When we think of startups we often think of tech. Scalable, cutting edge, mass market, apps, websites, and new technology. But there are a lot of businesses experimenting with business models in the bricks and mortar world, and some key lessons can be learned from them.
The story starts way back in January 2014 with a West Australian duo, Reuben Campbell & Vincent Scarvaci, looking to start up a business that would reflect their personal outlook on the business world. A new business where everyone could have fun, regardless of their age, level of fitness, or disability. This of course presented a number of challenges, but in the end, it was decided that an all ages trampoline park would be the best fit. Franchise and cookie cutter options were considered but after identifying the very restrictive nature of what was offered, it was decided to go it alone.
Nearly 18 long months later, after long days, late nights, successes, and failures Jump! Trampoline Park was born.
Jump! Trampoline Park is an indoor trampoline park with over 300 interconnecting trampolines set up for a wide range of activities from Freestyle Jumping, birthday party hosting, fitness classes and major event hosting, to organised sporting events like Trampoline Capture the Flag Dodgeball.
So, where do we start? Well with what went wrong!
Both directors had run successful small businesses in the past. This provided them both with a solid foundation in which to launch Jump About, but there were many tricks and pitfalls along the way that pushed this duo both to their limits.
If you’re in a start up you’ll know that it generally takes twice as long as you had planned; this was very much the case with Jump!. From planning delays, website build delays, waiting for goods being shipped from overseas, to simple things like the delays caused by all the ‘little things’ you could never even have thought of till you get there.
Key Lesson: There will be delays; it will take longer than you think. Be ready to manage the timeline and find ways to deliver a high quality MVP as soon as possible.
Took twice as long as you planned? Guess what, it will likely cost twice as much as you had planned too. Some of these costs will come from the sheer fact you’re burning overheads every day whether you’re trading or not. Haven’t started shipping yet?
Sorry, you still need to cover wages, power & water, rates, phones and many other bills.
The other costs will come from two main areas;
Increased costs to complete projects / steps along the way and;
Costs for all the things you hadn’t thought of.
Key Lesson: Figure out how much you need to undertake the project and double that amount. You don’t need it there in cash but you need to know you can cover the blowouts. Too many projects fail at 90% because they simply run out of cash.
3) Governments & Regulations
One of the biggest challenges was pitching the concept to a council that had not ever managed a public facility concept like this before. Jump About had to create a new business description so that the council could effectively conceptualise how the business would operate. Traffic planning works needed to be done, surveys completed, opposing parties to the development managed, and more. Specialists were bought in where necessary but a lot of it fell back on us to do.
Key Lesson: Be ready to tackle government and administrative bodies when in Start Up mode. Know the requirements and the legislation of the markets you are entering and be ready to adapt and negotiate to get your project across the line.
Know your customers, know your competitors, and know your market. You should be able to drill down your target market to the finest degree. In starting Jump! We lacked a crystal clear vision of our customer segments and how and when they would use the facility. This meant lost time during startup and a slower start once the doors were open. Without a clear definition of who your customers are how are you going to reach them? Even if you have the funds to reach everyone, which message will resonate with each of them? We needed to be clear a long time before we were on who our customers would be and why we were special to them.
Key Lesson: Know your customers and everything you possibly can about them. Then make plans to get in front of them and add value to their experience.
5) Right People for the Right Job
Know where your strengths lie and where they don’t. As a startup, you will try to cover everything and every role that your business needs. Identify that not only is your time valuable to what you do, but that there are other people and organizations that you will need to engage with if you are to get your product out there in the market. Once you have identified what the skills gaps are, finding the right person/organization for that job and getting them to understand what you need and when you need it can be one of the most frustrating and rewarding tasks you will face.
Key Lesson: Identify what you can and can’t do, and outsource those tasks to the right person the first time through a strong supplier “due diligence” process.
So what went right?
Like any new startup business, Jump! had many wins along the way. The equipment manufacturer was able to build and deliver one of the biggest orders that they had ever seen in record time and without complaint. 5 x 40² sea containers and 16 weeks later we had our trampolines in parts, strewn across the floor.
Over the years, we had accrued a number of favors with friends and family, of which construction was the time to cash in. It took several trampolines to exactly identify the most efficient process, but after 18,000 springs, we had a system of construction down to a fine art, with the last trampoline built in 1/3 of the time the first one took. If you ever need a trampoline built, we are your guys.
We built it. The largest trampoline park in Australia (possibly the world) was built by two West Aussies with not a lot more than a passionate vision, a tonne of grit, and an incredible support network of friends, family, and people we’ve met along the way.
Key Lesson: Your friends and family will often challenge you on your dream but they will be there for you. Look after them in the process.