Mark McNeil is easily one of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. Not to knock on anyone else, but there’s something remarkable about an individual who is a living, breathing textbook on business growth. Mark McNeil is the founder and CEO of Premier Luxury Rentals, where clients can rent a Lamborghini, a private jet, a yacht and a house in the Hamptons all from one company based in Philadelphia.
Pretty cool right?
What’s cooler is how Mark got to this point from his humble beginnings as a kid mowing lawns. If you read closely, you’ll get little nuggets of information that may help you along your own entrepreneurial path. Enjoy.
CC: Can you please introduce yourself for those who don’t know?
MM: My name is Mark McNeil and I’m the owner of Premier Luxury Rentals. I started the company in 2003. It started out as a hobby, renting out my luxury cars for music videos and to certain friends and family members. Then I quickly decided to turn it into a business. So from that, it turned into a limousine company where individuals could be chauffeured, especially for those coming from out of town. I started delivering vehicles to Atlantic Aviation. While seeing the jets fly in, I decided that I wanted some of that action. So I got into the aviation business and got my brokerage license. Then, after delivering cars to the Hamptons, I decided to get into the vacation home business. So that’s how it snowballed into what PLR is today. It’s pretty exciting, turning people’s dreams into realities.
CC: And turning your dreams into realities at the same time...
MM: Well yea, but what I really get a kick out of is the ability to employ people and to see them grow and give them the opportunity to change their lives. That’s what wakes me up in the morning.
CC: Tell us a little about your background and how you got to own these nice cars.
MM: Well I’ve always been an entrepreneur. At the age of 14, I had my own landscaping business and I did that throughout high school. Then I started a janitorial service in my first year of college at Penn State. I ended up transferring to Delaware County Community College because at the time Penn State didn’t allow freshman to drive to campus. I had just bought a brand new car on my 18th birthday. So I continued to work the janitorial business for about a year and a half while in school until the business got so big that I ended up speaking to my guidance counselor. He asked me how much money I was making and what degree I was going for and then told me that by the time I graduate I’m going to be X amount of dollars in debt and I’ll be making X amount LESS than what I’m making now.
CC: Do you mind telling me how much you were making?
MM: It was about $25K - $26K working part time, cleaning about 3 or 4 hours per night [in the late 80s]. That was pretty good for a teenager. And my counselor told me that if I kept at it and kept growing, imagine where my janitorial service would be years from now.
So I did that for a little bit and ended up selling the business to a friend and got into the telecommunications business, selling beepers in 1991. And people would come by and say, “Hey what are you going into the beeper business for? The only people that buy beepers are doctors and drug dealers.” So I printed out some flyers and went to the hospitals and went to the hood.
CC: Where did you go to get wholesale beepers?
MM: I negotiated a deal with a company called PageNet and I applied to be an authorized reseller. They gave me a line for $5 per number and I put $10 on top so my pagers sold for $15 plus the $2 per month for insurance (which was another sweet spot) and [the business] just grew. I ended up opening a kiosk in Exton Mall. People were laughing at me and gawking at me, this little black kid at the kiosk in the mall selling beepers. Of course now, malls are filled with kiosks but there weren’t so many back then. Then I negotiated a deal to lock-in my lease for a year where nobody else can come in the mall and open up a beeper stand. They said, well if you want to do that we have a few other malls that we want you to go into. So I said, “Sure!” If I sign this agreement, nobody else can come in. I opened up in three other malls and hired relatives and friends to work and had everyone pulling 10-hour days. It’s funny though, because it seemed like as soon as the ink was dry on that agreement, everyone wanted to get into the beeper game but I already had the malls locked down. I did very well for myself. During that time, I was meeting a lot of people and a lot of celebrities had my beepers. I had more money than some of them. They’d be getting screwed on a record deal back in the 90s and I’d be coming through with the drop-top Mercedes.
CC: So you started getting the cars with the beeper business?
MM: Yeah, as a 20-21 year-old kid, I was making $50K - $100K per month in beeper sales.
CC: YOU MADE $50,000 TO $100,000 PER MONTH, SELLING BEEPERS?
MM: Lol, yeah. So I was going out to LA, hanging with the celebrities, the people I sold beepers to, and it was just crazy. And that led into my next business, which was entertainment. My friends used to always ask me to invest in their parties so once I sold the beeper business I took a hiatus for two years, and started my entertainment company. I used the contacts I made from selling beepers and started booking my own parties and shows. Back then the biggest party I threw was for the first time Biggie Smalls came to Philly. It was at a club called Pulsations and we had about 3,000 people inside and another 2,000 outside. It was on the night that Biggie got arrested for allegedly beating up a promoter in New Jersey.
After that, I continued to build relationships with clubs in Philly like Club Flow, Glam, The Electric Factory, I brought 50 Cent there, I brought Eminem into town. Anybody who was anybody from the early 90s to the early 2000s, I was bringing them into town. I eventually bought my own nightclub, Suite 450 and that was around the same time that I started Premier Luxury Rentals. Artists were coming into town and I was paying limo companies handsomely to drive them around and these same artists were using my vehicles in their music videos so that’s how PLR got started.
CC: So now we’re back up to speed but I want to go back one more time. I want to know what made you decide to start a landscaping business at 14. At that age most kids are playing ball or worrying about girls.
MM: Well I was in private school all the way until then; you know, uniforms and 10 to 12 kids in a classroom. Then there was this thing called public school that I heard about . I’m talking to my buddy and he’s getting all these fresh school clothes and I’m over here with the light-blue plaid uniform. So quickly I learned that to get the girls and be cool you need new clothes and fresh sneakers. And my parents weren’t having it. So I rebelled and they eventually let me go to public school in 9th grade. That summer, I knew I had to make some money to afford the clothes that I wanted so I cut grass door-to-door.
CC: What did your parents do?
MM: My mother was a nurse and my father worked in the steel mill for Lukens Steel.
CC: What do you think is stopping the emergence of more Mark McNeils in the world?
MM: Well, I believe that there are millions of people like me in the world. You know, kids are innocent but I don’t think people realize that you can really do whatever you put your mind to. I think kids come up against a lot of naysayers as they grow up whether it’s parents, friends or teachers who tell them that it’s not possible. I think there are so many people wired for entrepreneurship but sometimes it takes for them to get into their 20s and 30s to realize that they don’t want to punch a clock for the rest of their lives. I guess I was foolish enough to not know that that wasn’t normal.