We are going to be busy this weekend. We have a large party tonight and birthday parties both Saturday and Sunday! Yay! Open bounce will happen as usual during the morning from 10 until around 2. We have done some decorating but still in the denial stage, our weather and a need to soak up some warm sun, I am holding on dearly to what is left of summer.
The rains will come and so, I am told will the abundance of kiddos wanting to expend that energy they so radiate and the parents who only want for a moment of peace from the exuberance of youth on a rainy day. I think we are ready.
I told myself when I started this blog that I would use it, among other things, for an in-depth version of what it means to open a business such as we have. The Family Entertainment Center (FEC) business may seem like a lot of play but I assure you, it is hard work.
It started in April of 2013 when my daughter came to us with this concept. She had attended a party at a local bounce party center and came away with a concept to do something similar but with some major improvements. Lets face it, kids like to jump. That’s a given. The idea was even though the kids are happy doing this, the key would be to make the parents happy too. Any warehouse with inflatables will make kids happy. It takes way more to keep those that are paying for their happiness satisfied. We worked on a concept that could do both.
We wrote down what it takes. Then we put it all together. What it takes is comfortable seating, safe, clean, open, bright surroundings, competitive pricing and attention to what the customer needs. We had our basic business plan and took off like Indiana Jones outrunning that big stone ball.
Plans in hand, we worked down the list of the requirements for opening our center. Funding was a major obstacle. We went with an assistance program. The woman who worked with us was so positive. It became contagious. We were so sure the whole thing was going to work. Well, that probably was the first stumbling stone on our road to success. With much time and form filling invested, we received our first refusal. Our second and third… We did not get too discouraged and forged on with our ‘needs’ list. Researching the best inflatables, flooring, point of sale software and many other details we did not even know were involved in beginning a business.
Finally just short of 3 months of stumbling down this virtual road to Oz, we found a great friend who was willing to offer up some seed money. Jump start! Yes! We ordered our bouncies. A wonderful woman working for a company in Los Angeles was our angel here. She helped us with inflatables handmade in LA of high quality lead free materials. We had already lined up a building and were ready to sign on a lease and snap! Here we go again. The building had been up for sale and did so over the weekend just before our signing on Monday. The new prospective owner did not want to lease (to us?) so we were back to square one on the building situation. (May)
This worked out to be a major problem as the other spaces were either too big, too small or not zoned for what we wanted. We tried working with the City of Martinez and found the cost of doing business satisfying their use requirements with the unit we found insurmountable. Moving on, we took a drive and stumbled upon a store front in Pleasant Hill. The landlord was in the building and said we could have a permit right away. Just head over to the city hall and ask! Yeah, right. Six weeks and two grand further on our bumpy, rock and pitted road we finally got our use permit. This was on the same day we found out that one of the neighboring businesses actually had veto power over the other shops in the center and specifically had told the landlord there would be no FEC in the shopping center. I think at this point, I was screaming some of those bad words that sneak out on occasion. (August)
My daughter-in-law came over with concern to ask what was wrong. Upon hearing of our latest catastrophe, she mentioned that she had heard that the first building we had lined up – yes, remember the one that was up for sale? – well, that one was again available! The owner did not go through with the sale for one reason or another. No matter – he was willing before to rent to us so??? I had my daughter call and the rest, as they say, is history. And fodder for another post.
In the meantime, come on over and jump, slide, sit in our comfy chairs. Bring all the kids and let them burn off some energy. You better bring some socks too, because you are welcome to join them. Keep posted…. I can tell you the rest of the story another day. Maybe one of those rainy days if I’m not too busy …