Alyson Newquist was unloading folding chairs and listening to her friend and fellow wedding planner Gretchen Culver grumble about the lack of unique items to rent for weddings when she decided to bring up an idea she had been mulling over for a few years: a place where people could easily find things to rent for their private events and list their own possessions as well. The idea took hold, leading them to partner with small business attorney Mary Ellen Reihsen and Jessica Medlin, another friend and investor, to create Rentivist, a website connecting users across the country to promote peer-to-peer rentals. Now just over a year old, Rentivist has users in more than nine states and 11 categories of items available to rent, including décor, lighting, furniture, linens, tents, and more. Mpls.St.Paul Weddings recently had the chance to chat with all four partners about their business and how it can help a bride find something unique to make her big day that much more special.
When it comes to weddings, do you think more people are electing for rentals nowadays?
Reihsen: Absolutely. We’re in a phase where millennials—the generation predominately getting married right now—are renting rather than buying, and that includes homes and apartments. That means they might not have the storage capacity to keep all the things they want for one event, like a big wedding.
What items are people usually looking for?
Reihsen: People are looking for things everyone needs at an event—somewhere to sit and flatware for the guests, staples like that. More people than you’d think have beautiful décor and original pieces they’ve built themselves, and those are also some of our most popular items. People are wild about unique, pretty things.
So how exactly does Rentivist work?
Newquist: The website is split up into two kinds of users: renters and listers. Renters are those looking to rent items, and listers are the people who are listing their items available to rent. You can also search for specific styles like "rustic," "vintage," or "boho," and then see all the items tagged with that particular style. So you can either search for a specific item or just browse the tags and see if anything jumps out at you. It’s much easier than looking up individual rental companies and searching through all of their sites.
How can Rentivist help brides keep up with current wedding trends?
Culver: The vintage style is still really popular for weddings, but people want to glam it up a little bit. They might pair a farm table with a modern chair or do a polished place setting with fine china on a farm table with mismatched vintage chairs. So Rentivist is a good way to browse a bunch of things all in one place.
Newquist: And if a bride is looking for a variety of different pieces, she can use the site to create a rental list, label it, add items, and then contact all of the listers on an entire page with one click. So instead of keeping a long list of references, you can just "wishlist" each individual item; it’s very easy.
In what other ways could Rentivist help brides?
Culver: It’s also a great tool to get inspired by what people are doing across the country. We have a lot of listers on both coasts, and I love seeing what other people are doing for their weddings out in L.A., for instance.
Medlin: And if a bride was forced to purchase the items she wanted because she couldn’t find them available to rent, Rentivist then gives her the opportunity to put them up for rent after her wedding and generate another revenue stream for herself. Plus, it could be a fun hobby.
What does the future look like for Rentivist?
Medlin: We’re looking to expand it into other rental areas, like photo shoots and other events. We also have ideas for potentially branching out with peer-to-peer rentals, with shoes or handbags for different events like birthday parties and baby showers—there’s a wide range of opportunities. People seem to like the idea of just renting the things they want and giving them back afterwards!