plan.
I worked.

Score and took some classes and things,

but we really just kind
of started this journey.

Yeah. Was this your first
business that you ever started?

No, I’ve done freelance before.

It was my first storefront.

OK, so prior to that,
I had businesses out of our home.

I did freelance graphic design and
the window display design.

I started like a pants company
with friends like pants company.

Fun story.

Like pants.


Make your own or you got
to tell me about that quick.

Yeah, it’s pretty good.

So it was a buddy was in Minneapolis.
Her name is Tara.

My name’s Sarah.

I had spent some time in Sri Lanka
and when I came back,

I have these great pants and they’re
kind of like the wrap pants WRP.

OK, so you kind of put them on like a big

adult diaper, like wrap the front
to the back up the back to the front.

Anyway, they’re a great fit
and they’re very flattering.

And so they were going to be Torosaurus.

She was going to design one half.

I design the other

and you can take with the front look
like what the back looked like.

We had different snaps, enclosures.

They were very fun to wear with PJ pants.


So does this get off the ground?

No, we had prototypes and

we got to the point that we started
getting into branding and Tara and I were

good buddies and we kind
of realized it wasn’t a good idea.

How come?

I think she didn’t love the pants.

Neither of us really loved them.

At the end of the day, I think they were

more successful when they were just
one solid fabric or pretty wild.

Got you.
OK, but it was just fun.

And then you’re like, what are we doing?

I want I think a lot of business
owners run into that.

You kind of just keep
trying different things.

But what was interesting was that idea

started from just a fun idea
and not necessarily a need.

So maybe what we found out quickly is,

you know, it’s fun makeup, you pair pants,
but there was necessarily need for it.

Are there still some of those
pants just hanging around?

Yeah, customers real customers are

friends, family, and a lot of
family was gifted them already.

Are that


All right.
Anyway, random random stories.

That’s pretty cool.

I would think just about every

entrepreneur has some idea that they
will call it half launch.

Not necessarily a bad.

It’s probably a good thing
that you pulled the chute.

too crazy into it and invested thousands

of dollars into getting
prototypes made and all that.


That’s interesting, so you got the you got

the space and then you started collecting,
I guess would be products, right?

Or are they all antiques or homemade or

used different eclectic stuff
when it started?

It was very affordable to start
with what we called the smalls.

So at the time was when blue mason jars

and like burlap or
if you can kind of envision should

that look, we’re really had a lot
of people are putting babies and vintage

antique wood dough balls and cute little
more props and I aren’t sure.

So the inventory really
started with a lot of smalls.

And then as the business started to grow

and word of mouth
spread in this community,

it’s a very green business
concept and business model.

And so I think Madison was
a really great place to start it.

And so we saw

we saw just

it was it was fruitful,
like things were going really well

to the point that I could kind
of quit some of those side jobs.

And eventually my son quit his job and he

became our delivery man and we
just tag debt for a few years.

So at what point do we actually make

enough money for you guys to quit
your other jobs one year to year?

Yeah, yeah.
That’s incredible.

Yeah, the timing was really, really great.

We just hit the trend right when it was

starting to take off
and no one else was really doing it yet.

We were the first
in the state of Wisconsin.

Well, we saw others doing it

on the coasts, but we had really adjusted
the business model for the Midwest because

it’s not warm here
for six months out of the year.


yeah, in our business really took
off when we started carrying tables.

So I think it was about four years and we

worked with a good buddy of ours and built
would harvest tables and sitting at one.

Right now there’s a service table just so.

Yeah, it’s a good to see.

Can you see this table
and say, oh no, it’s OK.

Really lovely wood tables.

All right.

And they’re folding legs and we design
them so that they’re very user friendly

for a rental, they collapse, but they’re
very solid like the tables now.

No wiggle at you when
you’re sitting on it.

At the time, no one had
anything like that.

It was think of like a plastic folding
table that you covered with linens.

So this was kind of a big deal,
super big deal that many years ago.


So that kind of took our
business just to another level.

We found quickly we had to go from a truck
in a trailer to getting a big box truck.

So we twenty four foot box truck and you
outgrow that garage space.

We rent the space next door.

And before you know it,
you’re kind of bursting at the seams.

How much space are we talking here?

