At Jumpin Jakes, preschoolers to 10-year olds jump, climb, slide and bounce their way to a good time in giant fun, inflatable play structures. While the real world, the one beyond the tents and blow-up bouncy castles, is evolving with painful slowness, the economy inside Jumpin Jakes is spinning to a completely different beat.
Entrepreneur Jacob Cascioli designed his two locations, one in Fishkill and one in Middletown, NY, as a pleasure for parents (and nannys and grandparents) who watch as their charges dash through an array of grown-up textures and childlike fantasies, on interactive dance tiles and a glowing neon miniature putt putt golf course that works a different magic. Four years on, he’s about to open a third location in Poughkeepsie, bringing his total employees to 35, and presently generates in excess of $80,000 a year in sales taxes. Jacob explains how he let go of the legacy of indoor playrooms and brought more of his own ideas and feelings into his business model, with craft used to good effect and not overplayed.
How did you get your business off the ground?
I investigated indoor spaces—originally thinking I was going to do an adult space—then found the need in this county was to amuse children.
How did your business evolve?
When it’s raining, you can’t see the floor. But this is the type of business that you have to continue to change in order to continue to grow. One of the difficulties with this type of business is revenue streams. When we’re busy, it’s labor intensive for a small business. By midday on a Saturday, we can have 120 children and need an employee stationed at each inflatable. We generated memberships as a way to round out income and there are kids who now come weekly. With a loan from Community Capital, we were able to add a neon golf course. I designed the large scale fluorescent wallpaper working with an award-winning design team and paired it with a neon miniature golf course. Kids also use it like a night club; I always catch them dancing. It generated revenues of $70,000 in the first five months of opening. Since more than 70% of our business revenue is from November to March, we also used the funds from Community Capital to purchase a truck to enable us to enter the rental business, renting out inflatables for home birthday parties, to generate summer income. We started in June (2011) and did 130 rentals. We’re hoping to get a second truck this winter and possibly double that number.
What’s the best advice you got along the way?
Lease negotiations. I made a ton of mistakes on the first location that I didn’t make on the second. The hardest part of starting the business was coming in with a fresh concept. As a result, I had to give up a lot more than when we had a proven model when negotiating with landlords. In 2008 the economic landscape was very different; landlords were not as negotiable as they are now, and it’s this flexibility that is making it easier to open a third location.
What advice do you most value now?
Marketing and cash flow. I’m always interested in different methodologies for touching base with my customers. We’re working more and more with an accountant to leverage the money that’s coming in and look at the money going out.
When did you know you’d arrived?
I’m still not there. I’ve never had a content feeling. But I always say, when parents are taking out their kids and the kids are screaming that they don’t want to leave, ‘there goes a satisfied customer.’ I get a lot of comments from parents saying thank you. Thank you for getting my kid off the couch, off the computer, and getting them active. My children (age 7 and 5) beg me to take them with me every morning I leave for work—a good gauge of the boredom factor.
We’re opening a third and smaller location inPoughkeepsie. Whereas the Fishkill facility goes from age two to 10, that one will be six and under with smaller inflatables, playhouses and interactive puzzles and games.