Get My Batsuit, Alfred!

Start your own personal concierge service

Think you want to be a personal concierge? Clients will probably ask you to plan meetings, schedule tee-times, or even locate and pre-screen child-care centers.

You're OK with that? They may also ask you to purchase a piece of jewelry for their anniversary with their mistress, plan a birthday party for their cat (complete with cake and party hats), hire an Elvis imper-sonator for a bachelor party, or move a batch of horse sperm through customs without proper documentation. And don't be surprised if they inquire as to whether you perform "unprintable acts."

Personal concierges have encountered these situations and many--yes, very many--more. If you're a true professional, you do it all (except for the unprintable acts), you do it pronto, and you do it with a smile.

"You have to be a bit of an actress," says 32-year-old Cheryl Lentz, owner and sole proprietor of Concierge Corporate Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "You must be willing to bend over backwards and stay professional when you hear outlandish requests."

If you've got the kind of personality that loves people no matter how loony they are and you enjoy the challenge of fulfilling every imaginable request, then you've got the tough part down. The rest is chocolate cake.

First, the market is waiting for you. The ranks of the desperately time-starved are growing faster than you can say "Fetch me a cab." More American women are working outside the home than ever before--about 78 percent, according to the Families and Work Institute. This is putting a greater strain on the free time families have together. In addition, everyone else seems to be working longer hours; most spend 44 hours a week on the job. And people putting in 10- to 12-hour days are eager for anything that makes their lives easier.

That means they're eager to pay for the services of a personal concierge. Personal concierges charge by the hour or by the service, and those who specialize in corporate services often charge a retainer fee. Annual income for a concierge can range from $50,000 to $125,000 or more, depending on the type of business, its location, the services offered and other factors, says Sara Ann Kasner, president of the National Concierge Association (NCA) in Chicago.

Capitol Concierge in Washington, DC, one of the oldest personal concierge services, generated revenues of $5.2 million from cli-ents nationwide in 1999. Founder Mary Naylor, now 36, started the business in 1987 with just $2,000.

Pamela Rohland, a time-starved writer in Bernville, Pennsylvania, wonders if she could hire a personal concierge to write magazine articles for her.

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This article was originally published in the March 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Get My Batsuit, Alfred!.

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