Are we talking to car garage.
Forker Garage.

Oh, that garage space.

That was like fifteen
hundred square feet I think.

OK, so sigh.

Yeah, it wasn’t super functional.

I imagine in the winter

we really described ourselves as like

glorified movers because we were just
moving furniture back and forth.


Take it here, pick it up there, take it
there, cleaning it up there, wrap it.

So I’m trying to think ten years ago or

nine years ago,
how did you get your name out there?

Our website.

OK, so Facebook was
primarily the social media channel

and word of mouth,
like Madison is the best community for

just spreading ideas
and through word of mouth.

So we got into the right circle
in birds of a feather flock together.

And quickly we started to find our people

and we found a lot of them.

Madison just chock full of like a lot
of artists and creatives and people

that were looking to express
themselves at an event.

All right.

And that’s really when Pinterest
is starting to take off, too.

So I think there’s a pressure to have your
event look a certain way and photos look

a certain way, like, oh, there’s this
new backdrop to get married in front of.

Can you guys build that?

So we work with local builders
and build pieces and then carry it.

All right.

Yeah, it really we’ve been the best.
What are we now?

We have six years in a row of the best

rental and car company in the state,
six years in the state.

Yeah, I’m looking at that though, because
we’ve got the awards up over there.

They just lose track of all these awards.

That’s awesome.
Oh, super cool.

We had a good run.

So do you keep adding or does do people’s

tastes change when it
comes to stuff like this?

Trends change.

Again, the kind of guy that used to have
a desk was just an old orange filing

cabinet, so it wasn’t
because it was a collective.

It was just utilitarian.

Oh, sure, it’s both.

So over the years, the trends have
changed a lot, that it’s been good.

It’s allowed us to stay.

But can we have a sale once a year?

We just on Saturday had our annual sale.

We call it our deck sale.
Oh, nice.

And so this year it went virtual
just with everything going on.

But we did it through Instagram

and our team was able to help sell
pieces that just aren’t moving.

We say if they’re not paying their rent,
we get rid of them so that we can bring

in fresh inventory
that hopefully moves more.

We’re now in a new space for off

of industrial drive and on a near like
there’s a Walmart in the Verdian homes.

In this space as old oil distribution

center, it’s about three thousand
square feet, so not huge.

We’re busting at the seams here, too,
but it’s kind of nice to be forced to edit

what you carry
and be thoughtful about what you bring in,

because I think the slippery slope of this
world is we are like organized hoarders.

I was just going to say

we’re hoarders.

You see something cool?
It’s like, oh, let’s carry that.

But the reality is, like,
it could just sit there.

So to find something that’s functional

for an event and obviously with covid,
we’ve been hit really hard.

So we’re trying to think about like right
now you can’t even have an indoor event.

What does that mean
for the next few months for us?


I just yeah, I want to it’s always
tough using the C word around.


But when you’re talking about
events, that’s a huge deal.

That’s just the world changes we have

in the office that I’m in,
next door to us is a woman that builds

decorative walls for weddings
and for the theater and space.

No, it is

to say enchanted.

OK, I’ll do this for you.


Super cool.

Hugely elaborate stuff.

But they’re they’re essentially saying
that when they used to be able to go

60 miles ish, now they
have to go three states.

So that changed the game.


For sure, we pretty much just hit pause,
just hit pause, OK?

Yeah, so the reality is we can’t force

for us to pivot would be
going most likely to retail.

And we’ve done that to the extent
of having the duck sale.

But right now, I mean, we could
collect interest and sell full time.

But that’s not necessarily

where we’re putting our
energy right now either.


Yeah, I took on this
full time job with Lepic

as my pivot in a lot of ways.

Oh, that makes sense.

All right.

So we hit a point where the writing was

on the wall for our event industry to say
this is our sole income for our family.

Mm hmm.
So what does that mean for us?

How do we keep our business alive through

this and keep our staff employed
and feed our own family?

So to me.

Like, I guess I’m a Neanderthal when it
comes to stuff like this, because

I kept thinking this only last month,
a couple of weeks, yeah,

just kicking the can down the road saying,
hey, after the election, it’ll blow over.

No big thing.

But look, man, the thing is,
stay in power.

So at what point did you realize that this
is not going to blow over quickly?

