Canadian Rental Service

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Fit for rock stars and divas

There is a saying that two of the most recession proof industries in Canada are the funeral business and waste management. No one likes to talk about funerals so Canadian Rental Service decided to dig into waste.


October 28, 2009
By Rich Porayko

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There is a saying that two of the most recession proof industries in Canada are the funeral business and waste management. No one likes to talk about funerals so Canadian Rental Service decided to dig into waste. Human waste that is. From divas to rock stars to billionaires, CRS magazine presents the glamorous world of high-end portable restrooms.

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“It’s My Potty is a division of Absolute Support Services, a niche renter of equipment to the film, television and commercial production industry in Toronto, Ont.


 

“It’s My Potty started when Absolute Support Services, a niche renter of equipment to the film, television and commercial production industry, got a call from a producer of a television series that was shooting in Toronto, Ont., at a time when there was little available other than plastic, construction style portable toilets,” says Paul Kenyon of the Toronto-based company. “The producer was concerned that the female lead would refuse to use a traditional plastic portable. He was concerned if he had to travel her from where they were shooting at a marina to a proper restroom that he would lose one to two hours of his day running her back and forth.”

“He made somewhat of an urgent call to us asking us what we had, and we had nothing! We did a little bit of research and found out what they used in Los Angeles. We very quickly flew to LA and bought a “trailerized” restroom and brought it back and put it into service here. That was around 1999 and it took off from there. We didn’t really market It’s My Potty, it was a just in support of our film business through Absolute Support Services. And then film workers started experiencing them on film sets and they started calling us to see if they could rent a restroom trailer for their private functions, weddings, bar mitzvahs and so forth. So it wasn’t really the plan to get into this, but now it is a whole separate enterprise that has done fairly well for itself.”

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The company’s 32-foot Royal Flush unit is a high tech portable restroom that serves 18 people simultaneously.


 

“Once people have used a fully automated, solar powered trailer that has fresh water, they seldom, if ever, want to go back to a traditional plastic, construction style portable. It started with very utilitarian trailers and now it’s grown to a fleet of more than 30 units. The latest edition is the 32 foot Royal which serves 18 people simultaneously. The Royal Line, in our view, is the most luxurious portable restrooms in the country. They presently come in eight-foot, 24-foot and 32-foot lengths and are done in a champagne finish with the logos being very understated. The idea is that they are intended to blend into the background and not attract attention. The theme is essentially black granite surfaces, halogen lighting, satellite stereo sound, LCD monitors for promo reels or slideshows, electronic push-button flush vitreous china toilets in black, brushed stainless steel sinks, and private vanity mirrors. All the cabinetry is done in solid maple. Every water closet is individual and private; there are no communal stalls or anything like that. It’s a touchless environment for hand washing and drying. There is actually a computer that runs the toilet and determines how much water it requires. We can program it to a low, standard or a residential flush. Usually we are on a more conservative side because everything is going into a holding tank.”

“Frequently we will also provide an attendant or a concierge service,” says Kenyon. “An attendant service just means that there is a uniformed attendant that goes through after every guest leaves and wipes down all the surfaces so that every guest’s experience is as though they are the first one to use the trailer. The concierge service is the same thing but the attendant has umbrellas to take guests to and from the event if the trailer is not located immediately adjacent to the event. The concierge service also includes breath mints, cologne, deodorant, and hairspray, as well the trailers are outfitted with fresh floral arrangements in each of the compartments for both ladies and men’s rooms. We’re trying to emulate the experience of using the restroom at a fine hotel, that’s the inspiration.“

Not all portable restroom trailers are created equal. Frequently, many of them require city services; they have to have a freshwater hookup and they need to be connected to a city sanitary main or a septic system. Most of It’s My Potty’s trailers are completely self-contained. They come with the water and waste onboard, however, larger units only come with onboard waste and they require garden hose attachments.

“The beauty of having a self contained restroom is that you can stick it in the middle of a farmer’s field and people can use it in the way it was intended without any supporting infrastructure such as hydro or water,” says Kenyon. “It is a big selling feature. Trailer builders always want to build them where they rely on a fresh water and hydro connection. We keep telling them we need to be completely independent. The trailer builder we are working with now is good at listening to our specifications.  When we started this, the manufacturers basically said ‘This is the way the trailer comes,’ and there was no discussion on how to customize it. Finally we found a trailer builder that listens to what we want and makes changes. Every trailer we get is improved over the trailer we had before it.”

In fact, they are nicer than the average person’s home washroom. Kenyon explains, “We actually had a complaint from a bride who had our units at her wedding who mentioned afterwards that people were congregating around the trailers and there was more discussion about the toilets than there was on the fact she was getting married. She was somewhat alarmed by that. She said it half in jest but her guests were impressed with the facilities.”

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The Royal Flush unit boasts an exterior champagne finish, interior black granite surfaces, brushed stainless steel sinks and solid maple cabinetry.


 

Every “trailerized” portable rest-room of It’s My Potty’s fleet has a separately designated men’s and ladies’ room which can accommodate from one to 10 toilets (also known as holes or bangers). Some of the new units the company is building will have a movable wall so that they can quickly modify the equipment to be entirely men or entirely ladies. “At some of the events there is quite often a disproportionate number of men to women. So sometimes we will designate an entire trailer, most often, to the ladies.”

“We are more conscious and our customers are becoming more and more demanding of eco-friendly solutions so a lot of our fleet is solar powered which run the most rudimentary functions of the trailer such as pumps and interior lights. However, air conditioning and heating, all the frills, those things don’t generally operate on solar.”

The company does 76 per cent of its revenue between April and October and estimates its market to be roughly 70 per cent special events and 30 per cent film. When SARS struck in 2004, the television and film industry went from $1.4 billion a year in Ontario to about $630 million last year. “Because It’s My Potty isn’t entirely reliant on the film and television production industry, it has stayed fairly recession proof. It’s a seasonal adjustment,” says Kenyon. “You can’t rent to a special event to save your life in February, where film continues 12 months of the year. So that helps us as we’ve got such a large portfolio of film customers. Our revenues are generally a little bit better than your average portable restroom operator that only sees special events in the summer and construction in the winter.”

“Special events range from marathons to the Toronto International Film Festival to the L’Oréal Fashion Week. However, Toronto has just announced some tax breaks that have seen new productions land. It’s My Potty has signed on with the Resident Evil 4 production in September, which the overall budget is estimated at $90 million U.S., and will take us beyond Christmas.”

“The film component does help with load balancing, however, at times it’s like a rollercoaster and you can go from feast to famine in the blink of an eye. As someone that just came off a three-day weekend of servicing portable washrooms myself, it is hard to crew for. You might be running with four technicians year round, however, for the weekend that just passed, we had nine people out between 2:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. every night to service the whole fleet of equipment.”

Even with a slumping economy, It’s My Potty has experienced terrific gains year over year even beyond the depression that hit the film and television industry. “We’ve always seen tremendous growth upwards of 25 percent per year for several years running,” says Kenyon. “Our numbers are still better than they were last year, marginally, but we have nothing to complain about.

“We add a minimum of four or five trailers every year. Nothing in our fleet is over five years of age. Our used equipment finds its way to campgrounds, private cottages and other portable sanitary operators. We always need to keep ahead of the curve and keep things fresh. We’re also always looking to lessen our carbon footprint through energy efficiency such as LED lighting. There is always an evolution taking place.”

*Rich Porayko is a professional writer and founding partner of Construction Creative, a marketing and communications company located in Metro Vancouver, B.C. richp@constructioncreative.com.


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