Creating Sustainability

Anna Crelia, Co-Founder of Loot Rentals

Closed Caption Transcript:

Hi, everyone, my name is Anna Crelia.

I am the co-owner and co-founder
of Loot Rentals and Loot Finer Goods,

and I'm so honored that Impact Fort Worth chose me to tell my story.

So it started in 2010.

I was planning my wedding
and I had a very unique vision

for that special day.

I wanted it to be reflective of

what me and my husband
really loved and our style.

And I wanted it to tell a story.

And so we both wanted it to have
like a speakeasy kind '20s of style.

And we both love jazz and we both love
creating craft cocktails.


we just really wanted to have fun with it.

And we didn't want to do what everybody

else was doing, which was visible white
plates and linens and folding chairs.

And we wanted it to be special,
wanted it to feel like us.

And so when I started looking
for rentals, I

was disappointed because I just
wasn't finding anything and nothing.

So after talking with my mom, I was like,
well, we have so many family members

With wonderful China and these great

 vintage pieces
that we can incorporate.

And we don't have to necessarily
go to these big box rental companies.

We can rely on family and friends

to provide us with vintage
China for everyone.

And that's kind of where it all started.

And it just kind of snowballed from there,
because then I was like, well,

it'd be fun if we had dishware
and linens and glassware.

And, you know, my idea just going.

And pretty soon we started hitting up thrift

stores, Goodwill,
Salvation Army and just buying.

You know, my family couldn't
supply us 170 sets of China.

So we did have to supplement
a little bit here and there.

But we started sourcing things

from thrift shops and estate sales and garage
sales and buying crochet linens, glassware,

and décor, oil lamps, like it was really all

the decore to tell the story
that I've had in my head.

And I remember thinking, OK, this is a lot,
I have one hundred and seventy guests

coming, this going
to be a huge undertaking.

And so I reached out to my sister in law

who was actually living in Fort Worth at
the time and told her that I needed help.

And she, of course,
just jumped on that opportunity.

We both share a love of thrifting
and reusing and repurposing,

you know, at that time, in our own homes.

Like we bonded over that.

And so I knew she would be thrilled

to help me with this because
she was going out to estate sales anyways.

And so she started helping me.

And we both just fell in love

with the process of sourcing
and design and creating a vision.

And as all of these boxes were starting
to basically pile up in my parents'

living room, dining room,
basically taking over.

We started thinking to ourselves, like,
is there something here?

Could this be a business?

We saw when we were looking on places like
Craigslist, the other brides were buying

this stuff and then trying
to resell it on Craigslist.

And we're like, there's obviously a market
here for brides wanting a unique option

for their own wedding and they don't want
to rent the standard white linens and white tabletops.

So that's kind of where the idea started turning

or when the idea started turning is when we saw these
brides selling off their vintage China

that they had-
it's a lot of work. And we're like,

let's take the burden out
of this and let's try renting.

And I remember driving in the car one day
and Rhoda my business partner

and I were talking about what are
we going to do with this stuff?

And we just had been thinking about it
each, individually, and both just came out "rentals".

We said it at the same time, actually,

and it was just clear as today
that that's what we were going to do.

We saw a huge void in the market.

And when I was on my honeymoon, Rhoda put an ad on Craigslist

just to test the waters and see
if anybody responded to the

idea of renting out all of the
stuff that we had collected.

And of course, we got people
writing and wanting to rent it.

And she emailed me on my honeymoon and said

 "when you get back from your
honeymoon, I have someone interested

in renting your China and cakestands"
 and whatever else it was.

And I remember having to go to this
lady's house who was recently engaged,

and I basically showed her everything that
I had out of the hatchback of my car.

And after that, I was like, OK,
we've got to make this a real business.

We have to look and try to find

the studio space or a small warehouse
space to sort this stuff.

It really wasn't a surprise to me that she
didn't go with us after that meeting,

but it did make you realize that there was
a market there and it made me want

to pursue it, me to be
serious about pursuing it.

And that's when we started
looking for spaces.

We got our business license.

And then in February of 2011, we were
official and we had posted some pictures

kind of on a flash page website and
we had like a downloadable PDF.

