The idea seems simple enough: Buy two large frame tents, a dozen 8-foot-long tables, about 80 folding chairs and pitch the idea of holding a party under a tent to every graduating high school senior in the city of Toledo.
Anyone could have come up with the idea, but it took Xavier senior Aaron Wozniak and a friend to actually put it together and make it work. The idea began brewing in 2003 when Wozniak graduated from St. Francis DeSales High School in Toledo. “When you’re a senior in high school, you go to all your friends’ graduation parties, and it seemed like at least 50 percent of the people had a tent for their parties,” he says. “I thought, ‘There’s some big business here,’ and we started asking questions.” After drawing up a business plan, the two spent $8,000 to set up the company, In-Tents Rental Co. They sent out postcards designed to look like invitations to every graduating senior in the city of Toledo after obtaining school directories from their friends, and in their first year of business they did 45 parties and made $10,000.
“We made a good amount of money—a couple of thousand each, but we had everything paid off, so now it’s all profit. So this year is a lot more fun. For June and early July we’re only doing graduation parties. When those start to settle down we really go for weddings, fundraisers and company-sponsored tent events.”
And with only two of them working, there’s very little overhead.
“After you do all the advertising it’s a weekend job,” says Wozniak. “I want to keep going with the tents and kind of grow it. We’re talking about hiring our younger brothers to take things over and manage the company for us while we do other things.” This fall, Wozniak begins an internship with SmithBarney, but still maintains his entrepreneurial spirit. “I definitely have that entrepreneur mindset, so I don’t know if I could live without it.”