As a student athlete playing baseball at Cal State Fullerton, Sergio Brown was too busy with games and practices to hold a part-time job. Desperate for cash, he started working occasional weekends parking cars and setting up special events. Before long, he was joined by teammates also crunched for time and money. Soon Brown had the beginnings of a business, supplying staff for conferences, dog shows, corporate functions, private parties and special events for nonprofit organizations. By relying on a specific employee base--college student athletes--Brown is able to keep his prices low and his clients happy. He was interviewed by freelance writer Karen E. Klein.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday November 19, 1999 Home Edition Business Part C Page 2 Financial Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
E-mail address--An article in Wednesday's business section incorrectly reported the e-mail address of the Crew Valet Parking and Special Events Staff. The correct address is email@example.com.
My first job was at a dog show. I answered an ad posted in the college career center for a one-time job that paid $10 an hour, which was pretty good money for a college student in 1991. I worked six hours on a Saturday, and the Kennel Club people asked if I'd come back the next day and bring some friends. Before the next dog show, they called and asked me to round up four or five guys and come back. That was the very beginning of my business.
By the time I graduated, I was supplying valet parking and food service staff for all kinds of events and private parties. Some of my adult friends filled in as bartenders. A friend of mine had a degree in hotel and restaurant management, so we teamed up and started training kids in the basics of food service, though many of them had some experience as waiters and bus boys during the summers.
I got a job teaching and coaching at Cypress College, but I pursued the private-party staffing business on the side. I made up a brochure and began soliciting jobs. I generated interest with nonprofit groups, professional athletes and politicians by stressing that I was employing student athletes who needed to make it through school but who were too busy to work regular jobs outside of school and sports. By focusing on this particular employee base--about 80% of my employees are athletes, male and female, from various colleges all over Southern California--I can serve my clients best.
The employees are all part time, they're only available during odd hours and almost all of my business falls during nights and on weekends. They may practice 25 to 30 hours a week at their sports. Most of them can't find a job where they only work a few hours a week. I can offer employment to a group of enthusiastic young people. And since they are grateful for the opportunity, they give positive and efficient service to our clients.
Some work as much as six or seven hours a week, others as little as 10 hours a month. By having all part-time employees, it also allows me to save on workers' compensation insurance. And since my overhead is low, I can keep my prices lower than my competition. The more my clients use my company and tell their friends about it, the lower my prices go.
Some of my employees are deejays, so we can also provide entertainment. I've begun supplying party equipment rentals as well, through a subcontractor, and I give references for three or four caterers. This holiday season, I'll be doing valet parking at two shopping malls, which will work out great since many students have extra time off in December.
When it comes to hiring, I make one phone call for a reference--I just call their coaches. Working with lots of part-timers can be extra work because the scheduling takes more time than if you're relying on the same 10 to 15 full-time employees. I try to hire freshmen who will get training and then stay with me for all four years while they're in school. Having to train lots of new employees does add to my costs. But they more than make up for it by being great workers.
If your business can provide a lesson to other entrepreneurs, contact Karen E. Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia, CA 91016 or at kklein6349
@aol.com. Include your name, address and telephone number.
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AT A GLANCE
* Company: The Crew Valet Parking and Special Events Staff
* Owner: Sergio Brown
* Nature of business: Private party staff
* Location: 12803 Rose Drive, Whittier 90601
* E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Year founded: 1995
* Employees: 50 part-time
* Annual revenue: $78,000