Jeff Platt is an alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis. His dad’s new Las Vegas business was budding in Las Vegas when Platt decided to take Ken Harrington’s course titled “Entrepreneurship." He thought that the course would be easy, because he already knew his dad’s business and his own involvement there. But, once the class started, he realized that plans can change quickly.
As if often the case with entrepreneurial businesses, Sky Zone’s success followed a series of unexpected events. Jeff Platt’s father had come to Platt with one crazy idea. He imagined a new kind of arena sport played by professional athletes. He’d even created rules, trained the athletes, and had started negotiations with TV executives to move his idea into reality. The indoor arena for athletes had already been established. Two live events brought in about 4,000 people, but funds were running out quickly.
The warehouse his dad’s business was in happened to be next door to a skate park. In the summer of 2004, teenage skaters came by to ask permission to jump in the training center. Platt and his dad started out letting the kids jump for free before the professional athletes would arrive for training. But money was tight, so they started charging the skaters $8 each. It took three months, but eventually they were averaging 10,000 jumpers a month.
Returning to school, Platt furthered his business plan and began to receive positive support from his instructors and fellow students for his ideas. But, his dad saw something, too. They should make their training center a public trampoline park. The first Sky Zone began in Las Vegas, though it wasn't the original plan for the business. Within two years, Platt had graduated from college. Just one month after his graduation in 2006, they opened their second center, Sky Zone -St. Louis. Another university alumnus, Matt Lambeth opened a third Sky Zone location in Sacramento two years after that.
Eventually, amidst the franchise creation process, Platt's dad left the business to care for Platt's mother who became ill. At the point when his mother was struggling with cancer, the franchise requests began to pour in. He began the time consuming process of selecting franchise owners, negotiating contracts, training his new owners and developing a consistent new brand and franchise culture. At the time, he was reluctant to step into his dad's position as company leader. He was uncomfortable taking over the CEO position because he understood that it had taken the efforts of his entire family to make things work. But, he also realized that leading was required of him.
All of his hard work was worth the effort. The company expanded to include 75 operating locations in four countries. The Los Angeles headquartered company was set to generate more than $150 million in network revenue. From its founding year until 2014, when that year’s revenue reached $24.4 million, the company has seen certain success.
Forbes recognized Sky Zone as one of “America’s Most Promising Companies” in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2015, Franchise Times awarded it the #2 spot its “Smartest Growing Brands” and Inc. 5000 placed it at #2 for “Fastest Growing Franchises in America” in 2015.
When visitors come to a Sky Zone location, a wide variety of things to do are available. Open jump times when all trampolines and activities are open, dodgeball games, playing in the Foam Zone, and playing basketball, SkySlam as it is called, on the trampolines are all part of the fun. All ages are welcome and everyone is required to sign a Sky Zone liability waiver. Jumpers under 18 are required to have a waiver signed by their parent or legal guardian.
Everyone must follow the company’s Fly Safe rules, which include common sense behaviors such as removing street shoes and wearing Sky Socks, emptying pockets before jumping, walking while on the courts, staying to one trampoline and sticking to jumping basics before moving to flips and tricks.
There are lists of things not to do, which involve general safety. Things such as not landing on head or neck, not wearing wet clothing, not having gum or candy in the mouth, not pushing, shoving or engaging in horseplay, and not jumping if pregnant or if a Court Monitor is not present are all included.
The franchise offers workout classes, birthday parties, jumping time for toddlers, and SkyCamp for five half days of activities led by an instructor and designed for the ultimate amount of age appropriate fun. All sorts of group events take place at Sky Zone locations. Youth organizations, church groups, and team building for sports organizations and corporate business all come to jump on the indoor trampolines.
The Sky Zone playing court was awarded a United States patent because it is so unique. The interior of a Sky Zone Trampoline Park is a huge trampoline divided into individual squares so that each jumper can have his own area. Many come just to jump and jump as high as they can. Others come to try out their gymnastic skills with flips and turns. Some choose to play dodge ball with a group in a separate area. The entire experience is made safe by the walled sides which are made of trampolines alternated with padding.
Owning a Sky Zone franchise requires an initial investment of anywhere from $1,145,272 to $2,688,731. This amount will include the franchise fee and other start up expense such as real estate, business licenses, equipment, working capital and supplies. Franchise owners must have a net worth of $1,500,000 and liquid cash in the amount of $400,000. The initial franchise fee is $60,000, which is due at the time the contract is signed and may be a flat fee or may vary based on the franchise territory and the franchise owner’s experience; with an ongoing royalty fee of 6% and an ad royalty fee of 1%. The company has developed business relationships with third party sources who can offer financing to cover a variety of things, including startup costs, accounts receivable, inventory and equipment.
Sky Zone also offers ongoing support for its franchise owners in terms of field operations, security, purchasing co-ops, internet and newsletters. Marketing support is provided with Ad Slicks. Absentee ownerships are allowed, and the number of employees it takes to run a Sky Zone is anywhere from 40 to 80 per site.
With all the ongoing success, Platt still looks at Sky Zone with an eye toward how to create facilities where people will continue to come for new experiences. He realizes that it isn’t feasible to expect people to only jump at Sky Zone for many years. To that end, the company works with all its team members to come up with fresh new games and activities which will build repeat business and allow people of all ages to enjoy coming to Sky Zone. With their focus on ever evolving offerings for the public, the business that began as his dad's crazy idea for a professional sport evolved into something different, and it is certain to provide new future events that will engage the next generation of jumpers.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker