The marquee hire business I built up got to a sufficient size that I could not be on site for every job. We would be running several teams of erectors with me and another site foreman running between each site.
I turned up one afternoon to find a team nearly finished. The marquees were up, the flooring and linings were fitted and they were just setting up the furniture. The quality of finish was excellent. They proudly stated the only thing left was the walkway to the house “and they’re easy”.
Walkways are easy to erect, indeed our current model of walkway is the easiest one we’ve ever designed. They are not easy to erect if you don’t leave enough space for it – as this team had done!
The lesson to learn from this is when connecting marquees to houses always always start building from the house outwards. Build the walkway (or one of our demi-marquees, details coming soon) first and then butt the main marquee(s) up to it. That way you know you’ve allowed enough space or know you’ve got to do some adapting to make fit before you get too far in to the build.
As for the job in question it was solved using a hacksaw and PVC welding to still give an excellent job but it turned an early-finish day in to a late night one for everyone.
We’ve just had notification that we will be on stand 262 Avenue E at this years Showmans Show. Come out of the entrance marquee, turn right and then first left – we’re halfway up on the right as usual and opposite the excellent Arcotherm (well worth a visit for marquee heaters). Please do pop in and say hello, we’ll be launching our new range of demi-marquees as well as exhibiting our always popular walkways and other marquees.
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In the UK marquee industry now just about all professional marquee linings are ivory, this has come about from years of experience and customer feedback not just from us but from all lining manufacturers in the country.
From a customer’s point of view ivory just adds a touch of class to the marquee, if you have two lined marquees side by side one with white and one ivory customers choose ivory every single time – whether they go for flat/shaped, pleated or rouched is personal opinion and another matter altogether!
From a hirers point of view ivory is much lower maintenance than white, marks and creases show up far more on white than ivory. It also ages better than white – we used to have 10 year old ivory linings right next to brand new ones without any issue. Try putting a 10 year old white t-shirt next to a brand new one and see the difference!
The only down side to ivory used to be there were many many different shades of it from different material suppliers in the marquee lining industry, fortunately in the last 10 years or so everyone has settled on a similar shade generally referred to as mid-ivory.
That’s why 99% of professional marquee linings are ivory now.
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The last few marquees that we have from last year are now on ebay – these were made for a German company that went out of business. There is a lot of marquee for the money!
7x7m marquee for sale on ebay
4x8m pagoda marquee on ebay
Our DIY Marquees like most commercial quality ones can be erected on hard standing. There is the small issue of how to anchor the marquee down (answer: longer tie downs to a nearby soft surface, bolting or use heavy weights) but otherwise it is easily done.
There is one small issue which you should make your customer aware of and that is what happens when it rains (and I’m not talking about our funny on the FAQ page). If a patio normally floods in heavy rain, a marquee won’t stop that occurring. If the hard standing has a slope then water may try to flow through the marquee.
The risks of this happening are usually very slight and whilst it’s worth mentioning to customers it’s not worth going overboard or scaremongering about it. If the forecast is bad there are some solutions:
- Wooden floor throughout – this raises the floor up so the water passes under. The best solution but also by far the most expensive and most work.
- sandbags or similar round the perimeter of the marquee.
- strips of carpet underneath the groundbars – this was suggested to me recently by a marquee hire company and I think it’s an excellent and resourceful idea. Strips of old carpet rolled up and then squashed underneath the groundbars cuts out all but torrential rain from making its way in to the marquee.
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We have some clearance marquees going cheaply on ebay.
These are from a batch of marquees last year but are brand new, still in their packaging (though some of the boxes may be a bit scruffy due to being in the warehouse for several months).
Bidding starts at 99p with no reserve. We normally sell these for £600-£700. They are slightly taller than our standard ones (30degree roof rather than 20degree) and have 500gsm PVC roof and sides. It’s a lot of kit for the money at normal selling price so these should be a bargain for someone.
6x6m Clearance marquee for sale on ebay
6x8m Clearance marquee for sale on ebay
It’s good practice when you’ve finished a marquee (and before the event) to have a check list, one copy for the customer and one for you.
What goes on a check list is entirely up to you but here’s some suggestions:
- Sign to say that they are happy with the marquee. It won’t cover you completely, they may find something and call you back but it does help to have a paper trail should anyone try to take action against you after the event (I’ve never heard of this happening but it’s simply good practice).
- Sign to say that all furniture is there (by sign I mean one signature for everything)
- Sign to agree to take responsibility for all of the equipment (unless you have separate insurance/damage waiver).
- Sign to say they have been shown how to use any marquee heating and/or lighting.
- A note to say where any equipment can be plugged in (and not to plug in anywhere else)
- A note asking for any decorations around the marquee not to be attached using staples or non-removable tape.
- A note mentioning no metalwork should be removed and side panels only removed if good weather.
- A note asking for pets (dogs) not to be allowed in to the marquee. There were a couple of occasions I can remember finding presents from the family dog, they were not pleasant experiences!
It’s also good practice to have the emergency contact number on the bottom.
