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. And 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. The 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. And 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.