Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weird Startups - Tailwaiters

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Jason Wotman admits the whole idea was born out of laziness. Tailgate parties are fun, but the transportation, set-up and clean-up are certainly no picnic. After one particular New York Jets game when Wotman and his friends' grill was stolen and they were tired of bringing "back all this gross stuff covered in burger juice," they developed the idea for Tailwaiters, a service that brings all the food and necessary equipment to tailgaters in the New York area.

"Now, ironically, we're dealing with it for everyone else," jokes Wotman, 24. But he and his partners (and childhood friends) Josh Winston, 24, and Zach Henick, 24, don't regret their decision a whit. "While it is work, we get to tailgate at every game," says Wotman.
Clients range from a handful of friends taking the train to a game to businesses treating a few dozen guests to a pre-game meal to one memorable event where the Tailwaiters took care of 300 rabid "away" fans at a Chargers-Giants game.

Customers order their packages of food and equipment (tents, grills, chairs, coolers) online or via phone. The three founders and five on-call employees set up the party in the parking lot for the partiers. They clean up at game time, and even offer a chef for a fee. The company doesn't provide alcohol, but Wotman says people seem to manage that part of the tailgate just fine.

"We get to serve a lot of fun people, and that really makes the job a lot more entertaining for us," says Wotman. "Especially when we have first-time customers, like people, let's say, who get off the train, walk over to the spot we coordinate with them and see a whole tailgate set up for them with a tent and a lit grill-they're beside themselves. They're completely ecstatic, because this has never really been done before."

Started for just $15,000 out of the partners' pockets, Tailwaters made it through its first season last year with just word-of-mouth advertising and flyers placed on cars. As they've made more money, they've invested it into radio ads, public relations and branding efforts. They've also thrown tailgate parties for some Jets and Giants bloggers to spread the word on the internet. "Anyone who's a big fan of the teams and goes to a lot of the games probably has heard something about us at this point," says Wotman.

Now in their second season, the company averages 10 tailgates each game. And they haven't just stuck to football. During Bruce Springsteen's recent five-night stint at Giants Stadium, the Tailgaters averaged 12 tailgates per show. They also struck a deal with the Red Bulls soccer team, offering tailgates as an incentive for group ticket sales.

As of now, the partners don't have specific deals in place with the Jets, Giants or stadiums, but they are working on it. "The stadiums and teams definitely know about us now," says Wotman. "I can't divulge the exact secrets yet, but there are potential plans to be in at least one other stadium by next football season. We definitely want to expand our operation in the New York area and become more of a powerhouse here."

[Via - AOL Small Business]

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