Schedule and track your events and equipment with ease

May 7th is EquipCalendar's 5th birthday! Here's how it all started

birthday pic
May 7th is EquipCalendar's 5th birthday!  Woo-hoo right?  That's a nice milestone for a startup, especially one that was created in my spare time.  How did we get here?  Well, let me tell you a little story.

I've always been the kind of person to ask questions.  Most of the time, I'm asking others, but sometimes I talk to myself too.  This happened shortly after renting a storage unit.  You know the places I'm talking about?  The drab and dreary places where we store all of the stuff we can no longer fit in our regular lives anymore.  Ok, that's not a completely accurate representation.  

Business owners use them too.  Quite extensively, actually.  I remember seeing a coffee business guy.  I remember seeing a carpenter.  There were also a number of equipment rental companies too.  A bunch of colorful chairs, tables and fixtures stacked all nice and neat (in multiple units!).  Suddenly, the question hit me:  How does someone in equipment rental know for sure that they have 50 blue chairs available on a Saturday at 1pm two months from now while talking on the phone to a prospective customer?  That's gotta be a tough one.  It has to happen nearly every day.  Can they meet the needs of the customer or the event planner?  The answer is that I hope they use software for that, because otherwise, that would be a ton of paper to dig through just to get an answer.

I know how to build software.  I do it every day, but usually for bigger businesses, i.e. 10-50 employees.  The smaller rental business (1-5 employees, and most probably part time, I figure) must be in a real pickle when it comes to something simple and affordable for their needs.  Surely, most business software today is far too complex and far too expensive for these kinds of businesses.

So then, I started to dwell on it.  Especially every time I went to my storage unit.  I started to become that creepy guy who would slow his car down to peer into your storage if the door was open.  Are you a rental business too?  If you are, can I ask you some questions?  Actually, I am far too shy for that but I was terribly interested.  I also start noticing all of the people renting bounce houses, and then I would see a guy rolling down the road with a small trailer of portable heaters or chairs/tables.  None of these folks were big businesses with fancy new trucks and a big, colorful vehicle wrap.

Surely, a lot of these rental operators were spending a good amount of time on the road, juggling a phone and an appointment book at the same time.  What if they could do it all from their phone or tablet?  What if I could merge an inventory tool and a calendar into one amazing offspring of the two?  What would it be worth to them?  What sort of pain were they experiencing with this issue?  Are they losing business by not having answers immediately for the out of the blue or time sensitive inquiries?

So then, I start to tinker a bit.  Given my software background (a story too long to tell here), I know that this one feature, a calendar and some inventory (booked and available) displayed on it, is going to be the make or break feature.  The meat and potatoes of this whole dish I'm thinking I can serve up.  It's also going to be the most used, and most complicated, part of the whole effort.  Again, with that software background, I know that I have to do that first and get it right.

Prototyping begins.  Let me tell you, it was ugly.  It wasn't even software at this point.  It was either Excel or Visio that I was using, dragging and dropping things into different places to see how they might look.  A real, or proper, designer would probably call this a wireframe.  Once I had a feel for things using the wireframe prototype, I graduated these designs to an open source CSS framework called Bootstrap.  This allowed me to add some color and consistency, to small templates, for each feature.  Bootstrap allowed me to make things pretty but it still was not a real, walking and talking application.

This point in our story brings us to the actual software design, which I will make very brief, as I'm sure that almost no one is interested in that, and I'd like to get back to the actual story.  There is some Microsoft thrown in there.  There is a dash of Amazon Web Services.  Finally, there is a sprinkle of Stripe for handling subscriptions and payments.  When you add it up, that is a lot of meat and potatoes to this project, but that's another story.... back to the good stuff.

So now, I have something that I think will help people, but I have to market it and launch it.  Bring my own customers in through the front door.  This is, without a doubt, going to be a major challenge to me.  I'm a good listener, and I know how to ask questions, but I'm not a good carnival barker and I certainly don't have major funding to hire a PR firm, or do some trade shows, etc..  So, back to software I go.  I add some links to web directories, post some Craigslist ads and start to build a shoestring budget Google Adwords program.  I'm pretty sure I also started writing a bunch of blog posts, a pipeline if you will, of content that I pray Google's search engine will love.  Now, I'm ready to launch.

EquipCalendar is launched.  I believe it was 3 days in, before we had our first trial signup, i.e. unpaid customer.  Our 4th trial customer became our first paying customer, just two weeks later at the end of their trial.  Needless to say, I was very happy.  Being a numbers person, this meant that I was on track to convert 25% of all trials into paying customers!  Of course, it didn't work out that way, most software-as-a-service businesses convert about 1% of free or trial customers into paying ones, but I'm still very happy with the launch.

So that's most of the story, from even before our first anniversary, let alone the start of our 5th year.  Where do we stand today?  Well, we have customers all over the world.  I have confirmed that there are a ton of small businesses (and a few big ones), renting all kinds of stuff I never imagined, who like, and sometimes love, the little tool I built.  That gives me great satisfaction.  It's a bit of a dirty little secret, but most people in software really just want to help people and make things easier.  I always say that if you don't ask, how am I ever going to help?  To that end, every one of the great features, and ideas, have mostly come from our customers and trial users.  Where are going in the future?  I'm not sure I could tell you, at least not until another customer asks for it.  So far, all of our success, has come from keeping things simple and listening to our customers.  I think those traits will keep us in business for many more birthdays.