Well, I got the job in June.

All right, so our.

Business is seasonal,

so we’re only busy for six months
of the year and we carry a line of credit

through the winter to get
us through the winter.

You came out of our slow
season to get hit by covid.


And it is not good timing,

and we moved at the same time personally.

Oh, I just moved out to Brooklyn
with something to the country.

We were living in the city and
looking for a little more space.


We say we moved up to a tree
house and moved out to the woods.

And which is great.

It’s been a very great escape.

But it took a little while for us
to realize that because we were already

isolated now living out in the country,
we realized what was really happening.

Big picture.

And a friend told me about this job

opening that we’re back there were
with a client four years.

I think you’d be really good at that.

I love talking to business owners.
It’s fun, right?

Yeah, you too.

I mean, it’s amazing stories, right?
I love it.

I love it.
And I love hearing about a business owner

doing coaching through
someplace like Winnik.

Because I hear a lot of people doing

coaching that have never
started their own business.

Or maybe they did years ago.


What are you going to tell somebody to do.

Yeah, I read in a book somewhere that this
is what happens when bad things arise.


So yeah, I credit WABAC.

I think that part of the reason they hired

me is that I am a business owner
right now going through this.

So the role is funded by the Carers Act.

So carotenoids are literally paying

my salary through a book to help other
businesses and I can empathize with them.

We did peepee dollars.

We have an Idol loan,
we got the Idol grant.

Like I can speak that language and I can
also speak the language of being tired

and pivoting and, you know,
just relating to them and empathizing.


That’s awesome.
It really is.

Let’s talk about employees.
How many employees?


we had four.

OK, and we’re down to two.

OK, so are you your husband
and two additional.


So my husband and I are three years

into the business, had our first baby
and then we had our second baby.

So we have a four and a six year old

at home and my husband
is home home schooling them and are not

home schooling virtual schooling
with them right now.

And he designs backpacks on the side.

You would enjoy meeting him.
Oh, nice.

And then

sorry, you asked me about employees.

We have an amazing office manager,

Courtney, who’s been with us
for over five years.


And I met her as an all
neighbor, good buddy.

She’s got a text, a major master’s
in textiles, a very creative spirit.


And then Anna helps us with social media.

So actually, I should say more like

we have one full time
and kind of two part time.

And then right now we’ve
got help with deliveries.

And Justin and Jason have both been
kind of toggling helping them.

OK, nice.

So kind of front of shop, back shop

and I still continue to kind of shop,
do the curation inventory purchasing by.

Marketing, things like that,

are there deals to be had now
with the changing world,

or is it more expensive because people
are just sitting at home buying stuff?

I mean, we’ve slowed down our purchasing
just because of our revenue stream.


But there’s still really I think a lot
of people are shopping right now.

I mean, our virtual deck
sale did great this weekend.

I’m going to say we sold everything,
which is unbelievable.

I know.

But we’ve still like I think maybe because
we moved I’ve also been on Craigslist

a lot looking for, like, how we could
really use a console table here.

And I’m a big Craigslist fan.

I keep finding stuff there still.

I am with cars and motorcycles,
so I get it.

Yeah, yeah,

The 13 part.

I mean, I miss flea markets and rummage

sales were definitely a different
experience this year.

Did they happen.

They did OK, but not nearly as much.

And I think everyone just wasn’t
out and about as often either.


So did you have to let anybody go.

I did, yeah.

That’ll be tough.

It was it was really hard because
the reality is, is you just can’t pay

the bills otherwise
and the work wasn’t there.

So there just weren’t
the orders we typically had.

And scheduling and planning the logistics

for what few orders were,
there were difficult.

We stopped the

stuff that was scheduled.

Do that, get kicked on the can,

kicked down the road to twenty,
twenty 21 or whatever.


But sixty five percent
of our business was postponed.

That’s a hit.

All right.
All right.


I think a lot of people think about it
definitely like you see how hard

the restaurant industry and the food
and beverage industries have been hit.

But our event industry
is kind of a sneaky one.

I don’t think you see it because it’s
not in everyone’s day to day life.


but most the majority of our event

industry is seasonal and just got our
busy season just totally taken away.


Yeah, I felt like that postponed
is a good way to put it.

