Million-Dollar Ideas

6.Corporate Concierge

by now, the fact that working Americans don't have enough hours in the day to get everything done is more widely known than who our president is. And that's where concierge services come in. Concierge services-specifically, corporate concierge services--are currently the hottest segment of the personal services industry. "In the past five years, the corporate concierge market has increased 65 percent," says Sara-ann Kasner of the National Concierge Association.

With more corporations contracting services for their employees--anything from picking up dry-cleaning to making all the arrangements for an employee's transfer to France--the corporate concierge is fast becoming a staple of the office environment. Concierges contract with individual corporations or property managers of entire buildings, typically receiving a monthly retainer and on-site office space, which keeps start-up costs down. "Basically, they're a personal assistant doing everything from A to Z," explains Kasner. "It's definitely a people business where you really have to be a jack-of-all-trades."

Kelley Dunn (above), founder of Consider It Dunn, a corporate concierge business in Minneapolis, experienced the need for personal assistance firsthand. "I'd get home from work at 6:00, and my daughter went to bed at 8:00," recalls the single mom and former receptionist, "but in those two precious hours I'd want to spend with her, I'd have to go to Target or the grocery store."

After attending a one-day seminar on concierge businesses, Dunn quit her job in 1996, compiled a database of reliable vendors and developed marketing materials. Living off $10,000 in savings, Dunn walked all over town checking commercial buildings' directory boards for the largest tenants to pitch her services. Her first contract was with former employer Pillsbury, whom she charges $45,600 a year to station a full-time concierge on site. She's also contracted with blue-chip firms Ernst & Young and Grant Thorton, tenants in the same building as Pillsbury, and raked in 1999 sales of $150,000.

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Million-Dollar Ideas.

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