Latest addition to EquipCalendar, the Inventory Sales Report

We're excited to announce our latest addition to EquipCalendar, a new report called the Inventory Sales report. It was suggested by one of our users, an event solutions company, and is a great new tool for any customer who loves analyzing sales data.


Enter a start date, end date, specify the group by (Day, Week, Month or Year) and status (Quoted, Confirmed or Both).  The report can preview the data or export it to CSV (Comma Separated Values).


Period:  Date, Week, Month or Year
Inventory:  The name of your product
MaxQty: The maximum available quantity of the inventory item/product.
Inactive: Inventory status.
Events:  Number of events the inventory item/product is scheduled for in that period.
Rentals:  Number of units rented in that period.
Avg Price:  Average price of each unit rented in that period.
Avg Sale:  The average total sale amount for all events in that period.
Grand Total:  The total sales for all events in that period.


No matter whether you use a PC, tablet or smartphone, our reports will provide a nice printable format for use on that device.

Export to CSV

The above CSV export is for the Day grouping (group by).  It also has columns for Year, Month, Day and Day of Week for further analysis.  What you see above is what you'll get when you export this report to CSV (Comma Separated Values).

Using Pinterest To Showcase Your Rental Inventory

If you aren’t already on Pinterest, then you don’t know what you are missing out on. Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media sites and what makes it so useful for rental businesses is that Pinterest users are spending money on the products they find on the site.

So what are the basics you need for getting the most out of Pinterest?

Don’t get ahead of yourself. 

Before you start your Pinterest page, you need your website to be ready to go. If your pins don’t lead back to somewhere then they aren’t going to be useful for your business. Of course, you’ll want to have inventory pages but don’t underestimate the power of blog posts when your preparing to launch your Pinterest. Make sure there are pinnable images on every page of your website, not just your inventory pages.

Create your business account.

Don’t make the mistake of making a personal page when you need a business page. Business pages provide you with a lot of tools you’ll need to make the most out of your Pinterest account including analytics, the ability to add the “Pin It” button to images on your website, and the ability to create Rich Pins which allow a lot more control over the information a pin provides. Its worth spending a day reading through the guides on the Pinterest for Business site to make sure you are making full use of what Pinterest offers you. 

Use the right pictures of your inventory.

Pinterest is a completely visual medium which means if you aren’t using fantastic pictures you aren’t going to drive any business to your site. To get the most bang for your buck, you want pins to be about 600px wide. Whatever you do, make sure your pin isn’t pixelated or grainy looking when it goes on to your board. It also doesn’t hurt to brand your pins at this point. Add a logo or some text on to your image to make sure your customers know what the pin is about.

Get creative with your boards.

Don’t just show people your inventory, create boards showing how your inventory can be used. Maybe show a board of complimentary local vendors you work with often, like locations that can be rented for weddings, et cetera. You should have a board for “Tips” that compliment whatever business you vend—something to make people click on your links in the first place. People really love weddings and DIY boards, so, if you can find a way to incorporate those, do so. 

Remember, Pinterest is there to help your business tell a story. Don’t post everything all in one day, but, as you find content to express who you are as a rental business, let the content speak for you and enjoy the results!

Using Instagram to showcase your equipment rental business

Looking for ways to increase exposure of your equipment rental business, but are on a limited marketing budget?  Instagram isn’t just a social media platform for selfies and pictures of food.  This could potentially be a powerful tool to get more eyes on your products or services.

Why Instagram?

With a user base of over 80 million, this fairly simple photo sharing platform has grown from a mobile app to a fully-fledged online database that is searchable and linkable across all platforms.  Pictures can be tagged, organized, and provide instant-feedback from anyone browsing them.

Sometimes browsing rental inventory or product catalogs on websites doesn’t always translate well to mobile devices, with Instagram, photos are easily swiped through, flipped, zoomed, liked, and shared with the familiar platform that everyone knows how to use, especially the younger demographics.  This is a very important audience for anyone in the rental industry.

For example, a wedding rentals company would be able to show off their entire catalogs of dresses, suits, and accessories and apply very evocative visuals, thanks to the beautiful presentation tools available on Instagram.  The wow-factor is much higher when everything is presented in a cohesive gallery, generating a natural buying interest for your business.

Inside Scoop on Products

When expanding your rental inventory, it can often take a while for new products to really take off, without an involved marketing campaign.  Instagram allows your rental business to update and share your new products or services with all members who have followed you and liked your products.  You can give these VIP members an inside look at upcoming products, or you can show them what goes on behind-the-scenes at your rental equipment business.

More Customer Feedback

Your Instagram account can demonstrate ways in which your inventory is used and allow for members to share their own experiences with their own Instagram photos.  You could hold a contest asking for users to submit the best photo of your rental gear to go on the front page of your website.

Your Instagram account isn’t just limited to posting photos of your inventory online like a pawn shop.  It can be personally tailored to add personality and likeability to your rental business.  Use it to upload pictures of company moves or trade expos where you can display exclusive unveilings of future products.  Get to know your customers and fans personally by holding meet-and-greets, charity events, and giveaways to get people excited about your products.

The best way to stand out from the competition is to stand up and broadcast who you are, what better way to do that than with one of the fastest growing social media platforms on the internet?  Expand your customer base and begin tapping into younger demographics who are much more visual and place much more importance on convenience and accessibility than all other metrics.

Finally, retain those customers with casual professional relationships and advice, thanks to Instagram’s easy-to-use app and web integration.