And somehow a caterer found us and passed

along to her client who was planning
three hundred and fifty person

Gala in San Antonio.

We were in Austin at the time and they
called and said, "Can you pull this off?"

And I think I just said,
"yes, sure, of course."

They said, "Oh, great, it's in four weeks."

And I think I had only maybe 70
dinner plates for my wedding, and

Then we had four weeks to collect 350

place settings and saucers
and everything, flatware, linens

in four weeks, and that's when we got
a loan from family to start collecting.

And we had to kind of just
figure it out from there.

And I remember being faced
with the challenge of, OK,

how are we going to transport everything
in a sustainable way and not create waste?

And that's

kind of where the passion

 kind of started,
is how can we run a successful operation

but reduce our footprint
as much as possible?

So I remember having pack teacups and saucers

figuring out a way to keep them together
without using too much waste.

And so we used (a little tip of the trade!), we used dishracks,
and then we put them

in reusable kind of cardboard
boxes and made little ties.

So you could untie the box and then retie it.

And then we also used reusable fabric
that we put into kind of pad them

in transport so that they wouldn't
clink together and break.

And we ended up pulling off that event

and from there it just kind
of grew and grew and grew.

And so our collection began really small.

It was just tabletop.

We offered mismatched China, the silverware,

 the goblets and little mason
jars when those were really popular

and linens and little décor
pieces here and there.

And pretty soon we

began adding seating to our collection

and we didn't have a lot of money and we

were basically just investing everything
that we had made and not paying ourselves

and just investing everything
back into the business.

And when we started getting requests
for lounge furniture and seating,

we wanted to make sure 
that we were staying true to our vision

of being sustainable and being
kind of focused as a vintage company.

At that time, we were solely vintage
and it kind of forced us to think

creatively about how are we going to offer
lounge furniture for events but also have

it be sustainable and not have to be adding
to the waste of what's already there.

And so what we did was we bought vintage

frames a lot of times
that people didn't want.

A lot of times people would just put

couches out on the curb and we would take
those couches and chairs that had,

you know, we call them
"pre-loved" instead of used.

And we would take them and we would strip

them down to their frame
and we would recover them in fabric.

And a lot of times, because we didn't have

a lot of money starting out,
we were very cautious about spending.

We would go to the Dallas Design District

where they had warehouses full

of fabric that was either
discarded or people didn't want.

So we were either buying from places like

that or we were buying vintage
fabric and repurposing

It as upholstery

one of my favorite projects.

I think to date we've been doing this

for 10 years, has been a pair of chairs,
and I believe we found them on Craigslist

for like twenty-five dollars each and we
reupholstered them in vintage army tents.

We still have them
in our collection today.

We try to take care of things and keep
them in our inventory as long as we can.

Most of the time things are with us for I
mean, we've been doing this for ten years

and I can take you around the warehouse and show
you things that I've had since we began.

They've had multiple reupholstery jobs.

They've had legs repaired.

They've had springs repaired.

But our mission,

what we founded this company on is how
can we do this in a sustainable way?

Our mission has always been,

my thing has always been to
create an inspirational space

while also cultivating and deepening
connection with others.

And we do that through décor and we do

that through our furniture, through our
furniture is we're telling a story.

We're creating an atmosphere.

We also spent time collecting vintage,

mismatched chairs that were
in dire need of repair.

And adding those collection, we added 16,

10 foot long church pews that a church was
basically just getting way out of Victoria,

Texas and they were completely
gum-ridden and not in the greatest of shape.

But it was my mission to go down there,

drive to Victoria and rescue these church pews
because I saw the vision of these sitting

in the field for a beautiful
bride and her groom's wedding.

And that's always been our mission since

my wedding is to create spaces that are
inspirational while also cultivating

deeper connections with others
and our community.

And so pretty soon the church pews were de-gummed

all the mismatched chairs were repaired,
the vintage silverware was polished.


broken down chairs and couches that we
were finding were repaired and reupholstered

 in beautiful vintage linens.

And throughout all of that,
we just make sure to stay true to our

original mission,
which was founded on the belief

that events can be beautiful and stunning,
but also be sustainable and eco friendly.


you don't have to have all of these new

fancy tables and chairs
to have a beautiful event.

