Investor Ria Bruns steps in to revitalize Classic Tents & Events in Atlanta.
By Dionne Cordell
Before Ria Bruns became president and CEO of Classic Tents & Events, she was one of three investors who had purchased the company in 2000. At first, her intent was only to invest, but after the other investors declined to run the company, she decided to step up and take over.
With little experience in the tent rental industry, Bruns needed to learn a great deal of information in a short time. She started off by going to classes and a couple of Mid-Atlantic Tent Renters Association (MATRA) meetings, and before she knew it, her business was a success story.
“It took me a couple of years to be truly comfortable with [the business] and to know what I didn’t know,” she says. And she says she wouldn’t have learned as much without her peers, her reliable operations manager and her other employees, who stayed on board while the company underwent new ownership.
These days, Bruns feels ready to compete, especially in the face of industry consolidation. In fact, Bruns believes the multiple mergers and acquisitions in the event rental industry will help her in the long run. “Our business is growing because of the consolidation,” she says. “I see that having a company that is local is really important to customers in the Southeast, because the South runs and operates its businesses based on relationships.”
Although at first Bruns lacked tent rental knowledge, she says she does fit in well with the business owner profile. “As a woman, I am ideally suited for this business, because the event business is very much a service business,” she says. “Helping the client understand a complex product and service fits the nurturing aspect of a woman very nicely.”
Any advice for women itching to be entrepreneurs? “Make sure you want to be a business owner and take on the work that is involved in being a business owner,” she advises. “I haven’t seen prejudices [toward women], but I think that being a woman in a male-dominated industry does present its own challenges.”