Learning from leaders of the amusement industry interview with Troy Powe of Wonder Jump

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.

 

Troy with dog polo

 

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
tabletop concessions.

 

South leon pumpkin fest

 

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.

 

Sports complex rental 1

 

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.

 

Sports complex rental 2

 

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.

 

If you liked this interview post, then please be sure to share it with your friends, family, and coworkers. I also hope you will leave comments. These benefit you by giving your site needed back links, but they also help me to do a better job next time. Perhaps you have a question that I should have asked. Maybe you would like to be interviewed or you know someone who should be. There could be some technical issue you have noticed with my posts. Whatever it is, you can be assured that I will reply to your comments promptly. And I just enjoy hearing from my readers. I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks and take care, Max

 

40 thoughts on “Learning from leaders of the amusement industry interview with Troy Powe of Wonder Jump

  1. enjoyable. It’s so refreshing to read stories on people going out and “doing it” rather
    than sucking from the teat of the gov’t. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Victor; Thanks for taking the time to read the post and leave a comment. I know you and the family are all very busy. I am glad you liked the post, and i agree i love reading stories about people who went out to start something of their own and succeeded. Maybe later this winter we can do an interview of you and your amazing son the budding escape artist. Thanks and take care, max

    • Hi Greg; Thanks so much for that complement. I have tried to learn from my blogging friends like you lorraine and ashley. I’m especially glad you liked this first interview. I do plan to have more of them, and I am still hopeful that eventually they will be done in video and audio as well as the text version. And I’m starting to get used to people telling me I reminded them of happier times. That is one of the best things about the blog posts. I can spark so many great memories for people with my writing and the accompanying photos. I wasn’t the athletic kid growing up but i did look forward to those days when we got out of classes for what they called field days. It might have had something to do with usually getting ice cream. smile thanks again and take care, max

    • Hi Oksana; I’m glad you enjoyed the interview with Troy. He just shows that among other decisions you have to make when starting a new business you have to decide what kind of company you will be. Are you going to be the best offering the most services at a premium, or are you going to be the cheapest; or maybe you will fall somewhere in between. All I know for sure about price is what my dad taught me. He always said its easy to lower your prices but its next to impossible to raise them. Thanks again and take care, max

  2. Good interview and a good guest. I’ve known Troy for several years and he’s a great person. He has a great work ethic and from what I know is very successful in his operation.

    You have a great concept, keep it up.

    • Hi Peter; Thanks so much for your kind words. I also appreciate your taking the time to read the post. I got to know Troy through the process of doing the interview, and I tend to agree with you. He is one of the good guys. And he has a rescue dog always a good sign in my book. He gave some good advice in the interview and he was a pleasure to work with. I do plan on continuing the interviews although I eventually hope to do some video interviews either via Skype or in person. And with the positive reaction to this first interview I need to be finding my next subject. So if you would like to participate, or if you could recommend someone else I should try to get; then I would be grateful for your help. Thanks again and take care, max

  3. Great post, Max! I really liked the part of the interview where Troy spoke about getting into the business, that you don’t have to be the cheapest, and that “intangibles” related to a customer experience are equally important!

    Thank you for sharing!!
    Mark Brody recently posted…Nothing’s ImpossibleMy Profile

    • Hi Mark; Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. That particular question was suggested by Sue Neil of write clever. I showed her the interview after i was about half way through and that was her main improvement. And it seems that most of the successful business people have the approach of being more about customer needs and quality service than just being all about the price. The post is receiving very good response, and I am already looking for my next subject. I think i want my next one to be with a woman or someone who got into the business at a later time in their life. Thanks again for your comment and take care, Max

  4. This is a great idea. I always find it fascinating how someone comes to be in the business they are. This is no exception. I am sure he never would have thought he would be in the bouncy inflatable business starting with that single purchase. He offers some great insight into what it takes to be successful and, I’m sure, the have the patience to get there. πŸ™‚
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Meadowcroft Wines 2011 Chardonnay: WineMy Profile

    • Hi Susan; Thanks for your wonderful comment. I thought that people would enjoy interviews, and so far the response has been very positive. There has been a lot of traffic since i posted it last night both on the blog and on the social media sites where i shared the post. And quite a few of the people who came to the site to read the interview have clicked other pages once they were on the site. Troy does give some good advice not only for a rental business but for anyone considering starting their own business regardless of the field they are thinking of entering. Thanks again and take care, max

  5. Hi Max
    I think interviews are a great way for you to go with your blog posts. I assume from your business that you know a load of great business owner’s with interesting stories to tell and i am sure we can all learn something from these people.
    Keep up the great work
    ashley
    Ashley recently posted…Magic Review: Miracle Monte by Wolfgang MoserMy Profile

