Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you’re a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathy Webster and Tina West grew up immersed in their family business. So, when the duo started looking into opening their own franchise, they knew it had to be something that benefitted their whole family. Rebounderz, an indoor trampoline arena franchise, was the perfect fit. Here are the unexpected struggles and rewards of opening a franchise that is fun for the whole family.
Name: Kathy Webster
Franchise owned: Rebounderz in Sterling, Va. and now Manassas, Va.
How long have you owned a franchise?
Four years this quarter.
My sister and I grew up immersed in the family business of operating preschools. When it came time for us to explore our entrepreneurial skills, we wanted something new and fun, as well as something that our kids would enjoy.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was working in the field of education as an educator and later as a principal, Then, I got involved in our family business.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
We selected Rebounderz because it was something fun that benefited our families and kids. There was nothing like it in the area and we wanted to be first to market with the new concept. The patented Rebounderz exoskeleton was another feature that drew us to this franchise. Its design and engineering is safer and less expensive to maintain than other products we explored.
We also liked how personable the franchise was. It felt like a family business. You’re not handed off to a marketing or sales team; the Rebounderz executive team is there with you every step of the way.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We got in very early and we paid $650,000 to $750,000 for our building and $1.2 million to $1.5 million in franchising costs, which includes the trampolines and branding. Today, opening a new location is an investment of $1.2 to $2.3 million, plus the cost of the building.
While that’s approximately $200,000 more upfront, the Rebounderz trampoline system requires much less monthly maintenance than other indoor trampoline franchises, saving us significant maintenance costs.
When prospective franchisees compare franchise opportunities, they typically focus on upfront investment first and then the franchise royalty. They rarely factor in the monthly cost of maintenance, which can exceed tens of thousand dollars each month.
We saved in monthly operating and maintenance costs by investing upfront in the better-engineered trampoline system. We’d rather pay more upfront to save money down the road.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Most of my advice comes from experience working in my family’s business. Much of my work ethic comes from my mother and her business advice over the years.
Having a master’s degree in Educational Administration and working in a variety of school settings has taught me how to manage people and businesses, but much of it is instinct, drive, hard work and the need to succeed. Back when we started looking for a new business venture there weren’t many trampoline arenas operating. We took a calculated risk and it paid off.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Most businesses struggle with capital and funding to start. We were able to collateralize our other (family) businesses and we counted on long-term business banking relationships to get an easy “yes.”
Some of the most unexpected challenges of opening our franchise were real estate and politics – location and zoning. The indoor trampoline arena concept is still new to most counties and municipalities, and each one has different zoning laws or understandings of them for indoor trampoline arenas. Fortunately, it was only somewhat challenging because the community and governing bodies were enthusiastic for our new store and the new concept to be available for their kids and community.
A similar challenge we faced was introducing the concept to service providers (architects, general contractors) who had never seen or heard of an indoor trampoline arena. With our second location, this wasn’t as tricky because we already had a team in place.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchises?
Start from day one researching county ordinances and zoning laws. Have a good team full of people you can trust and rely on. Keep in mind that this is still an emerging industry and still has quirks. Talk to franchisees owners in the field you are interested in. Make sure you’re aware of all of the costs that come with your franchise beyond start-up costs, including on-going maintenance and expenses.
You definitely need to like kids and the public to be in this industry. Being a people person is a must! You have to like interacting with people of all ages.
What made you decide now was the right time to open another location?
It was a combination of our first location being extremely successful, us wanting to be able to corner the North Virginia market and finding a location that made sense for our business.
What made you want to go into business with your sister?
We come from a family of entrepreneurs and always knew we wanted to branch out and do our own thing. We wanted to be involved in something that we knew would benefit the next generation of our family.
What’s next for you and your business?
We’re opening our second Rebounderz location at Manassas, Va. We’re also looking into a possible third store, if we find the right location and when it feels right for us and our families.