So you feel it can difficult 20, 21 will
just be like gangbusters right now?

Who knows, though it might not like

what what habits have now changed
the way that catering will be done?

What what will be
different in at an event?

Will there be temperature
readings when you walk in?

For patients, I don’t know.

Well, I look like I’m terrible
at predicting the future.

So don’t even give this a grain of salt.

But you ever go into an old school or
crazy old hospital and used to see those

stickers on the light switch that says
shut the lid off to conserve energy?

Oh, yeah.
And from like the 50s.

We don’t do that anymore, right?

Yeah, we go home, we leave every single
light on, even when we leave, right?

I mean, I try not to,

but I can tell my wife just must be trying
to tell the space station where we live.

Every light is on.

Sometimes when I get home
and she’s not going home.

You got a charger.

My dad used to charge me a nickel
every time I left a light on.

Oh, my gosh.

I’m like, do we get to get
motion sensors or what’s that?

I think she’s just
in a hurry with the kid.


I don’t think it’s like.

Yeah, it’s just life is happening
and it’s not a priority.

So I’m sure back then even they were

recycling way better than
we do now back then.

And we just kind of moved back to normal
and left our lights on and recycle ish.

And maybe we should go back to the songs.

Maybe now maybe that’s a sign that they

were working and same thing
with recycling and all that.

Yeah, individual buckets for each one.

Yeah, I think they’re plastic.

At that time I think there was a care

because it was more is
patriotic to recycle.

It’s like let’s recycle your tin cans so

that we can kick butt in World War Two
and all this kind of stuff.

Like it was a oh it was the Greens,
more of a group.

We’re going to do this to save our country
rather than save the planet or the world.


Like the different perspective back then.

But we eventually went back to normal,
which is lazy.

Guess what it comes down to.

So I don’t know, I feel that this is
not going to be a permanent thing.

Maybe it’ll take a few years to get back
to being able to see people in person.

Typically or routinely, but, yeah,
I don’t think it’s permanent.

I hope you guys well,
at least on our social

and a fun level, on a business level when

it comes to commercial space,
I don’t know, man.

My team is doing super awesome work

in remote, I would have never
guessed that they would do this.

Well, yeah,
so a lot of people are enjoying it.

And if I don’t have to pay rent.

That’s cool, yeah, that just means you can
take home a bigger nut and I can give

a bigger not to my employees, so yeah,
I don’t feel like that’s a bad thing.

I hear you.

So, yeah, I’m certain that some things
will change, but I don’t know if it’ll be

like everyone’s
in biohazard suits forever.

I hope not, yeah.
Oh, no.


It will linger, it may linger.

Yeah, yeah, there’s going to be
yeah, totally.

I want to talk to you about the stuff

that you guys have and how you keep track
of it, store it, inventory it,

because that’s got to be a headache
beyond all headaches.

No, it’s not bad, really. Yeah,
we’re organized hoarders, remember?

I should show

you some.

I’m just thinking like, all right, but you
got tables, you have X number of tables.

You have I imagine you have chairs.

OK, and then you have
candle holders or whatever.

And because you’re getting some

of the stuff either used or antique,
it’s not like it’s, oh,

I’m going to order 50 of these
or I’m going to order a hundred.

You might have seventeen leaves and twenty
two of those and five hundred or whatever.

So you can track that.

Oh yeah.
It’s not that bad.

We have a great buddy in town

who uses we use a system called
FileMaker Pro Adobe Product Epizootics

and he thinks of it like a video game
and so he built a database for us.

That is wonderful.

We named him after my grandpa Leo.

That’s the database.

Leo and Leo tracks all of our inventory,

all of our invoices, all of our
sales receipts, everything.

It’s pretty awesome.

And then from it, I should grab you.

We export a catalog so it keeps our

quantities, dimensions, rental rates,
photos of everything.

And then we export a catalog so that we
can look through it with a client, send it

digitally if somebody
wants to flip through it.

OK, you don’t want a physical catalog.


We have over five hundred products,
categories of products, so.

OK, over five hundred
categories of products.


So you have to really have
that organized by in a database.

You have to have it in a database.


So when somebody says somebody orders
whatever for this weekend,

how do you know where it’s stored
in our warehouse.

We have it organized.

