In the 1990s, Wheaton Party Rentals was a family business based just outside Washington. But the year 2000 brought big changes. The family sold the business and the business grew, expanding to Philadelphia, New Jersey and Virginia. Kelly Andres grew right along with it. She joined Wheaton in 1995 as an account man-ager, eventually rising to the post of president. Here, she explains how she got there.
SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: How did you get into event rental?
KELLY ANDRES: Even before graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in art history, I always had a passion for color and design. My love for art brought me to Washington, and I found Wheaton Party Rentals through a newspaper ad. The owners — the Goldberg family — and I connected immediately. Shortly after joining, I was asked to expand their business to the Baltimore market, and next I cultivated business development in all of the D.C. and northern Virginia markets. In 2000, Wheaton became Select Event Rentals under new ownership. With that came a dramatic change in my responsibilities. The thrill and energy the industry brings along with my passion for design and color and dedication to our clients brought me to where I am now. I must, however, thank the Goldberg family for teaching me the principles of the business and for having faith in me. I also must thank Select's current owner, Marty Ortenzio, for having the confidence in me to successfully manage this organization. I continue to be supported by an outstanding cast, without whom we would not be able to achieve the $14 million success we have had to date.
SPECIAL EVENTS: How has Select's inventory changed over the years?
ANDRES: Clients have become very creative and educated over the years, especially when planning weddings. Color becomes more of a key element each year in creating events big or small. I try to remain timeless when looking at new products, but you also need to have some innovative pieces in the product lines. Unusual shapes in tabletop decor continue to be a common demand with caterers and event planners. Our acquisitions have altered our tent product line, adding large structure-style tents and event flooring. Our possibilities on large-scale events are becoming endless.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Our annual “30 Top Event Rental Companies” list [see page 31] keeps changing as consolidation — led largely by Classic Party Rentals — affects the market landscape. Does Select feel any impact from this?
ANDRES: Select continues to enhance our service and product lines and to concentrate on our abilities. We remain committed and focused on our long-term growth plan. We do not get distracted. We have experienced both organic and merger growth in the last eight years due to fantastic and dedicated staff and the ability to capture opportunities when they were available. Exciting news will continue to come in the upcoming months.
I believe it is most important to understand and listen to your clients' needs and desires. It is important to view your relationships as partnerships; solidifying the bond makes the process of executing events less complicated for all involved.
SPECIAL EVENTS: What will smart party rental management do in the next five years to stay competitive?
ANDRES: We will stay sincere to our clients, remain flexible, keep our products fresh, and continue to search out new and improved products. We will continue to listen to our clients and implement superior service. Communication is one of the most important pieces of an effective and successful operation. We will keep our ears and eyes open to opportunities.
SPECIAL EVENTS: I love Select's e-mail news-letter, particularly that it comes directly from you, the company president.
ANDRES: My business development team brought the concept to my attention when they noticed that the various industry associations that we are involved with were utilizing this type of medium. My father-in-law, who is actively involved in the Direct Marketing Association, was also encouraging me to find new ways to stay in touch and keep our clients up-to-date. I find it is a quick way to reach our clients with company and industry news, product changes and inspirations from well-designed events. Our clients — especially the brides — continue to be very computer-savvy.
Contact Select Event Rentals at 800/439-8729; its Web site is www.weparty.com.