Entrepreneur Cleans Up in a Dirty Business

by Jennifer Goforth Gregory on November 21, 2012

When Eliza Kendall was a child, people often asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She gave lots of replies over the years, but never once did she say that she wanted to own a portable toilet company, her current business.

Kendall (pictured) has always led an entrepreneurial life. She worked for many years as a freelance concierge who planned large-scale events for ESPN and other companies. She was looking to expand her business offering when she heard that a local party-rental company was selling their six portable toilets and trailer. But instead of buying the smelly and dirty used portable toilets, she decided start ElizaJ Restroom and Event Rentals, which rents “upscale” portable toilets to individuals and businesses for events in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“I like to say that our toilets are restrooms by women for women,” Kendall explains. “Most of us ladies wince when we walk into a typical portable toilet. We have to spend a little more time in there than men and really appreciate a nice atmosphere.”

Her mission is to create a portable potty with “understated elegance” and amenities such as fresh flowers, wood floors, Corian countertops, and air fresheners. She even has her own line of toiletries, including fresh flower spray. Since its launch in 1996, her business has grown, and she now has 35 units plus three trailers containing multiple restrooms.

Kendall partly attributes her success to the fact that she’s always looking for new opportunities to meet customer needs. “When I go from a Motel 6 restroom to a Ritz Carlton one, I ask myself what the difference is and what makes you feel special in one vs. the other,” she says.

This year, she trademarked and released her own portable-restroom designs — Powder Room Comfort Series — with product sales and franchising in mind. She also offers franchises, with two franchised locations in Idaho and Colorado set to open in 2013.

“I really like working for myself and getting to know my customers. It’s a really fun industry, because you get to be a part of people’s weddings and also work on large corporate events,” Kendall says.

When she needs to hire a vendor or someone to represent her, Kendall does her research and invests in quality partners. “Find the best attorney, accountant, or florist for your business, and use their brain to help you succeed,” she says. “You can’t be everything, and no man or woman is an island.”

Kendall enjoys helping other entrepreneurs by offering practical advice. Her top tip: “You have to have a passion or really care about what you are doing. It’s not just about money,” she says. However, she admits that she’s still surprised and amused by the fact that her passion ended up being portable toilets.