    • Hi Ashley; thanks for confirming what I was thinking when offering to do interviews. I had no idea it would take six months before i would get the first taker. I also had no way to know the first one would turn out so well. It has received a lot of response here on the blog and on social media. I may actually break ten comments on this one, and it is showing three shares two of which aren’t mine. smile I think you are right that in future interviews I need to work to get a couple of funny personal stories included with the informational aspects of the post. These interviews are a chance for people to get to know these individuals and adding a couple of good stories would make them more real to my readers. Thanks for being a good friend ashely. take care, max

  6. Interesting line of business, Maxwell. Never thought about the possibility of renting out inflatables. His advice of doing your research before setting up a business. If you are in a small town doing what he’s doing might not be possible.

    Interesing interview, keep them coming.
    Catarina recently posted…Does a leader need to know everything?My Profile

    • Hello Catarina; Thanks for reading my post. I’m glad you liked the interview and want to see more of them. Yes, in a small town this might not be feasible. But the rental of food concession equipment only might. Another alternative might be just having carnival style kids games or balloon equipment. A very popular gift idea for someone with a creative mind is what is called a balloon stuffing machine where flowers candy small toys are put into a big balloon. And while its not necessarily in the same area there are people doing well with tea parties and girl’s make overs. Someone would just need to determine what they are good at and then do the research to see what is possible given their location access to transportation available funds etc. thanks for your comment. Take care, Max

  7. This is a brilliant interview Max – fascinating and, at the same time, full of practical, helpful advice for anyone thinking of starting up in this business. I think Troy comes over as someone with a really sound business philosophy – I love the way he says he’ll try to recommend another business he can trust, if he’s unable to supply what a customer wants. And the way his volunteer activities have led to more paid work is a great example of the way “giving” can pay dividends in the long run. It’s also interesting the way he’s expanded his business partly by responding to what customers were asking for.

    I agree with Ashley – I think you should do more of these.

    PS Troy also gets my vote for having a great looking dog πŸ™‚
    Susan Neal recently posted…How Keeping a Journal Transformed My LifeMy Profile

  8. Hi Sue; Yes, I was blessed that troy decided to be the first one to take me up on the offer of doing an interview. The post has gotten a lot of good response in the comments section as well as being replied to on social media. I have had a couple of people mention that they would be interested and another gentleman who offered to help me refine my question list and introduce me to suitable people in the family entertainment center segment of the industry. Troy was very smart following the wishes of his customers when deciding to add the tents and then later with other potential purchases. And I’m sure that by referring people to trusted vendors he is also learning about these items and considering them for future additions to his business. Yes, it is great when volunteer efforts are rewarded with paying work. And I had no way of knowing how cute his dog is, i did know it was a rescue dog that he fostered and then decided to adopt. My own rescue dog penny is cute, so one could assume polo would be too. thanks for the wonderful comment. Take care, max

    • Hi Jeri; I’m glad you got something out of the post. as business owners you are challenged to train your employees and considering the usual age group of troy’s work force the boot camp was a great idea. we’ve all been in those lectures we wanted to walk out of because the instructor or subject matter couldn’t hold our interest. Thanks for checking out my site. Take care, max

    • Hello; I’m glad to hear that you liked the interview and are looking forward to future ones. Thought troy had a good story. I appreciate your taking the time to read the post and leave a comment. Take care, max

  9. Hey Max,

    What a great interview with Troy and I enjoyed learning how he got into this business as well. This is kind of fascinating to me since you know this isn’t my area of expertise.

    My cousin’s daughter rented one of the jump type blowups for her daughter’s birthday part and the company came out and set it up for them. Very professional and the kids and some of the adults had a really fun time in it.

    I look forward to more of the interviews you’ll be doing Max and I know they’ll go really well.

    ~Adrienne
    Adrienne recently posted…How To Grab The Attention Of Your Target AudienceMy Profile

  10. Hey Adrienne; I know this isn’t your area of expertise, so I really appreciate your checking out the post and leaving such a warm comment. You are a good friend. I’m looking forward to doing more interviews too. Since you are taking a course in it, what did you think of the title? This has already been one of my most successful posts. Not only have my friends read it and left comments, but people in my niche have left comments and discussed it on social media sites where I posted the link. I think I broke ten comments for the first time ever. And this post has only been up for about 24 hours now. Thanks for all your encouragement pushing me to write more regular posts and to visit and interact with other bloggers. Take care my friend, max

  11. Hi Troy and Max,

    Congratulations on your first interview, conducted so very well πŸ™‚

    It sure as wonderful to learn more about Troy and all the struggles and how things started moving in the business he started. I liked the fact that he had the support of his family and near ones with him, which makes a lot of difference because the support is always there that you need when you start anything initially.