In fact, I think it tells more your story

when you're infusing these
vintage pieces into your event.

I think as we started these projects and
refurbishing all of this furniture and we

we were kind of forever changed by bearing
witness to their transformation,

we saw something that was once
someone's trash on the side of the road.

Sometimes it was a Craigslist find

and we were able to transform it
into something that people actually wanted

to pay money for and rent because
they saw the beauty in it.

And that was what was so exciting to us.

How can we be sustainable
in a creative way?

So as this concept started to grow
and people were more interested in it

and we were actually making money
by this point.

Well, I think the next year we started
actually painting ourselves, making money.

People were excited.
We were getting traction,

getting featured in magazines and blogs,
and we were been on TV.

And the news is really exciting.

And people saw

many people saw this unique kind of vision
that they had never really thought about before.

Using vintage and repurposed things
in their events, it was a new concept,

honestly, and people
were excited about it.

They're excited about something new.

And we began to be flooded with inquiries.
It was wonderful.

But it brought us back to that core mission
and that core belief,

that founding belief of "how do
we do this in a sustainable way?"

And that's when we had
to get even more creative.

How do we grow our collection

but have it be authentically us
and stay true to that mission?

So what we started doing was we started

cultivating these relationships
with vintage dealers from around the world

who would supply us with chairs that were
vintage that they had found or sourced

from literally like schools in Germany or
old farmhouses or an abandoned winery.

They were able to get us the quantities we
needed while still staying true to

ourselves and not buying new all
at the time just because we had to.

We also started working with

local artisans and we made
worked with local ceramicists to make

lines of pottery for us
for our tabletop collection.

So we started kind of breaking out of this
like vintage molds and exploring more of

how do we make it authentically Loot,
but not vintage all the time.

And so we started working, like I said,

local pottery makers to make
our tabletop collection.

We also worked with local

local artists to create backdrops for us
or local woodworkers to create tables

 for us that had a farm table vibe

and that vintage aesthetic, but
they were all made out of

vintage farm wood and they were crafted
not super locally.

They were from Nashville.

But at least we were mindful.

We wanted to use sustainable
materials in our designs.

Same with like marble tables.

We wanted to use marble that had been discarded or

we're always looking for what's going
to be the most eco-conscious option here.

And so those are just a few examples
of what we did as we were growing.

We did have to source new
as much as I kind of push back on that,

I think we were able to really find
manufacturers when we went to market.

And we were always very
mindful of how is this made?

What is the frame made out of? Is this going
to last for another 10 years?

We were wanting to buy as cheap as
possible because typically what happens

when you're buying as cheap as possible,
it doesn't hold up and it's going

into a landfill because it's
irreparable in two years.

And so even though that we did have
to kind of bite the bullet on some things

and buy new, we did it in a mindful way.
And also with event rentals,

typically companies want to keep
things in their inventory for five years.

I feel like we far exceed that and we keep things

in our inventory,
like I said, for 10 years sometimes.

And then when we can't rent it out any
longer, we release those items back into

the marketplace.

We have big warehouse sales
or we donate to Salvation Army.

For furniture that's like in disrepair
and cannot be sold or donated,

there are resources in Austin that recycle

the foam and they can recycle
parts of the furniture.

So they're not just going into the landfill.

Another kind of growing pain that we had was

people were wanting to buy from us
for their own homes, which was wonderful,

and we wanted to accommodate
that as much as possible.

And so we started our retail line called
Loot Finer Goods, where we sell only vintage

and artisan-made home furnishings and decor.

And we also sell antique French workwear.

And we make sure that everything that we

sell has been sourced and sustainable way
and we're able to sell things that we

might not want to rent because they're
just so precious and really fine

goods and furniture that we
have really reupholstered and heirloom fabrics

and things like that are going to
live their best life if they are being rented.

And then another way that we

have grown since it's in our nature
to always want to expand. The

kind of rental market and the concept
of renting versus buying.

We kind of delved into furniture leasing 
in just the past couple of years.

And that's been really exciting because
we're able to rent out these vintage

furniture finds that we've
refurbished or upholstered.

And it's another thing for us to be able

to share this vision that we have
with people in our own homes.

So that's also been
really exciting for us.