Note this is a check list for the customer (they have a copy, you have a copy) which may be separate from your own erectors check-list, something the team leader might fill in ensuring everything meets the required standards. Flooring is well fixed down, all straps are done on the outside of the marquee, no lighting or heating could come in to contact with PVC/lining, furniture all laid out, dance floor laid flat etc etc.
For those who are starting out this may all understandably be a bit of overkill. If you’re in charge and just putting a 6x6m shell of a marquee then that’s fine. The above should always be the aspiration though, as you get bigger, as your equipment becomes more diverse, the jobs become bigger and when more of the responsibility is delegated to others having check lists is simply good practice.
Some see setting up a marquee hire business as very easy. Others see setting up any business as a potential headache. At DIY Marquees we work very hard helping people set up marquee hire companies by taking a lot of the stress and worry out but promoting good practices so they can thrive in the long term.
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At an enjoyable meeting over the weekend I was asked what should be in the toolbox/van of a marquee hirer. What’s the typical equipment you should set yourself up with?
Obviously we can supply most of these but they are reasonably standard equipment available in many places:
- Snips/wire cutters. Essential for cutting down cable ties used to attach linings and lighting.
- Spare cable ties – used for linings and lighting and 101 other uses
- Gaffa Tape – ideally in white. Just avoid the temptation to temporarily patch PVC using gaffa tape – when it comes to permanently patching the adhesive the tape leaves prevents the glue/weld from giving a good bond.
- A repair kit is always useful just in case.
- Carpet cutting knife (stanley) or similar, hammer, toolbelt & nails
- Detachable eyelets are useful
- Sledgehammer & goggles
- Stake puller of some kind make life a lot easier than trying to loosen stakes with a sledgehammer
- Steps – commercial grade, shorter than 2m to work under the eaves but giving a safe working height of 3m
- Some offcuts of wood – useful for chocking tables in transport, supporting the odd footplate that’s in a slight dip
- Hacksaw – just in case (incredibly rarely required)
- Gas spanner – if you use gas heaters
- Funnel – if you use diesel heaters
- Pair of spanners (if using bolted together marquee like our deluxe range)
- Vacuum cleaner or leaf blower – whatever you use to clean the floor
- Washing up liquid, cloth & bowl – for giving the marquee and any equipment a once over
- Baby-wipes – some people use these to ensure clean hands before fitting any marquee linings
- Hard hats – it’s debatable as our marquees are mostly assembled on the ground whether they are classed as lifting over head height and therefore require hard hats. From experience I can say that you come across as a much more professional outfit if you wear hard hats until the structure is complete so I view it as good practice.
You wouldn’t need all of these initially, some you may never require but having most of these in your van/toolbox will make day to day life running a marquee hire business a lot easier. It will also save dashes to local DIY stores to get whatever tool you’re missing!
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Our opening hours over xmas:
Monday 22nd Dec: Open as usual 9-5
Tuesday 23rd Dec: 9-4
Wednesday 24th Dec – Sunday 4th January: closed
Monday 5th January: Skeleton staff 9-5 (a downside of having a family business is funerals affect a greater number of your workforce)
Tuesday 6th January onwards: Open as usual 9-5
Thank you to all of our customers old and new, all of us here at DIY Marquees wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
I meet a lot of people looking to start up a marquee hire business, it is one of the best parts of my job. A lot of people who come in to see me have never worked for themselves and see it as quite an aspirational position. Often the decision has been made to work for themselves long before the idea of marquees came around. And to be honest working for yourself is great, you do have to go in to it with your eyes wide open though and this is something else I often find myself discussing with potential marquee customers.
The first, most important point when starting a new business is having your close family on-board. Getting a business off the ground takes a lot of time, energy and work which would only be rewarded in the medium-long term. It is very difficult to do without the support of those around you. The last thing you want is for your start-up business to seriously affect your relationship (especially if you’ve married in to a family of solicitors and QC’s!).
The pro’s and cons of starting up your own marquee (or other) business:
- Greater flexibility
- Greater job-satisfaction. Not just because the work you’re doing is for yourself rather than some else or an organisation but because most marquee work is making people happy
- Potentially greater financial reward (it depends on what job you’re giving up of course)
- Greater involvement in all parts of the business. You may have had a job in marketing but in a start-up you’ll be involved/responsible for every different part of the business.
- Greater responsibility
- Less financial security (the rewards are potentially greater but there is always the risk of the business not taking off).
And in-between both is a certain blurring of your work/life hours. You can often do non-work things during work time but then you’ll often have to do work related our of hours.
Working for yourself or working in a small business can be a culture shock but ultimately a move most people view well worth it.
A good friend of mine went from working in a huge multinational to a small start-up business. On the second day he was shocked to be told to drop everything as a photocopier had arrived downstairs (they were on the 5th floor) and everyone had to go down and lift it up the stairs. But this is what happens in a small business, everyone has to be prepared to be involved in any part of the business (manual handling or otherwise).
We are always happy to discuss any ideas you may have in starting up your own marquee hire business (or even helping an existing one), we have a lot of experience both in having done it ourselves and in helping many many others over the years.
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