It’s a we’re very organized.

we talking barcodes with the scanner or

are we talking like oh
yeah it’s back in there.

That corner.

No I mean the whole shop it’s
kind of organized by you’ve got

so as I mentioned, like Smalls,

over the years we’ve carried less and less
models and gotten to gotten into bigs, ok.

Makes sense.
Yeah, essentially like two rows of smiles,

because they’re tiny,
it’s very consolidated, they’re grouped.

when someone packs an order we have

a packing sheet
and all the products are listed

with quantities and descriptions of
something like which chalk board is this?

You know, it’s like gold.

Here’s the measurement.

You know what?

They can look and find it in the catalog.
All right.

And then customers can pick
up or we offer delivery to.

OK, so the majority of the shop
are all of our bags.

So all the different tables, chairs,
couches, coffee tables, couches.

Yeah, we’ve even got a hotel.

We it

really is it is it.

Iron is undertones.

So happy we include it on a weekly cart

but then we really worry when someone
picks it up and drops it off.

I don’t know, I’m just thinking
like that’s kind of cool.

What would I use that for.

I don’t know why someone’s
renting a closet.

I don’t know.
I think they use it for like beverages

and Whole Foods had rented it a few times
for like a soap bar display display.

So but often it’s filled up with

cold drinks and ice and then they
unplug it and dump it out.

We don’t rent it often.
It’s not a big round here.

But I think it’s funny.
It’s crazy.

I know, but we have a lot of different

like just backdrops to so like these
crates right behind us that you can see.

But customizations over the years has

become more and more popular that somebody
wants their guest list handwritten.

And so we work with amazing local
illustrator who comes in a free hand,

writes Meir’s chalkboards,
whatever they need.


So I would totally get that.

I totally get it because
we’re sending out postcards

as a marketing thing for couples on call.

And I write like an angry six year old
and I think everybody else on my team or

the majority of them,
their penmanship is marginally better.

So I actually hired an old
employee just for that.

Just for addressing them.

Yeah, there you go.

It’s in putting a little note on there

and stuff like that because, yeah,
you’re going through all the time.

Design the postage, getting
the list, blah, blah, blah.


Well that for it’s a look
like a six year old wrote it.

You can also print out labels.

Yeah, I want more personal.

I guess there’s something
to be said for that, right?

Yeah, there is.
You’re very right.

Yeah, I have poor handwriting as well.

So that is why we hire
a local illustrator.

And they’re the kind of girlie I mean,

I don’t know if she’s going to the point
of putting circles or hearts for her eyes,

but it looks way better than anything that
anybody else on our team could do.

Yeah, let’s do.

I guess, because there’s
also the the monotony.

Yes, I get that, too.

So interesting.

That’s fantastic.

Thank you.
So to tell you the postcards.

So how do you decide,

like when you say,
let’s just take the crates behind you,

how did you look at those and be like
somebody is going to order those?

How did you know they’re
super cool looking?

Yeah, but I wouldn’t have known that that
was a cool thing until I saw it now.

Oh, that is cool.

I mean, I think that Pinterest really
helped us with that, like,

a lot of displays return crates on their
side and put photos in them or.

All right, do

build them at the back bar with liquor.

So interesting.

I like thinking of them
as Legos, essentially.

Anything I can find in bulk that could
be a building material or how I see it.

So I looked at these crates as
they helped name us in the beginning.

It’s a long story, but we’ve got a really
good friend who is parents

and an old milk barn dairy farm that had
all of these milk crates in them.

And so when we were coming up with our

name, I told you about our space
before we even have a name.

We just we really struggled with what
to call our what to call this business.

One thing led to another, and I said, hey,

Joe, Joe’s parents still have
all those milk crates said.

Yeah, yeah, like
what if we delivered in crates?

So we used to pack and these are small.

And that was what you
got for your mason jars.

So you rented 10 mason jars,
but then you got these cool crates to go

along with it that you could use,
that you’re at your event.

So you shipped coolness inside coolness.

And eventually that got really heavy
and they were safe for transportation.

All right.
So we just started renting them separate.

But for the most part, I mean,
I just look at pieces that

are going to withstand being
a rental so rentals get beat up.

They oh, that’s my next question.

