Hello; This is what I hope will be the first of many interviews with leading figures from the amusement industry. I am hopeful this will become a regular feature of the midway marketplace and that many of you will want to take part. This first one will be text only, but in the future I hope to do them in person or via Skype.
My first subject is Troy Powe owner of The Original Wonder Jump in New Hudson, Michigan a western suburb of Detroit.
caption photo of troy with dog polo
Please tell me about your business?
Wonder Jump is a party rental company that I started in 2004. Our rental
inventory consists of over 40 inflatables for young kids up to high school &
college age kids. We also have dunk tanks, tents/tables & chairs, and
caption set up for the South Leon Pumpkin Fest an event he has been doing for eight years now.
What did you do before this?
I was in retail and the cellphone business for about 28 years. I have an associates degree in business management. I purchased a pay phone business. I sold it one year later and after losing my tail on
it; my accountant asked me if I learned anything. I told him yes. His next responses to me were two things. First, “if an education was cheap; then everyone would get one. And second, what are you getting into next?
How did you get started in the rental business?
It was 1999 and my kids were younger. I bought a bounce house for about three times what they sell for now and started renting it out. The next year I bought four more. And the year after that I bought four more again. Then, I got divorced and sold the business. I missed the business and started Wonder Jump with nine inflatables a couple years after I sold the first company. I finally went full time with it in 2009. Having gone full time gives us the opportunity to do parties that we used to
miss on the weekdays.
caption 12 inflatables set up at a sports complex
Does your family help you with the business?
My daughter Hollie is 26, and my
son Dane is 28. They will help periodically with supervising at a festival or making deliveries, but they are not that involved in the business. My fiancee Nancy used to help every weekend when we first started seeing each other. And now she usually does the banking and
supervises rides at our festivals.
What are some of your most difficult challenges?
Challenges include competition from the weekend warriors who buy a bouncy thinking it would be great to rent out for nothing and don’t realize that this is an every weekend business. Everybody and their brother seems to have a tent or an inflatable now. Good help of course is difficult to find, train, and keep regardless of pay. And I am always trying to buy something new and fresh for my regular customers that rent from us year after year.
What is one of your best decisions?
That would be deciding to add tents. I resisted getting tents for many years. I started buying them a few years ago when a customer insisted he wanted to rent everything from me and not have to deal with two or three other guys. And I am glad I did. The tent business has sustained our business and it is fun because now we are going to the graduation parties of the young kids that we first rented a bouncy to 9 or 10 years ago.
caption second photo from sports complex rental
Do you do anything special to recruit and train employees?
I have what I call the Wonder Jump Boot Camp. Once a year in the early spring we gather all past employees who plan to work for us again this year along with the new recruits and have a day long event where we teach them about working for Wonder Jump. We make it fun, but they do work. We get out a lot of the inflatables, inter actives, tents, concessions items; so they can work through setting them up, operating them properly, and cleaning & putting them away. We also get a chance to stress things like hair cuts, body jewelry, baggy pants, punctuality, etc. We also get a chance to find out about people’s personalities and see who works well together. We provide food and pay them for the day of training; and they all get a company t-shirt at the end of the day.
What do you do for networking?
I am actively involved in my community. I am a member of the local chamber of commerce and in 2009 was named volunteer of the year. I was also part of the volunteer fire department. I have donated rental packages to non profit groups in the past. This can be good, but it can also lead to being overwhelmed with requests. You have to be more selective with giving your services away. After all the goal is to generate paying bookings. The best give away I ever did was donating a $500 rental package to the YMCA. After they saw how I handled the rental, they decided to book me for two events. And are now there six to eight times a year for paid events.
Did you add anything new this year?
I usually attend the IAAPA, International Amusement Parks And Attractions trade show in Orlando to see all the new items and newer versions of old favorites. This year I bought a spider jump bungee trampoline, some sumo suits, two more tents, tables, and chairs.
What did you think of the IAAPA show this year?
This year was my seventh year to attend their trade show. I was rushed for time, so I only went for Tuesday and part of Wednesday. I noticed that this year there were two sections for equipment outside on the parking area instead of the usual single section. I thought there was a lot more traffic and the vendors I spoke with said that they believed traffic was up as well.
What advice would you give people thinking of starting a party rental business?
The most important thing I can tell them is make sure you do your research. This is a hard business, and you need to be sure about what you are getting yourself in to. As an example I have a winter cabin that I may get to use two weeks out of the year. Most people don’t realize that this is a every week of the year business. It is bitter cold outside, and we are still doing events indoors of course. People should start small and keep their investment costs low. They should expand slowly and I suggest asking your current clients before purchasing new items. I have only bought two pieces that didn’t work out for me. that is because I don’t buy what I think looks cool, I buy what my customers tell me is cool. When setting your prices you don’t have to go for being the cheapest company in the market. You can, and this works good in the beginning but won’t last long. But this means that people will always know you as the cheapest. I prefer to be known for clean equipment, courteous employees, responsive customer service, etc. I also like to be known as a problem solver. If someone asks for equipment I don’t have, I will do my best to help them locate it from a company I trust to do business with them. You should have a plan for how you will deliver the items, who will deliver them, where they will be stored when not in use, and more importantly who will you be renting them to. When going into business you should have an exit strategy for what you plan to do should it not work out. This is especially important when starting a business with friends or relatives because you may find out after being in business a while that you have different expectations as to the amount of time and money you are willing to invest or continue investing. It can be a satisfying way to make a living. When I sold my first rental business, I missed it. You just have to be clear about what you are doing and make smart decisions.
I want to thank Troy for graciously taking part in my first interview. He patiently answered my questions through email and over the phone. I found him to be both knowledgeable and personable. He has a great sense of humor. And I found out he is a dog person, so that is a big plus for him too. If you are planning a party in the Detroit metropolitan area, I highly recommend that you give him a call. His number is 248-255-3601. And you can use the contact form on his website Or if you aren’t sure what you need, then just give Troy a call.
I hope you enjoyed this post. It is my goal to bring you in contact with the leaders of all aspects of the amusement industry. I hope that after getting to know them you will have a greater appreciation for what they do and why they do it. Some of you may be thinking of getting into the business in some form. Feel free to send me your questions through contact form I am always here to help.
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