Serial entrepreneurs Ant Morell and Simon McNamara have a knack for spotting a business opportunity.
Between the two of them they have held founding investments in Viva Juice, Boost, Grill’d, Spudbar, a couple of iconic Melbourne cafes and a software company.
The pair’s latest venture, the extreme ‘indoor trampoline universe’ called BOUNCEinc, opened in Melbourne’s suburb of Glen Iris last year and it’s shaping up to be the most successful yet.
After only 12 months every metric for this business is moving err, upward.
The centre’s 100 trampolines – free jumping, dodgeball, wall trampolines and the foam pit – are booked out at $16.50 per person, on the hour, pretty much every hour for the 82 hours it’s open every week.
It’s customer base is diverse – kids, tweens, teenagers, twenty-somethings dodgeball teams, birthday parties, skaters, skiers, thirty-somethings, base jumpers, corporate groups, divers, circus performers, mad keen trampolining fanatics and the rest.
Punch BOUNCEinc into YouTube and the distinctive street art inspired yellow, blue and pink logo floods the screen with countless videos of people flying, twisting, turning and jumping through the air.
Three new Melbourne sites – Blackburn North, Nepean Highway and Essendon Airport – are set to open soon and plans are underway to expand into Western Australia in January and South Australia and Queensland early next year.
Who would have thought a warehouse full of trampolines could support such aggressive expansion plans?
But a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation – $16.50 per person, by 100 trampolines, by 82 hours per week – adds up to more than $7 million a year. Not a bad return on the $2 million investment outlaid by its key shareholders to get BOUNCEinc off the ground.
An Australian Sports Commission and CSIRO joint report into The Future of Australian Sport released in April this year predicted that extreme sports were set to become mainstream in the decade ahead.
Co-founder Ant Morell agrees. This bold, loud, fun and slick operation has hit a sweet spot as the appetite for an extreme sport experience collides with mainstream consumer demand.
It all started in 2011 with a trip to the US when Ant and Simon came across an indoor trampoline park in San Francisco which “was awesome and something we could develop into an inspiring business and brand” so they started some research and unearthed the concept.
“What we observed was largely a kid focused business doing a lot of children’s parties – busy on the weekend and not so busy during the week,” he says.
“We thought we could do it in a more interesting and accessible way.”
Mindful of the massive growth in extreme sports worldwide in the past decade they created ‘a free jumping revolution’ that enabled “a whole different bunch of people to do fun and interesting things that were not generally possible”.
There are five key shareholders in the business from a range of business, IT, manufacturing and sporting backgrounds. “We wouldn’t call ourselves extreme sports people,” Ant says. “But we have all been captivated by what we’ve observed the next generation of high octane sports people doing – pushing the boundaries.”
They spent about a year working on the business plan.
“We wanted it to be serious in a sporting way, not just a jumping castle which we didn’t think was going to be very inspiring or sustainable.”
They borrowed elements from sports like Parkour (which hails from urban France with people jumping from building-to-building), the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne and Cirque du Soleil.
“The premise was to make a place for people where the previously impossible was made possible and do it in a safe well-managed environment.”
According to Ant, there’s also clear benefits of trampolining use that most people aren’t aware of.
“It’s low impact. A massive cardio workout. Good for muscle conditioning and co-ordination,” he says. “It is as useful for little kids who are just getting their balance co-ordinated, through to school groups and a lot of special needs groups.
“We have kids with autism and cystic fibrosis groups, right through to skiers and snow boarders who are trying to refine what they do in the air and use our facilities to get airborne and then land nice and safely.
But it isn’t all just about “getting air” it is a multi-sensory experience.
“A lot of places that fall into the activity category can be a bit drab. Our sound system and the music that runs through it, as well as the physical environment, is carefully put together and we are trying to appeal to everyone by having a clean and inviting space that you want to be in.”
The young people they employ, typically aged in their 20s, are also critical to their success.
“A really important part of our formula are amazing staff who love showing someone a great time. We choose and train people so they act and feel like proud hosts.”
According to Ant all of these elements combine to make it a good business model.
“It has a regular number of customers through, with predictability of revenue. It is pre-booked like a film, so you know if you have a quiet period coming up. It’s visited regularly by a diverse group of customers for various reasons which means we are able to use the site at non-peak times for different sorts of things.
“I don’t know that the success took us by surprise,” he says. “We identified what we thought was a significant market opportunity and were really pleased at how quickly it took off and the degree to which different groups have embraced it.”
Angela Martinkus is a Melbourne-based communications consultant and journalist.