Like what and what I enjoy about pieces

that are older is that they’ve
already been through hell and back.

All right.

So this is a thing, another winning.
Well kind of.

And the Big Dig only grow with character

in my mind because they have more
and more stories now that they tell.

So then we give them love and TLC,

we often find pieces that we have
to stand down refinish and that’s great.

We want to do that.
All right.

But that’s part of what goes into our
equation when we figure out a rental rate

to so great, you can get a good
deal on this at a flea market.

But now we need to put in five hours

of labor and, you know,
thirty dollars in materials.

Now, what do we have invested in this

project and what do we
need to rent it for sure.

Get that back within
three to five rentals.

All right.
How I think about

the process.

So tell me, as far as packaging
for this stuff, you just have endless

amounts of packing foam or peanuts or
something, or how do you have

to individually Rampal these mason jars,
mason jars rarely go out anymore.

So that’s kind of the beauty of as

the trends have changed and we’ve carried
more and more bigs,

most of the pieces we have furniture,
slipcovers we put on so that

if it’s a velvet sofa, it’s not going
to get stained and transportation,

moving blankets and such.

But no, you know, we’re we’re thoughtful

and careful with our pieces, but we really
don’t have that many smalls anymore.

OK, we’ve got plastic bins now that have

our label on from you line and we
ask that they return them with it.

It’s just more functional with like
plastic dividers and says, OK,

we try to be because
a rentals are such a green concept.

And be what we carry in particular,

repurposing pieces locally,
making pieces with local wood like these

tables are made from Wisconsin,
barn wood even.


So that’s a very another green layer
to our business and what makes us batik.

So you know,
for us then to wrap everything in bubble

wrap seems kind
of counterintuitive, right.

So we try to get this done.

Biodegradable foam.

Or Courtney has been known to sew a little

custom case for something
that the customer can bring back.


So we can reuse and repurpose
even the wrapping.

All right, customers.

I’m just imagining
the weddings that I’ve been to that like

everybody spends hours sitting up and then
the show’s over, the party’s over.

People, like, tear it down as fast as

possible while they’re half drunk,
maybe three quarters.

I like to not be there during that part.


do you guys help with the repackaging or

do you just trust them to bring it
back to you or how does that work?

So if luckily where we live,

it seems like a lot of venues are a little
more flexible and pieces don’t have

to necessarily come back until the
following day or even after that.

So that gives the family and friends time
to kind of package everything back up.

And if we’re retrieving it, we just
ask that it’s kind of all gathered.

We pick it up, put it
in the truck, all right.

Or they’re bringing it back.

So, yeah, they’re going
through that process.

They’ve got their packing slip,
make sure they got everything.

But occasionally there is venues where we
have to pick up at midnight or

the venue closes at 1:00
a.m. and we need to be out.

We need to be there by ten thirty or

there’s all these different
time restrictions.

And so those are the ones
that become a little hairy.

And we do our best to kind of warn
everyone we’re coming at this time.

We have to be out by this time

we ask for help,
but we do charge an additional two hundred

and fifty dollars to come
out and do it that night.

Totally, for all of the reasons.

You just said because stuff
is not found, it’s dark.

You can’t find that one last Mason jar or.

Henthorn Vaisse.

Betty’s purse.

Well somebody like put it
in the bathroom for decor.

Like you’re kind of you spend so much
more time finding and cleaning pieces to.

After the buyers will still have.

Liquor on them or.

So there’s a lot more time involved in 50,
if you like, seems small.

Oh, thanks.
Yeah, well that’s a really hard one

for people because it’s just, you know,
events are can be really expensive.

And so we feel bad throwing that on.

But we give our our team a bonus if they
go out late at night because they leave

their family and go out for just
this one order, most likely.


So we do our best to make
it fair for everybody.

I get that.

I get that.

I mean,
I want to talk about how you figured out

how to price stuff, you know,
specific prices or anything like that.


what you have is so unique and different
that I guess people,

if they are trying to price shop apples
to apples, it’s just not going to happen.

If they compare your fancy wood

fire from wood table to the plastic
real conference table.

It’s not exactly the same.

So how do you figure out or how did you
figure out how to price stuff, sir?

