You could play a colorful game of musical chairs in the showroom of Be Seated in southern Overland Park. There are even chairs affixed to the walls.
Owner Lisa Prophete’s business is making chairs come to life using coverings and other touches for weddings and charitable events. Be Seated has been around for 12 years, but Prophete purchased the company in November 2014.
Q: What does Be Seated offer?
The chair covers are made from a variety of fabrics, including polyester, satin and Lycra. “Our newest is spandex,” Prophete said. “The popularity in that is growing. It is a really clean, crisp look for the chair where the polyester is more flowing and traditional look.”
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Prophete said the covers fit a standard size banquet chair that most facilities carry, but shapes do vary.
“We have several different sizes that will fit including the spandex. It’s like Spanx for a chair,” she said.
Coverings come colors such as black, red, silver, champagne, gold, white and ivory. The chair sashes offer more options.
“That’s where we bring in more colors with sashes and bows — about 50 colors,” said Prophete, naming such shades as eggplant, tiffany and chocolate brown.
The previous owners purchased the chair coverings and accessories from China, but Prophete has gone in a different direction.
“We have a vendor that is the same quality but is in California,” she said. “While it would be cheaper to get product from China, we get our product faster and it’s the same quality and it’s easier to deal with.”
Prophete said she also rents some centerpieces and stocks a new product — ornate furniture that’s big and over the top with gold trim. “They can be used for Indian weddings, homecoming, prom and maybe even for Christmas for Santa...It’s whimsical and elegant at the same time.”
Q: How did you get into this business?
“I had been a stay-at-home mom — the best job in the world — and I was very involved with my kids’ school,” Prophete said. “As they were getting older I wanted to own my own business.”
Through a family baby sitter who worked as a contract employee for Be Seated, Prophete learned that the owners were moving and wanted to sell the business “to a smaller family versus a larger company,” she said.
“We knew the family through church...and our ears perked up,” said Prophete, who quickly called owners Erica and Michael Tyler to arrange a meeting.
After meeting with the owners, Prophete moved forward with purchasing the company.
Q: How did put the deal together?
Prophete’s husband, Donald, is an attorney, and through friends they put the deal together.
“Once that was done everything was seamless,” Lisa Prophete said. “
Prophete runs the business herself and hires contract workers to help set up for events. She trains her workers on the job.
“They get trained to tie bows,” she said with a laugh. “I have used high school and college students in the summer and that has worked fantastic. When the college students go off to school, I use stay-at-home moms.”
And from time to time, family helps out including her two children, now in middle and high school.
Q: Why did you relocate the business?
Originally located in Olathe, the previous owners had moved everything into a storage unit while looking for new owners. Prophete wanted to move the company.
“I knew we wanted to be south. I wanted to be in Overland Park with easy access off the highway and close to home and my kids’ school,” Prophete said. “A lot of the hotels we service are in Overland Park and we wanted close proximity to them.”
Working with a commercial real estate agent, it took Prophete about six months to find her current location just north of College Boulevard.
“I operated out of the storage unit until I found my space,” she said. Her husband negotiated a five-year lease on the new location.
The space Prophete found had been an awards and trophy business and she wanted to reconfigure the floor plan to fit her needs. There’s now a showroom area, some small offices and storage space for all of the chair linens and supplies. She worked on the interior finish.
“I like old pieces so, I went downtown to find old doors and other items,” Prophete said. “My girlfriend Julie Herman, who is a designer who does a lot of repurposing, helped me with design. We came up with the design of putting chairs on the walls.”
Q: How does service work?
Prophete said a customer or commercial client either comes in to see what is available from Be Seated’s inventory, or they can view options on the web site. The basic business flow includes placing the order, issuing an invoice and collecting a deposit. Two weeks before the event Be Seated collects the balance, establishes the set up and pick up time “and we use a company van to deliver, install and to pick up,”
“Our goal is to have the bride not worry about any piece of it,” Prophete said.
There are pricing options for Be Seated: an all-inclusive package with delivery, set up and return is about $3.50 per chair. Customers have the option of picking up the covers and putting them on themselves, which reduces the price to approximately $2.95 a chair. Prophete said pricing varies slightly depending on the chair cover material and the type of sash.
Then there is the cleanup.
“We use Hangers Cleaners in Martin City and they do all of dry cleaning for us,” Prophete said. “I do have a washer and dryer on-site so if there is a last-minute order we feel we can take care of in-house, we can have it prepared, she said.
Prophete uses QuickBooks for her financial work.
Be Seated has been averaging three to five events each weekend, and Prophete is a hands-on owner.
“I try to be at every job and I am definitely out there on every job,” she said.
Q: Who are your customers and how do you market to them?
With the purchase of Be Seated, Prophete inherited a list of both customers and people who worked events.
“We are the preferred vendor in several hotels and country clubs in Kansas City and we get a lot of the brides through them,” Prophete said. “A lot of times we don’t even get to meet the couples. Then we have brides who come in, make an appointment for a private consultation and place their order.”
Other clients come via word of mouth.
“We have caterers that refer us,” she said “In this event business you run into the same people all the time. It’s wonderful to see them and collaborate with them. We help each other out.”
Be Seated advertises through “The Perfect Wedding Guide” and its bridal shows and catalogue as well as EA Bride and its online presence. The company will also be listed as a featured vendor in the print and online additions of “the Knot.”
Prophete said about 90 percent of Be Seated’s business is for weddings with the remainder coming from corporate clients.
“I would like to get more corporate business,” she said. With that in mind, Be Seated is launching its new web site later this month. She hopes it will also increase rental business on the new furniture she added.
Q: Is there much local competition ?
“Our biggest competition is a company out of St. Joseph. They do exactly what we do,” Prophete said. “But there is so much business to go around that we both do fine. They are very friendly and we call each other when we need something.”
Q: What challenges are there in running Be Seated?
At the top of her list is learning to use social media. Sometimes, she said, it is hard to keep with all the changes. Then there is the “problem” of being busy with lots of events to cover.
“It’s a good problem to have, but sometimes I have so much work I don’t have enough employees to cover so we are working constantly,” she said. Having enough on-call staff to cover everything is tough.
Q: Be Seated is nearing its first anniversary under your ownership. What does the future hold?
“I would love to have more furniture for rent,” Prophete said. “We will be in this space for at least five years, so if we get more furniture we will probably need more space.”
She would also like to add to the company’s centerpiece line.
“I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself, but I am always looking for new things,” Prophete said.
Her latest project is renting out Be Seated’s showroom for meetings, and events. The space can accommodate 45-50 people.
“I have the space and I had several event planners mention the idea to me,” Prophete said. “You get to choose a chair cover and bow and you bring in your own food and beverage for the event. It is very comfortable.”
In a nutshell
COMPANY: Be Seated
ADDRESS: 6383 W. 110th St., Overland Park
TELEPHONE: (816) 941-4122
WEB SITE: www.be-seated.com