Patrick Brown ’14, CEO of Rentsons, knows what it is to be broke. Not the living-paycheck-to-paycheck kind of broke. More like fishing-in-the-seat-cushions-for-change broke. So this entrepreneur has made it a part of his business plan to encourage his employees to become entrepreneurs themselves.
In the summer following his freshman year, Brown learned his family had suffered a financial crisis that threatened his ability to complete his education. Brown took his last $40 and made fliers announcing that he was available for rental: for gardening, chauffering, grocery shopping—whatever his neighbors needed.
The need was great. The former Sigma Pi president became so busy that he recruited his fraternity brothers, and before long he had more than a part-time job; he had a business: Rentsons. Tagline: “Rent young adults to do the work you wish your kids would do.”
After URI, Brown shut down one company to create another: Aqua, a company specializing in water special effects for concert tours. But life on the road wasn’t for Brown. He missed his community and the stability of a routine. Brown said that at 24 he “had a quarter-life crisis and bailed.”
A Thoreau-like period of reflection and reading followed. Brown read a book a week about entrepreneurship, innovation, and business, and wrote a book report for each. These became the source material for Brown’s own book, “Life to the Full,” which will be available on Amazon in February. Last spring he relaunched Rentsons. Business is good; he has 70 employees. Brown plans to extend the company’s reach to Boston, Cape Cod and Buzzard’s Bay by summer, and to cover the East Coast by 2019.
Brown’s business follows his original model: He offers the services of young people,”sons” or “daughters” ages 16 to 26, on an hourly basis to “neighbors” (clients) to do yard work, painting, swingset assembly, wood chopping—even pet turtle searches (yes, it happened).
The rebooted Rentsons encourages employees to consider entrepreneurship. Employees download QuickBooks Self-Employed and Acorns, a tool that automatically invests spare change. Brown also gives employees a journal and his book. He wants them to think about community, investing, giving back, and, of course, their futures.
“My passion is to see communities unite,” Brown said. “And, to see kids with great jobs.”
We asked Rentsons’ Founder and CEO Patrick Brown what the budding entrepreneur should be reading. Here’s his answer:
“The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
“Many people struggle with focusing (including myself) and are lured by the idea of being successful by having many different jobs all at once. This book helps teach the power of intensely focusing and putting everything you have into one thing. As Andrew Carnegie said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket is all wrong. I say put all your eggs in that basket and watch it. Look around, few people that do that ever fail. It’s the ones that carry the most baskets that crack the most eggs in America.”
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
“Every single problem encounter I have, I refer back to this book. Warren Buffet graduated from Dale Carnegie’s class, and he hangs only that certificate on his wall. That’s saying something.”
“Shoe Dog: A Memoir By the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight
“Hilarious story of an entrepreneur’s journey. This story embodies what many will go through in their attempts to build something that impacts the world. This great read will give you a glimpse into what the future will look like if you decide to build your own business.”
“Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World” by Bob Goff
“Bob Goff defines how to truly love someone. He defines love not as a feeling but as an action. This book has amazing true stories and a great taste of what agape love truly looks like.”