Interview with Cecile DeMartini of Beach Butlerz

Interview with Cecile DeMartini of Beach Butlerz

I had the opportunity to sit down with a good customer of ours - Cecile from Beach Butlerz and Butlerz Events.  The "Butlerz" brand of event services offers a unique blend of event rental as well as staffed services during events.  Cecile has found success with a focus on fun, seaside weddings and corporate events and has expanded beyond the sand with Butlerz Events to provide clients with a complete offering of event rentals and services.  Below, Cecile gives us some insight into her business, challenges faced and keeping motivated.  Check her company out online at www.beachbutlerz.com  Enjoy!  -Will  

ES: What brought you into the rental business? What opportunity did you see?

Cecile: What brought me to the rental business was a see-a-need, fulfill-a-need type of scenario. When I had my second child, I went out to the beach, and I had a horrible experience. I was carrying a diaper bag, my 6 year old on my other hand, my brand new baby, in her little snuggly... By the time I got to the beach and set up, I realized that I didn’t have an umbrella and I wouldn’t be able to stay out there for long. Because of the stupid factor of being a new mom and you burn your kids out there. I came back the next time with the same crap, umbrellas slung over my shoulder. I thought I was all set until 15 minutes into beach experience, the wind blew threw away my umbrella and I couldn’t chase it. Because I had a brand new baby on the beach. The thing is like going point over top and I am thinking it is going to stab somebody along the way, luckily somebody stopped it for me and nobody was hurt. It was then that I came up with the thought of how come in Mexico you can just go to the beach and arrive, to a beach umbrella and chair without thinking twice about it. But in California you can’t. People spend millions of dollars to vacation at California beaches but we don’t have a service for them. So Beach Butlerz was born.

White resin folding chairs and natural market umbrellas in front of the picturesque Morro Rock in Morro Bay, CA.

ES: And then evolved the business into Butlerz Events...

Cecile: It was part of the business plan but it wasn’t a big part. I never realized that it would look weird to say Beach Butlerz running a lounge for a wine festival. It didn’t quite seem right, so we created the name beach butler events. Even now locally, I will still go to the winery and they are like “Hey, Beach Butlerz…” Although all the invoices and everything says Butlerz Events. It also occured to me that, even though I didn’t want to work through the offseason, someone who may take over the business would still want revenue in the offseason. I should make sure I am prepared for that, so Butlerz Events was created.

ES: What kinds of challenges are you running into? Now that it is November we are in the offseason?

Cecile: This is the end of our 6th year. Cash flow is always top, my problem this year is that I promised that I would save money for the down, slower time. But I ended up buying a huge tent...actually a lot of tents. I should have maybe paced myself a little bit more. As usually I am making phone calls trying to get things booked so we can get through, pay rent, pay stuff, pay insurance. That is top right now.

Tent installs on the beach are no joke. The Butlerz install and tear down tents like this 32' Sailcloth on the same day. Cocktail tables with teal linens complete the beach party.

ES: Getting the deposits this time of year...

Cecile: Actually even getting paid after the fact. You make a lot of friends in the business. They are like “oh, I am just going to wait until my client pays me so that I can pay you the balance I owe you.” 30 days, 60 days out you are hello, am I carrying your festival or what!

ES: Makes you a good friend.

Cecile: I know, sometimes your friends have to pay up rent.

ES: 6 years in business you must have found - as far as marketing goes - really effective ways you have promoted your company and some not so effective. What has really worked for you?

Cecile: The best form of marketing when we first started was donations. We would donate gift certificates to local nonprofit dinner fundraisers. It turned out to be really key because people going to some of these nonprofit fundraising dinners are clients. They are going around looking at everything in auction, our name would show up. Then they would start wondering. Of course people would bid on it. It would be twofold; we would donate to a local nonprofit, the good company type thing. At the same time our clients, multiple clients, would see us and then they would use us and then they would tell their friends. That was really amazing for us as far as marketing.

ES: These are clients who own businesses hosting corporate events?

Cecile: Or people who have money and are donating money to the nonprofit, the cause, the women shelter or the children’s museum or even the school. Parents or people just donating their money. It is interesting, I don’t even think we have seen 10% of those gift certificates come back. They are just donating.

ES: That's interesting.

Cecile: Maybe they gift it to somebody and they never use it but it is kind of an interesting cycle. That worked out really great. Now I do use a company called Sign Post that has really been amazing for us. It has really built our social presence on Yelp and Google+. And this is the fourth month into it and I think they are awesome.

 
No, this isn't Aruba. It's Beach Butlerz' classic wedding ceremony set up: white resin folding chairs, market umbrellas and their own wedding arch.

ES: Let's talk about trends - how are you anticipating your clients needs? You have some pretty unique inventory stuff that no one around here has. But how are you staying ahead of people and what they're going to want next year?

Cecile: I do subscribe to BizBash, which is an event magazine. They have competitions and stuff, I check it out once in a while to see what professionals in the big city are doing. But as far as trends, I don’t look at trends, I really don’t. I feel like I pick anything, I just have an idea and think, well that can be cool. I remember one part of the BizBash article if I follow a trend then everybody else is doing it too, so it is better to start the trend and I am all for that.

ES: I love that. Give me one tip - and you don’t need to stop there - for someone starting out in this business, the rental business.

Cecile: One tip? Don’t do it!

ES: Haha! They have to do it because then they have got to buy from us.

Cecile: I know, exactly. My number one tip is do your best to gauge your cash flow. Because there are some really bad times in the event business. And then the upside is really great. And then that is when we tend to feel comfortable and purchase an upgrade. Keep an eye on that and do your best.

