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When the rich and famous need access to the most exclusive nightclubs in New York City, they call someone who has the right connections. When they absolutely must have tickets to the hottest show on Broadway, they contact someone who can make it happen. Ike Iregbulem is that someone.
“We’re the luxury Yellow Pages,” says Iregbulem of his year-old company Opulent Lifestyle L.L.C. in New York City. But only the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me in the entertainment and business arenas are flipping through these pages. The membership-based concierge company he founded caters to the whims and needs of the wealthy. From making hotel reservations to chartering private jets and helicopters, Iregbulem and his staff coordinate the details. If a client desires a $350,000 Rolls Royce Phantom at 2 a.m., Opulent Lifestyle makes it happen.
“The concierge business isn’t new,” says Iregbulem. “But the private concierge business is fairly new, especially with clients who have a busy schedule. Their time is money, and that’s where we come in.”
Convincing lenders to believe in Opulent Lifestyle proved a great challenge early on for Iregbulem. But by doing what he does best — networking — he’s been able to build a profitable company with two full-time employees and room to grow. He’s expecting $200,000 in gross revenues for 2005. And thanks to a boost from his new partner, Anthony Adams of the San Francisco 49ers, Opulent Lifestyle should bring in between $300,000 and $500,000 in gross revenues for 2006.
Iregbulem, 30, was groomed for this business long ago. By the time he was in 7th grade, he was a popular DJ, spinning records at after-school parties. In college, he evolved into a party promoter and held down his own radio show at Penn State University. Between his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, he became one of the top promoters in New York City, hobnobbing with celebrities, professional athletes, and high-level executives.
Iregbulem caught on to what industry experts say is a flourishing business — servicing the time-challenged in a simple, one-stop shop way. Once a perk for the wealthy, personal concierges have found a place in hospitals, academic institutions, and corporate settings.
“I’ve seen a complete explosion in the concierge business,” says Sara-Ann Kasner, founder of the National Concierge Association and a 14-year veteran of the industry. The NCA’s membership has grown from six businesses in 1998 to nearly 600 in the United States today. “It seems reasonable in this world that we would need a personal assistant in the workplace to take care of everything from organizing our closets to handling our transportation needs.”
Toying with the idea of a concierge business?
Be seen. Location is everything. Pick a business location that is a hot spot in your area. For example, head downtown to a financial district, where the company will be visible to the public.
Know your craft. You need to be very well connected, says Kasner. “With connections, comes knowledge — knowledge of what people can and cannot do.” Establish a network with other concierges, mix and mingle with restaurant owners and others