Jumpmasters’ first month: A successful learning experience

By on August 7, 2018

This rainy day was a busy one for Jumpmasters. (Russ Lay)

The Outer Banks Voice thought it would be fun to track a new business through its first season, something we’ve never done before.

When we interviewed co-owner Brent Johnson back in March, long before the doors opened, we thought this would be the perfect business for such a project.

We’ve re-visited Jumpmasters periodically, but we wanted to wait until their first full month of business before we sat down and asked how things were going.

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One month to the day after their Grand Opening, we stopped by.

It was one of the many monsoon rain days we’ve experienced this summer, and I had to wait 10 minutes for a parking space. Once inside, the crowd was so large, Johnson was working the ticket counter and it took another 40 minutes before we could sit down.

Perhaps that was a good sign!

Voice:It’s been a few weeks. How is season going, so far?

Johnson: I think it’s going about as we expected … to an extent. I think we somewhat underestimated the marketing required on the Outer Banks to get the word out, especially to visitors. We’re now getting with the real estate rental management companies, something I wish I had done earlier, and they are helping us in getting the word out.

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I was so focused on getting the buildings ready for opening, I didn’t think about the day after the doors opened, which was June 23. So, we had a bit of a slow start.

Voice: It’s packed in here right now. What’s your maximum capacity and how close are you coming to filling it up?

Johnson: We cap out at 85 paying customers although I can go up to 107. I prefer to keep it as close to 87 as I can so everyone can enjoy the entire site. (Johnson measures capacity as how many paying customers are booked each half-hour segment of the day.) Every half hour since 11 a.m. today has been at full capacity, and that has happened on the other rain and heavy rip current days this past week.

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Obviously, we want to get there on non-weather event days also, but for now, we’ve adjusted our expectations until more people know about us.

Voice: Once customers find out about Jumpmasters and see the facility, what are their reactions?

Johnson: It is probably one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. Our park presents a unique view. After you buy your ticket and get our gear on, you pass through an entrance, make a right turn and start going up the ramp to the actual trampoline facility.

Young customers getting some “air.” (Russ Lay)

When you turn the corner, the view just opens up and it is the coolest thing for me to watch the kids’ faces light up when they see the course the first time. It’s just total shock and awe. The Ninja course hits you in the face, it’s so big. The rock wall you can see straight through to the other parts of the course.

Yesterday, a family visiting from out of town found my email and sent a picture of the entire group at Jumpmasters and told me how much fun they had.

Voice: What’s been your biggest challenge so far?

Johnson: Getting our name out there. That’s the big one.

Voice: How about staffing? A lot of businesses have said that’s an issue this summer.

Johnson: We have a wonderful staff. We have some of the best kids you could ask for from Manteo and First Flight high schools. Our staff is 95 percent high schoolers, all local kids. We hire starting at age 14, so this is the only one of the few jobs they can get. They exceeded our expectations during training and have taken the safety of the industry very seriously.

We have one 14-year-old Manteo student who is incredible. She doesn’t just monitor the time and behavior, she gets entire families pumped up, showing them how to jump, use the ninja course or engage in dodgeball with each other. It’s really fun to watch.

Voice: Describe your customer mix so far.

Johnson: It’s a good mix. There were obviously more locals in the beginning because they knew about us and had been following us on social media and through the local news sites. But there still are a lot of people in the area who still don’t know we are here.

My wife (Lauren, who co-owns the business) was up in Southern Shores last week and ran into people who weren’t aware of us. So we’ve got work to do here on the beach.

The first two weeks was probably 60 percent local and 40 percent visitors, but for the past two weeks, it has flipped to 60 percent visitors and 40 percent locals.

Voice: Are you working with other companies to build your base?

Johnson: We’re in the very early stages. We’re trying to co-market with other Roanoke Island attractions. We’re not an all-day activity, we’re more a 60- to 90-minute visit, so we want to work with similar attractions such as the North Carolina Aquarium, The Lost Colony, and the Elizabethan Gardens.

That way a family can string several attractions that are not full day outings by themselves but strung together could make for a wonderful full day on Roanoke Island.

We’re also reaching out to church groups, youth groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, regardless of size. Even a small group can reserve space and receive a group discount.

Voice: What’s been your best marketing?

Johnson: Locally, it’s been Facebook, for tourists, the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau page. We’ve had success with Snapchat and Instagram and surprisingly our website is getting a lot of direct visits coming from Google searches.

Also, our local discount of $3 off on 7 and up jump have done well and the Lachine Cuisine food truck, which is here Tuesday through Saturday, has been a hit for them and us. We allow diners to eat inside our facility so they get to see what we are all about and we hope they come back to the trampoline park.

The Ninja Course and Dodgeball (far left) were also filled with eager family members, including moms, dads and a few grandparents! (Russ Lay)

Voice: In a few weeks the bulk of the tourists will be leaving. What’s on tap for the local client base for the fall and winter?

Johnson: We’re looking to start a membership program in September. We’re still on track for dodgeball leagues, both adult and youth, and we’re toying with other ideas like classes that combine the ninja course with gymnastics and martial arts. These are activities the locals are asking us about.

Voice: Anybody you want to thank for your successful opening weeks?

Johnson: Obviously our marketing firm, Elite Media Agency and Cori Riddle. She’s been doing a great job, even picking up the slack that doesn’t involve marketing. And, Matthew Byrne from the NC SBTDC (North Carolina State’s Small Business and Technology Development Center) who helped us get this business planned, organized and financed and who talked me down from a ledge on our first rainy day when the business wasn’t packed!!

Voice: Any final thoughts?

Johnson: Just one. Everyone seems to think we’re a franchise! We’re not a franchise! This is a one hundred percent locally owned business that is the brainchild of myself and Lauren. In fact, my middle son, Waylon is the silhouette on the logo! This is my wife and I’s brainchild. We’re locally owned and we’d love all local residents and our visitors to know they are supporting a local business when they come here!

Also, this is a veteran-owned business and we’re proud of that and want all veterans and military families to know they are important to us.

And we want to thank everyone who has tried us out, left compliments and given us a chance these first four weeks! We are new to this business and we are still in the learning phase, and we have had such wonderful support from the local community.

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