ES: One of my first tips when I was getting started was if you haven’t already taken a basic accounting class, take it.

Cecile: It is actually to find an accountant, I actually do have a CFO from publicly traded companies at my board and he looks at the cash flow of our rental business. I can’t figure it out, it is just hard to…. Especially like when you are ramping up all the time especially when you start, you can’t predict what will happen next year except maybe for two fold growth if not three fold. Even then for them too… in accounting and CPAs its hard. If you don’t even have that background it is much more difficult.

The bonfire beach party with Beach Butlerz signature blue wood-framed loungers, and topped off with a teepee.

ES: Getting back to trends and inventory management...how do you decide whether or not or what to bring in to your rental inventory?

Cecile: I guess my 18 year old is a gauge.

ES: Yeah, what she thinks would be cool?

Cecile: Yeah, she will say something like “don’t do that.” Or I will be like “what do you think of this?” I get it the, “its so cool.” If I can impress them, people would want to have parties and fun it will be different as if it was a baller wedding, something like that. I think they will like it. I look at the younger generation and see what could potentially be hip and cool for all the clientele.

ES: What popular things would you like just see go away?

Cecile: You are going to hate me for this, I've said it before.

ES: Ha, I'll just edit it right out.

Cecile: Haha. I dislike chiavari chairs.

ES: Chiavari chairs, that's alright, we're bringing in new stuff all the time...

Cecile: The crossback chairs are awesome. I like that. I like that look a lot, but…

ES: You've had it with chiavari chairs?

Cecile: I'm just ready for something new. To me like bring me acrylic, cool that’s nice, that is awesome, clear chairs. I even think just flat bar stools with no back are cool, I like that. You can get two of those around the table, it is different.

ES: Like when you asked me for bar stools and all I really had were chiavari bar stools, right.

Cecile: And you don’t want to know where I got my bar stools from. You've seen them right?

ES: They are alright.

Cecile: They are not stackable though so they do take a lot of space. Space is priceless.

ES: There is a tip: space.

Cecile: Optimizing space.

"I tell them the story about our client.  Every client is a story and everybody likes a story."

ES: Here's a good one - the rental business is tough. How do you keep your team positive?

Cecile: I tell them the story about our client. Every client is a story and everybody likes a story. It is not "on Saturday we have to sell 20 beach chairs, 10 umbrellas." It's "This Saturday it is Angie’s bachelorette party on the beach. And she is bringing her sister who she doesn’t really like. But all her friends are so cool from New York and they are going to have all these accents..." It is the story and it's all really cool and they are saddled up. Whatever it is cool, I tell them about the story.

ES: So they feel personally attached.

Cecile: Yeah, you know who's showing up on the beach. That is one way, and then I share with them feedback from clients if they send me a cool email. I will share with them like “hey you guys, you guys did a great job look at the reply”
ES: What do some of your clients do that drive you nuts?

Cecile: I think everybody knows the whole Bridezilla story. I really don’t see a lot of that. I think people are pretty good for the most part. But the thing that is really tough about weddings is when the mother plans it. And you don’t have communication with the bride or the groom because mom is planning it. And the day of the event, the bride and the groom is like “hey where are my red sashes? Where is my amplified sound?” You are going, your mother didn’t order it. And now it sucks because your real client is upset and you have ruined their day but it is not your fault. Who do they look at? That scenario, the non-communicative mother or whoever plans for a big party or something, that’s scary.

ES: That’s tough

Cecile: Yeah, and it happens, it happens more than the Bridezilla thing. Unless you are working directly with who the party is, you are probably going to do something wrong.

 
Is this a blog post or an ad for the Central Coast beaches? I want a tourism kickback.

ES: Give me a total horror story.

Cecile: The unplanned horror story, you never plan for failure, when you plan for the day. I remember one time we had an event out in Pismo. Our storage unit was in San Luis Obispo It’s a 10 minute drive, right? We do it all the time. One particular day, there is a fire on the 101. The traffic was backed up from mid way, like between here and Pismo all the way right to where I live. It was just like a really long backup. Everyone was on schedule to set up two or three hours ahead of time, when you are sitting in traffic for an hour, you are screwed. We were setting up two weddings down there and we were late. That was bad, that was the worst. We had the whole wedding party sitting on the beach watching you setup. Because it was supposed to happen an hour ago. To them it doesn’t matter that traffic was backed up. It should have happened.

ES: Sure.

Cecile: Then there was a time the generator went out on a party because the client didn’t tell me that the DJ was going to need to player and bring their whole lights in. Of course the generator wasn’t big enough for that. It blew a circuit and all the lights went out. You know, the unplanned failures, they are a bit the worst because they come back to you.

ES: Because you kind of only get one shot.

Cecile: I personally hate to ruin anybody’s day because I know their story.

ES: You keep your team motivated - but what keeps you motivated?

Cecile: I step outside the industry - seeing how other business owners, entrepreneurs -it doesn't even have to be in the rental business. The tech industry, the garment industry, that keeps me motivated. Understanding how they are looking for an improving their own business, In whatever way it is, it keeps me motivated as a business owner.

ES: Stepping outside, seeing what other people are up to.
Cecile: Yeah, sometimes you are doing stuff that is not related to your business, but it motivates me now. I think it's always stay interested and stay excited, that is what I do.

ES: Cool

Cecile: Is that good?

ES: I think that’s awesome, that’s terrific, perfect, thank you very much.

 

 

Big thanks to Cecile for sharing with us.  If you'd like to learn more about Beach Butlerz' event services on California's Central Coast, visit www.beachbutlerz.com

September 3, 2019