Learn the shortcuts and secrets to success and avoid the mistakes!
The author (Mark Jerram) has 14 years experience of hiring bouncy castles, inflatable slides and Bouncy ball ponds, learn from his mistakes and successes! (For more information on hiring bouncy castles & inflatables – please visit www.biha.org.uk)
Hiring out bouncy castles and inflatables is a really great business to be in either full time or part time, and the rewards can be high. As well as the “fun factor”, i.e. delighting children, and their parents, or adults, at an adult party, the monetary rewards and cash-flow can be excellent. You own the business and all the equipment, there’s no need to pay any franchising fees or licencing rights. E.g operating just 3 bouncy castles part-time at weekends, at £55 per day, per unit will bring in £330 per weekend, or over £1,300 per month. Assuming expenses of around £200 per month, this leaves over £1,000 profit! Not bad for just a few hours work!
Children have birthdays every single day of the year. In the summer and autumn, their parents can hire a bouncy castle for the back garden. In the winter and spring, parents can hire a community hall or church hall to hold the party and accommodate the bouncer.
To run a successful bouncy castle hire business, you don’t have to give up your full time job, and also you don’t need any large capital investment. This brief guide will show newcomers how to start and successfully run a bouncy castle/inflatable hire business from home. The author started with just one bouncy castle way back in 1991, and now in 2005 owns sixteen. As an early pioneer in this industry, there was a lot of trial and error in the early days, and some quite serious mistakes were made, especially in the areas of marketing and buying items for the business, which hindsight showed had been a total waste of money. However, successes did happen as well, and in the rest of this report, these will be looked at to help the newcomer. The mistakes that were made will also be identified to help the beginner avoid these as much as possible.
Chapter 1 RESEARCH.
When thinking about starting up a bouncy castle hire business, the first thing to do is to look through all your local newspapers. Locate the classified section and then find the heading “Entertainers”. See if there is anyone else advertising a bouncy castle hire business. If you do spot a regular advertiser, don’t be put off – there’s still room for you. In most towns the demand for bouncy castles far exceeds the supply of them especially in the summer months. Also, look in your Yellow Pages Directory, under the category, “Bouncing Castles and Inflatables”. If you have a copy of your local Thompsons Directory, look under the category of Bouncing Castles and Inflatables Hire. You will have a very clear idea of the competition in your area. As mentioned earlier, don’t worry if there is other bouncy castle companies in your area, there is room for everyone to operate in a medium to large sized town, or city. In a busy area, rival companies will very often pass over enquiries to other companies when they are too busy to fulfill the booking themselves. If you are very lucky, there may be no rivals operating in your area. I’ve had quite a few calls from people who live outside my area (20 to 30 miles away) . They’ve all explained that they’ve looked through their Yellow Pages but could’t find a local hirer.
Chapter 2 EQUIPMENT NEEDED
Below is a list of equipment which you will need to start a bouncy castle hire business:
1) Bouncy Castle, rain-cover, electric blower, and anchor stakes.
2) Ground sheet to protect underside of bouncer.
3) Electrical extension cable (25 – 30 meters long).
4) RCD circuit breaker. (safety cut-out device).
5) Safety mat to put at front of the castle.
6) Local street map of your town and its surrounding area.
7) Large A4 size desk diary for taking bookings (1 Page to a day).
8) Ledger book for recording takings and expenses etc.
9) Public Liability Insurance cover. We strongly recommend one million pounds as the minimum.
10) Safety instruction sheet and customer disclaimer form.
11) A sack trolley.
From experience we highly recommend that your first bouncy castle is 12 foot by 12 foot. (3.6m x 3.6m). This size is by far the most popular with customers and is easily handled and stored, and when inflated will fit in most back gardens and community halls etc. Back in 1991, I made the dreadful mistake of buying a bouncer that was too small, (only 7ft x 7ft), which was all I could afford at the time. It still went out on hire, but most customers said they would have preferred a bigger unit.
There are several excellent companies selling bouncy castles, (see the list of manufacturers on www.biha.org.uk )
Most new bouncy castles come with a 1 year guarantee, while some manufacturers offer a 2 year guarantee. Make sure that a minor repair kit is included in the price of your bouncer.
If you are really strapped for cash, then it is possible to buy second-hand bouncy castles (although normally we recommend that you buy new, especially when you are just starting out).
Be very, very careful when buying a second-hand unit, and inspect the stitching on the bed and particularly where the pillars and side walls meet the bed. Unfortunately, bouncers don’t last forever, and bouncers in a poor state often end up on the second hand market, and bought by unsuspecting newcomers to the industry. This is exactly what happened to me in 1992. I bought a second hand 12ft x 12ft bouncer for £550 without realizing that the bed seams had already gone through three re-stitches, the bounce quality was poor, and within 15 hires or so, the bed seams split, and the bouncer had to be replaced. So, it can be false economy to buy second-hand. Be Careful!!