Well, I kind of look at it when it comes
to Smalls versus Biggie Smalls tend to be

something like, let’s say we have an event
one weekend and three things go missing.

OK, I need those three
things for next week.


So it doesn’t matter what I actually
paid for those original three.

The reality is, is that replacement cost
is what can I get them for quickly?

And that’s often eBay, right?

Oh, interesting.

OK, so when it’s something that I know
could go missing and that’s usually

the small stuff, I’ll look to eBay
for a general average price.

Worst case scenario,

I think I could replace this item
for twenty five dollars plus shipping.

Thirty dollars.

OK, I’m going to go work backwards

and the replacement cost is five times
the rental rate,

so I’m going to rent it for six dollars
knowing that worst case scenario goes

missing and my business
is going to be paid back.

That replacement cost.



If it’s a larger items, you know,
there’s a lot of things you take

into consideration your
original purchase price.

There’s some things that we
get for a good deal.

But then there’s also some items that I

pay an arm and a leg for because
they’re still hard to find.

But the reality is, is let’s say I
found it for seven hundred dollars.

I do my math.
Let’s use your number.

Let’s say I found it
for a thousand dollars.

Do the math and say, OK, that would
be a two hundred dollar rental.

And I know if somebody is not going
to pay two hundred dollars for it.

OK, you know, you kind of have to figure
out that value or know your gut check.

All right, then I’m going to we’re going

to have to do one 15 rented
out a few more times.

All right.

So how I guess, how are people renting
from, you know, are they going on your

website and picking
through all this stuff?

Yeah, we we’ve always welcomed people
to come to the warehouse,

but with everything going on and we want
this to be a safe place for our team.

Mm hmm.
So, yeah, everything’s online and you can

submit a wish list just like
you would put things in a cart.

You sign in and then we check

availability, draft your quote
and you reserve it.

OK, it’s 50 percent down for reservations.

We always say that’s because we
turn down business on your behalf.

So, yes, you reserved all of our round

harvest tables, for example,
and somebody else came in, one of them,

because we are boutique,
we only have 15 of those.

That’s just you.
Mm hmm.

But you could change your mind and and
switch out your entire order after that,

but you’re still locked
into that original 50 percent.

OK, that makes sense.

Seems fair.
Heynckes, we just try to be fair

to you.

Have any horror stories about stuff
that get just terribly destroyed.

That’s a great question.

And I have one really good horror story.
All right.

All right.
So imagine a white Victorian couch like

rounded back and all is going to be
a coach, white Victorian coach.

And we provided a plastic cover,
they had an event planner and we heard

that night they put the plastic
cover on it when the party ended.


Only to have our team go retrieve it and I
get a call that says they said,

Sarah, the late Victorian coach,
is covered in orange pawprints.

It’s like.

Tell me more

only to put all the pieces of the puzzle
together together, that the groomsmen took

the cover off at some point and restarted
the party, never put the cover back

on an apparently cheesy popcorn was left
outside and raccoons got the cheesy

popcorn party on our white couch
after everyone went to bed.

Oh, no.

We had a poster that won completely if
it was that bad.


but I mean, I would like
lose sleep when we open.

We’re going about white couches
and white sofas.

And honestly, that’s the only time
it’s ever happened in seven years, so.

Well, that’s not bad at all.


I’m Wisconsin for


More like it.

I’m just trying to think, man,

that is what people eat
when they’re eating cheesy

in you.

Oh, the orange.

Just we can’t get it out of fabric.

But you’re putting it in your body too.
Good point.

Have better interest.

So what people eat when they’re
drinking really late at night as

you expand your choices,
I guess when it’s that time of night.

What has been your favorite part
about owning this business?

Oh, I think.

That’s a hard question.

I just think of all the people we’ve met.

We have a while, we take your Polaroid
picture when we would get to meet you

and it’s like, yeah,
we keep it with everyone’s file because

there’s a lot of people
we work with for years.

Oh, wow.

Think of many weddings.


more like someone gets engaged and it
might be a year and a half out.

Two years out.

All right.

We meet them right off the bat and we like
to keep their face off their paperwork.


And so now it’s just really
cool after all these years.

I just can’t believe how how immersed I
feel in the community because I’ve gotten

to meet all these couples
and just business owners as well.

So I think the best part
would be the people.

