Meet Ann King, founder of BORROW Rentals
, a custom rental house for unique furniture and accessories in Cleveland with four employees. Pieces range from rustic vintage wares to up-cycled wood furniture. Borrow provides its clients with one-of-a-kind options to create spectacular occasions.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I grew up in a family that was always surrounded by new business. My father is a patent attorney and frequently brought the new business ideas he has patented home with him. My mother helped start a successful theater department at our local parish. I have aunts and uncles who are successful entrepreneurs. And my husband is a successful entrepreneur.
Without my family background of seeing businesses get off the ground and run well I doubt I’d have the confidence to attempt it myself. After working for seven years with my husband’s business, I felt called to do something on my own that spoke more to who I was and the things I loved most in life. My education is actually in poetry. It seems I have always been fascinated on how things “fit,” whether it is on the page, in a home or at a special event.
How did you come up with the idea for Borrow?
My original business idea was actually an antique and vintage furniture store that also hosted smaller writing events and workshops. My friend and business consultant, Lindsay Longacre, was the first person to mention to me that I should consider event rental.
After a bottle of wine and great conversation I was pretty much sold. After a few months of research and development I was more than sold. I had fallen in love with this idea and, in 2012, I knew I had to make it happen.
What kind of events have you done?
I have been lucky to have been a part of unique weddings, galas, showers, bachelorette parties, intimate dinner parties, engagement photo shoots, styled photo shoots and even just helping a husband create a special moment for his wife of five years to re-propose to her and tell her how much she means to him. I had no idea Borrow would bring me to such special, intimate moments.
Where do you find the items you rent?
Half of our inventory is antiques. For these I mostly shop auction houses and estate sales. I am always a sucker for a great antique shop in the middle of nowhere. For our custom upcycled wood tables and bars I use local companies that specialize in using local sustainable resources. We have local Clevelanders doing amazing things for the same price as anything you could buy at a department store. I love our custom wood pieces and am so proud that they are all made in Cleveland.
What is the biggest struggle or hurdle you've had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
My biggest struggle as I’ve grown my business has been one question: Am I spending the money in the right places? I worry about this constantly. When you are a startup funded by your own money, it is so difficult to realize when to go for it or whether this is a waste of money. Should I invest in more inventory or more staff?
My father-in-law recommended I read the book “E for Entrepreneur” and it was mind changing. I hired a business consultant within a few weeks of finishing the book and I haven’t regretted it for a minute. I still question the direction of Borrow’s money flow, but now I have a professional to help me realize what is most important.
What is your favorite piece in your collection and why?
My favorite piece is our Blue Bird Settee. This is the first piece we rented out and it came from my father’s law firm. There is a lot of sentimentality with that couch.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in starting their businesses?
Ask questions. Surround yourself with people who have done it longer and better. Never stop learning. Try to never stop growing. Let the people you love help you -- you’re going to need it because it can be insanity!