Chapter 3 Where to get customers.
Fortunately for us, children are born every single day of the year, so there is a virtually endless supply of prospective customers. Most parents prefer to use their own back gardens, or the local community or church hall to hold the party. As well as private childrens’ parties, there are several other places where you can hire out your bouncer e.g. playgroups, nurseries, pubs, hotels, after-school clubs, shopping centers, school fetes, car boot fairs, shows and galas, charity events, football clubs, barbeques, beach parties, christening parties, wedding receptions, tennis clubs, cub and scout groups, brownie and guide groups, business promotions, open days etc.
Chapter 4 How to get bookings
In order to get your first hires, I recommend that you do the following: Firstly, tell everyone that you know who have young children, that you have a bouncy castle for hire. Offer to let them hire it at a discount, if they are prepared to tell all their friends and relatives. Secondly, you need to place an advert in your local newspaper, and in your local yellow pages directory. You can get a free lineage advert in the Thompsons Local directory. This advertising will attract enquiries, and providing your telephone manner is polite and helpful you will get bookings virtually automatically.
Initial enquiries will take several forms, most callers want to initially know the cost of hiring a bouncy castle, what sizes are available, how many children can use it at the same time, up to what age group can use it. When a customer calls me, the first question I always ask is what date is the party on. Secondly, I always ask what age the children will be. I then suggest a size of bouncy castle, 90% of the time it will be a 12ft x 12ft bouncer. If the children are very young i.e. aged 1 – 4, I may suggest a smaller bouncer, or even a bouncy ballpond (a small semi-enclosed bouncy castle filled with multi-coloured plastic balls). I also tell the customer that we can deliver the castle, set it all up, and collect it at the end of the party. I also tell the customer, that I will ring them the night before to confirm the delivery time. This approach helps to develop trust with the customer, which should bring them back next time. Always tell the customer that there is a rain-cover included in the price.
Chapter 5 Promotional Items.
It is very important to take advantage of your first bouncy castle bookings. For example – a parent has just hired your bouncy castle for their son’s birthday party. You’ve just taken fifty pounds or so. But it doesn’t end there, at this party, there will be parents of other children, and these children will have birthday parties as well, so you need to promote your company name and telephone number as much as possible. The best way of doing this is to hand out A5 size leaflets. It is also a good idea to get some business cards printed. Always remember, customer satisfaction is the number one priority. You really want their party to be a success, and their children to have a really enjoyable time. That way, the parents are more likely to recommend you to their friends, and are more likely to hire from you again and again.
Chapter 6 Safety
Obviously with children, safety is absolutely paramount. We strongly recommend that you give your customers a safety instruction sheet. We have produced some templates for you. You can find a copy of this on the BIHA homepage. Also, you should familiarize yourself with the legal requirements and codes of practice which apply to the operation of bouncy castles. (See BIHA home page).
Chapter 7 Basic Book-keeping.
Its important to keep track of all the money you receive. Also, of course, your expenses regarding advertising, printing, fuel, telephone calls, etc.
Chapter 8 Expanding your business and conclusion.
Once you get established in hiring out bouncy castles after a few months, you will probably find yourself having to turn away likely customers as your bouncers get more and more in demand. At this stage, it is well worth considering buying some more units. If things are going really well, you may well decide to invest in some different types of inflatables, to complement your bouncy castles. From over 14 years experience, I have found the most popular type of inflatable, after bouncy castles to be inflatable slides. I often take a booking where I hire out an inflatable slide and a bouncy castle to the same venue, and get double the usual hire fee. Another popular inflatable is bouncy BALLPONDS. These are semi-enclosed small bouncy castles, where you can put approximately 1000 multi-coloured balls. These are ideal for younger children, as they love to wallow in all the balls. Ask the customer if they will get the children to put the balls away at the end of the party.
If you are interested in starting up a bouncy castle hire business, it is strongly recommended that you join the BIHA (British Inflatable Hirer Alliance ). Visit the website: www.biha.org.uk You will find a wealth of information to help you start up a successful business, especially our detailed free guide for new members “How to turbo-charge your profits from hiring inflatables – Vol.1” (see www.biha.org.uk/inflatedprofits.htm ) You will have the assurance that you will be amongst friends, in the same industry
Good luck, and every success!
If you would like to read the full version of this manual (which goes into much more detail) – please click here.
This manual has been written in a way that it is only sold as a guide. I am not qualified to give any form of legal or financial advice. It is very important that you should seek the advice of a qualified professional if at all doubtful.
If you wish to copy this guide and place it on your website – you have permission to do this so long as the links to the BIHA website are included (i.e. www.biha.org.uk )
If you do decide to use this report on your website – I would love to hear from you – please drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks….
Report prepared by Mark Jerram – Founder of the British Inflatable Hirers Alliance (BIHA) www.biha.org.uk 2001-20014 (Report updated April 2005).
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