From riches to rags to riches again: entrepreneur Brent Grundy barely had enough money to fill a fuel tank two years ago when he launched Flip Out, Australia’s first trampoline playground, sparking a new fitness craze and bouncing him back to success.
Opening in a western Sydney car park in 2012, the trampoline park designed for kids and adults captured imaginations, expanding to 24 sites and 350 employees within the first two years of business, with dozens more slated.
While happily on the up, Grundy remembers well the view from below, after a bungled business sale had him watching on as his money, home and dreams disappeared. As Christmas approached he prepared himself to break the news to his young family that there would be no celebration that year.
“The hardest part was the humiliation of feeling like a failed businessman and worrying what people were thinking of me,” says Grundy. “I got to the point where I couldn’t get any lower, and knew that the only way was up.”
The turning point came at a birthday party in a play centre with his son. Witnessing a staff member tell a child she was too tall to play on the equipment, Grundy looked around and realised half the party consisted of kids or parents that were barred from the entertainment.
The idea came to him of trampolines as a way to fill a gap in the market for active entertainment suitable for all ages.
“Ever since I was a kid I loved jumping on trampolines. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or 50, it puts a smile on everyone’s face,” Grundy says.
Within the next 24 hours, Grundy had sketched a trampoline park to fit 300 jumpers and engaged a manufacturer. The first prototype arrived 12 months later.
“When the first trampolines were delivered I had about $300 to my name. The first Flip Out was built by friends and family in a car park in Penrith.”
Told he had “rocks in his head”, Grundy proved the naysayers wrong when 150 kids passed through the door on the first day of trading – Christmas Eve 2012. Word spread and over the holiday period the trampolines were often full to capacity.
Capturing the first-to-market advantage, Facebook was Grundy’s other “best friend” in the early days.
“We had a deal whereby if people changed their Facebook profile photo to one of them bouncing we offered them a free bottle of water. It really worked to spread the word,” says Grundy.
Moving to an indoor venue soon after, Grundy hit a six-figure turnover within the first 10 weeks of business and $2.5 million within the first year. Since then, 24 parks have opened, including one in Taiwan, bringing in an annual income of over $30 million.
According to Grundy, his accountant reported that in his 22 years of being in business, he has never witnessed an opportunity that allows the franchisee to recoup their initial investment within four to five months.
The businessman has jumped headlong into the global market; currently building centres in Dubai and planning to open in 13 more countries in the next year, on top of 30 more domestic locations.
It’s not all money-making says Grundy, recently returned from Afghanistan where he plans to build a charity trampolining centre, with Cambodia and the Philippines next in line.
“I want every kid to be able to come to a Flip Out no matter where they’re born,” he says.
Grundy encourages playgrounds to serve as a “community hub”, and actively maintains a mentoring relationship with many young bouncers.
“I see kids walk in the door without any confidence and before long they’re doing backflips and chatting with me on Facebook. The best part of my job is the giving back. It’s really not about the money anymore.”
Competitors Sky Zone and Bounce quickly jumped onto the bandwagon, offering indoor trampoline parks in all capital cities. Purportedly burning more calories in a half hour bounce than triple that walking, trampolining is pipped to be the next big fitness craze.
Grundy’s advice to other entrepreneurs sitting on a “left field” idea is to stay strong in the face of doubt.
“Put yourself in the position where you can’t turn back. Don’t take on others’ insecurities and fears and instead surround yourself with people that have positive things to say.”
You can find the original article on SMH HERE.