An Entrepreneur Helps Turn Unmentionable Business into a Fancy Affair
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Entrepreneur: Christine Sweeney, founder of atlanta watercloset, which offers boutique portable restrooms for outdoor events in the metro Atlanta area.
"Aha" moment: Sweeney left a position in corporate sales in 2006. She was intrigued by a company in Massachusetts trying to franchise "nicer" portable restrooms but wasn't thrilled with the marketing or business plan. She decided to refine it, and in April 2010, Sweeney "got into potties."
What possessed her: After having her son, Sweeney wanted something that would afford her the flexibility to be a mom, but also put her back in the working world and have control of her own "destiny, hours and scheduling."
Why: "It's a great niche in the Atlanta market, because we have such a long season with tons of outdoor events. There really wasn't anything nice in between a traditional porta-potty and a restroom or executive trailer," says Sweeney, who went with a sophisticated look for her logo, branding and website.
Customers: Sweeney has mostly serviced outdoor weddings and corporate events, but she also works fundraisers, festivals and parties. And people are impressed. "Almost any wedding we've done, people are always going up to the bride or mother of the bride and commenting on the bathroom," she says. "You spend so much time planning your wedding--and then people come up to you and comment on the bathroom."
The porcelain thrones: There are two: the sleek and the spacious. Both come with flush bowls, fresh-water hand wash, motion-activated interior lighting, mirror, coat hook and Mrs. Meyer's scented soap. The spacious can fit a baby-changing station. Sweeney wants to create as excellent a bathroom experience as possible, offering optional add-ons like on-site attendants, high-end hand lotion and mints, lattice fencing to "hide" the restrooms, tenting in case of rain and solar-powered pathway lights to guide guests.
Pricing: Starts at $205 per unit, plus a delivery charge that varies by location.
Code Brown: The morning of Sweeney's first job, a wedding, she got a call from the truck driver that her potties had "flown across the road"--into four lanes. The restrooms were safely rescued and delivered to the event on time, but Sweeney decided to outsource operations and focus on sales and marketing.
What's next: Sweeney recently partnered with national franchisor Royal Restrooms, a Savannah, Ga., maker of restroom trailers. She's co-marketing with the company and concentrating on growing her business in Atlanta.