That’s fair.
Yeah, that’s totally fair.

I like people, so we’re pretty cool.

What what do you see your business doing
in the next let’s call it nine years?

I would evolve I guess.

I see us

honing in on the boutique end of it,

focusing more and more
on working with local makers.

Oh OK.

Yeah, we started and I’m
really excited to get back to this.

We kind of announced a sister company
called A La Made Goods two years ago, OK?

And I never we did a few small.

Sales from it, but essentially we had

a lot of people coming to us saying, oh,
my gosh, I love your wood tables,

you’re working with all these local
makers and building all of these things.

Can we buy them?
Do you do retail?

And so that really opened our eyes to

the reality that, yeah,
we are working with local makers.

We are building 20, 30 tables at a time.

How can we add on to that?

How can the public benefit from this?

Some of our previous clients, so many
of our clients are only with us once.

And how can we have them reoccurring, too?

So that’s something I would love to
lean into.

More is made.

Carrie enthrone pottery,
hand throwing plates, ceramic plates,

but then then have enough
for one hundred guests.

But what if you wanted to get a set
of 12 for your home that you could buy?

Mm hmm.
Or your head table set was one that you

could bring home
and actually have with you.

And that’s the set of kind of heirloom

plates that you’ll have
for the rest of your life.

Oh, very cool.

So I look forward to having the time and
energy to kind of dive into some of those.


And I suppose that’s something
that could happen even now in this.

Changing landscape
of the event space, right?

It could yeah, I mean,

it kind of started before,
but what I found was the marketing side

of it almost felt like you
had to market to companies.

So now we sold a six foot harvest
table was our first Olumide launch.

Mm hmm.
And it was a small batch release,

but you had to sign up to buy
a thousand dollar table.

You know, that’s a big ask
to market as well, right?

So then who’s asking? Right.

I know I was being asked, I guess some
people that’s just the thing. Right?

Well, and finding the right audience

for that, it felt like
a slightly different audience.

So just needs more of my attention.

OK, yeah.

Do you have a little kids?

I have a six year old,
almost seven year old son.


So I would not buy a thousand
dollar table because

there’s there’s kids all the time in our

house that his him and his
buddies and stuff like that.

And so the first grade or
kindergarten he’s in first grade.

Oh great.

So just they have I don’t know where they

find metal and their zippers
and stuff like that.

They just love hearing the noise
of it screeching on the table.

Oh yeah.

What are you doing.

My kindergartner loves trucks and so

they’re driving everywhere
and construction equipment.

Oh sure.

But we have so of tables at home
and it does just add petina.

So actually I would say the opposite is
the perfect table for your seven year old.



that’s motorcycle money.

Yeah but that’s, that’s super cool.

I think that would be beneficial.

Is that website up.

We just have it right now
as a sub page of our page.

So the great website it just is good.

Oh let me see right there.

OK, super cool.

So how can people find you? On our website

the best place right now.


Thank you.

And on Instagram too.
All right.

Same thing?
A La Crate Rentals?

Instagram is A La Crate Rentals.

OK, nice.

Very cool.
Is there a phone number at all?

Emails probably better.

Emails better?
What’s a good.

What’s a good email?

Easy enough.

Sarah, thank you so much
for being on the show.

This is cool.

Really nice to meet you.
Thank you.

This has been

Authentic Business Adventures,
the business program that brings you

the struggle
stories and triumphs and successes

of business owners across the land. Coming
to you just, you know,

a stone’s throw away from each
other in Sun Prairie and Monona.

My name is James Kademan

and Authentic Business Adventures is
brought to you by Calls On Call offering call

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As well as Draw In Customers
Business Coaching,

offering business coaching services for
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at As well as

the Bold Business Book,
a book for the entrepreneur in all of us

available on Amazon and wherever
fine books are sold.

We’d like to thank you our wonderful

listeners, as well as our guest,
Sarah Mullins, founder of A La Crate Rentals.

Sarah, thank you so much
for being on the show.

Find this airing locally on 103.5

Wednesdays at 1:00
p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m.,

as well as at
just hit the little podcast link.

Thank you so much for being on the show.

I want you to thank you for listening.

And if you do nothing else,
enjoy your business.

Thanks, Sarah.
Thank you.




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