I do hope that Loot is able to kind

of change people's perspective
on buying new versus renting,

not only in regards to events,
but in their daily lives, in their homes.

And I feel like we're kind
of on the path to doing that now.

And that's what's so exciting,

because it feels like we
might be tapping into

the verge of a change or a mindset
shift or something like that.

And also trying to educate people on why
renting is better versus buying has been

extremely important,
especially with the leasing

of the furniture, it's such a new concept
and people are so used to buying new.

And I think that the concept of fast

furniture fashion has really,
really grown over the past 10 years.

And you see this with,
oh, Target and West Elm, too.

And even like the big online retail giants
like Wayfair and Overstock,

it's so easy to replace your couch
that you might that you might about

a year or two ago, but it just doesn't fit
your style anymore.

And it's so easy to just go online.

And have it delivered that week.

And then your old couch either goes out

on the curb or hopefully
you can resell it or

donate it. But just driving around
my neighborhood on a daily basis

I see stuff out curb all of the time

and furniture is not made how it
how it used to be because these

furniture manufacturers are making really trendy,
trendy pieces and they're not making them

to last because they know
that they're trendy

They're kind of the hot item
of the season or the year or whatever.

And it's not how it used work.
People would really invest into their

furnishings and like my parents,
have them for a lifetime.

And people bought things
to have for a lifetime.

And they weren't constantly being inundated

with what's the newest
design craze on HDTV or Instagram?

It was really more like
intrinsic as what you liked and not being

influenced by what other people are
telling you to like.

I would love to get either back to that mindset or
in the meantime, try to shift people's

mindset from buying new
all the time to renting.

So, yeah, #1 less waste.

It's kind of plain and simple
from what I just said.

If you're not buying new all the time

and you're trying to reuse or rent, you're
keeping that stuff out of the landfill.

And then #2 is when you
when you're reusing quality made

furniture and decor instead of buying
new, you're reducing the carbon footprint,

even with furnishings that are made out
of recycled materials or

biodegradable products,
there's still a production factor there.

That's you know,

there's going to be production waste and
resources have to happen.

So you can make the furniture

and furniture is not made most of the time
out of eco-friendly materials.

It's made out of new 

lumber, foam, plastic, stone.

And if we're cutting down on all of this

new manufacturing, then in turn we're
kind of we're saving our planet.

And if you buy old furniture,

you were avoiding trees being cut down,
you're avoiding soil being destroyed

and habitats for plants and animals
being destroyed.

So it's just another thing to think about.

And then I'll leave you with another just really

staggering statistic that comes to mind
for me and my business partner,

and we try to educate
our team on this as well,

But in 2009,
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

-I want to read this because
I don't get it wrong anyway.-

They reported that furniture accounted
for 9.8 million tons,

which is 4.1 
percent of household waste.

So I ended up crunching the numbers

from 2005 to 2015 just to see
what the increase has been over time.

And again, in 2005, we were at 7.6

million tons of furniture waste in landfills
and now we're at 9.8.

That's nearly a 30 percent jump in waste

just in that short 10 year span,
which is really frightening

because it's only growing and every
year it just gets more exponential.

So another thing to note is furniture is
the #1 least recycled

item in the household
and it's estimated that we will spend

-So this
statistic was in 2015-

It's estimated in 2015,
$121.7 billion dollars

 to refurbish
our homes with new furniture.

So this stat is just from 2015.

I know that this has definitely gone up,

especially with the rise of online
giants such as Wayfair and Overstock.

People are doing more shopping online.

And I feel like we're just increasingly
persuaded by TV shows and social media

to constantly live up to what people are
telling us is fashionable or in style

at the moment, which is just leading more
to this fast furniture fashion trend.

So, yeah, I am very passionate about

rentals for this very reason, but I'm also really
passionate about reusing what you have.

I'm really passionate about buying

used and refurbishing things that are
already in existence in the world.

I'm passionate about cherishing what you

have, finally, buying what you love, and repairing
what is broken.

Snd also donating what you can.

So, thank you.

I hope that I was able to inspire you
today to think a little bit deeper about

your purchasing decisions when it comes
to your home and furniture and events.

So thank you so much for listening.