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C'mon and jump

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 7:34 a.m. April 5, 2013
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Entrepreneurs
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Brett Morrow sought an entirely different kind of company when he got out of the window business after a decade in the boom-and-bust cycle.

He chose the trampoline activity center industry — certainly a big change from Venice-based Absolute Window & Shutter. That firm had 30 employees and $12 million in annual revenues at its peak in the height of the boom, in 2006. The company, now smaller, is still in business, but Morrow recently sold his ownership stake.

“I needed a business venture,” Morrow says. “I like to have a widget or do something no one else is doing.”

Morrow, specifically, will open Jumpin Fun Sports - Trampoline Park. He says the center, in an abandoned 27,000-square-foot building in Lakewood Ranch that was once Sanborn Studios, will be a place for adults, teenagers and kids. Most of the activities there, from birthday parties to corporate teambuilding dodge ball games, adds Morrow, will be wrapped around a 13,000-square-foot walled-in trampoline field.

“The ultimate drive,” says Morrow, who holds the title chief fun officer, “is to create a spot for families, fun and fitness.”

Morrow has worked on the project since late last year. He initially got the idea when he checked out a similar business in the Tampa area, AirHeads Trampoline Arena, with his family. Entrepreneurs Rich Heruska and Steve Johnston opened the first AirHeads in Carrollwood in 2010, and have since opened locations in Largo and Orlando. (Business Observer, Oct. 21, 2010)

Other entrepreneurs, both locally and nationwide, have seized the trend. For example, the owner of an east Manatee County-based air-conditioning firm recently converted unused space — a few miles north of Morrow's Jumpin Fun Sports — into a batting cage/trampoline park facility. (See below.)

Another company, Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, has more than 30 franchise units nationwide and several more pending, including a future Fort Myers location. Morrow considered the franchise route, but he ultimately passed. “I didn't want to be committed to a 6% to 9% royalty fee forever,” says Morrow, “when I felt I could build it on my own.”

Morrow says the empty Sanborn Studios building, in a corporate park next to a Boar's Head Provisions facility and a Stanley Steemer Carpet Cleaner office, was perfect for a trampoline arena. Sanborn Studios, a firm founded by local entrepreneur Ken Sanborn that remains in business, terminated its lease at the facility in late 2011.

The total capital investment to open Jumpin Fun Sports will be about $750,000, Morrow says. That includes the custom-made trampoline field and $80,000 in audio and visual equipment for parties and large gatherings. There will also be birthday party rooms, a concession area and a parents lounge area.

Morrow says the center could open by June, and will likely start with 15 to 25 employees. He hopes to not only be one of the first entrepreneurs on the local trampoline concept, but that his timing, in regard to the overall economy rebound, will be another boost.
“The economy is turning around,” says Morrow. “It looks like it's safe to go out again.”

In the zone
Duane Burns faced a potential business-killer predicament in 2009.

Construction had just been completed on a 15,000-square-foot facility in east Manatee County for his air-conditioning firm. The building cost $2 million and was supposed to support the growth at A/C Warehouse, which Burns and his wife, Lisa Burns, founded out of their home in 2003. The company, which serves residential and commercial customers from Tampa south to Venice, had grown rapidly, to $10 million in annual sales and 55 employees. It had outgrown a nearby facility.

The firm's growth trajectory, however, froze — a victim of the recession — just about the time in 2009 the new building was ready. “I didn't want to move into it,” says Duane Burns. “The economy was dying. But I couldn't sell it. I couldn't even give it away.”

So Burns followed his passion: baseball. The son of a minor league baseball player, Burns opened a batting cage business, Strike Zone, in the space in October 2010. He set up eight cages, from fast pitch to slow-pitch softballs.

That venture was successful, so late last year Burns upped the fun business ante by adding a trampoline park. Says Burns: “I thought there needed to be another activity for members of the family who did not play baseball.”

The trampoline side of the business, Jump Zone, opened in January. It includes a walled in trampoline arena with basketball backboards at both ends. Burns has since launched several more side businesses there, including a birthday party operation, a pizza restaurant and a Wi-Fi cafe. The trampoline arena can also turn into a laser-light party area with fog machines.


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