    It also brought back old memories of the time when my kids were young, and how they always enjoyed these jumping platforms and with just a little bit of supervision, they really do wonders to make the kids have such a lot of fun.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead πŸ™‚
    Harleena Singh recently posted…Do Miracles Happen in Real LifeMy Profile

    • Hi Harleena; Thanks for those kind words. I am proud of the interview. And I believe troy is too as his first question after viewing the link was do you plan to post it on social media so people can see it. He went on to say that he thought we could both use the exposure, so I took that to be positive. You are right having support either from your family, close friends, or a mentor is key to success especially in the early days. I wouldn’t be as far along as I am without help and encouragement from my circle of friends and family/ And I include my online family like you Harleena. A bounce house inflatable slide or obstacle course can bring a lot of smiles to the kids that’s for sure. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I thought it would be a good idea, I just had no real idea how strong the response would be. This post is by far the most viewed, shared, and commented on of any that I have written. Thanks to troy for his help making the first one special. Thanks again for your lovely comment. Take care my friend, max

    • Hi Jen; glad you enjoyed the post. I have been surprised by the level of response to this one. Adrienne says its because the story appeals to so many people out there who are either doing this themselves thinking about starting their own business or who have started one or tried to start one in the past. I’m looking forward to more interviews and am actively looking for the next candidate. thanks so much for your comment and take care, max

  12. Hi Max,
    Well, I’m so happy for you, because it seems that you’ve found a public now. Wow, I’m impressed of how many comments you have here.
    This is really your niche and your post are very good material in that niche, so once you’ve found your public, you’re rolling.

    As for the amusement toys you’re talking about here, those are children’s dreams. Thanks for sharing.
    Sylviane Nuccio recently posted…Are You Living Your Life On Autopilot?My Profile

    • Hi Sylviane; Thanks so much for your kind words. This post did seem to resonate with lots of people in and outside of the amusement industry. I believe you are right about me finding my audience. Or at least I think I am getting there. Most of the comments did come from my blogging friends, but a few did come from people in the amusement business. And several commented on social media instead of leaving a comment on my blog. This post has gotten more shares and comments than any post I have ever written. And it is because of the advice and encouragement I have received from good friends like you. I am actively looking for the next interview subject, and I am hoping that future interviews will include audio and or video as well. Thanks again for your comment and take care, max

    • Hi; Well, that’s the way the amusement business is. It gets in your blood and then you can’t get it out. smile Lots of people who do this for a living had family in the business, but the downturn in the economy got a lot of people thinking about working for themselves. Some ended up working for carnivals amusement parks and party rental companies; and some of them ended up starting new businesses like fun centers, laser tag facilities, food concessions, etc. I’m glad you liked the interview and approve of making them a regular part of the blog. Am already looking for the next subject and I’m hoping to someday add video and or audio to the text. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a comment. Take care, max

  13. Hi Max, this was such an interesting concept, and I’m already looking forward to your next interview. I was surprised at how relatable his story is. Just goes to show how you can always learn something from someone, even if they seem to be in a different business or phase of life. Thanks for sharing with us, and keep them coming!
    Meredith Wouters recently posted…Writer’s BlockMy Profile

    • Hi Meredith; Happy to see you here on my blog. And I’m glad you enjoyed the interview with troy. You are right, we can learn from just about anyone if we keep an open mind and heart. I think the most surprising part of this post is how universal it seems to be. It appeals to people in and out of the amusement industry. Yes, most of my comments have come from blogging friends, but there have been a few from people with carnivals or party rental companies. And there has been even more reaction from them on the social media pages where i shared the link. I am looking forward to the next one too. I am like a kid in a candy store. I found something that really worked for me and my readers and now i want to interview everyone. I want to do video and audio too. someday soon I’ll be stopping people on the streets. smile Well, that would be kind of hard i live at the end of a dead end road. But i am deservedly excited. But without the help and encouragement of friends like you i couldn’t have done it. I am looking for the next subject and the plan is to do them about once a month sooner if time and suitable interviewees allow. thanks again for your kind words and take care, Max

    • Hi Elle; Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed it. You are right kids love their bouncy things. whether its a bed a trampoline or a bounce house; they love to jump tumble roll and just have fun. its a shame us adults have to think so hard about having fun. I have decided to make it my new years resolution to have more fun taking a page from the happiness project. You are a good friend. Take care, max

    • Hi Patricia; So glad you enjoyed the interview and were able to get so much out of it. I deal with a lot of people from th amusement industry when they need to sell equipment, and i have often tried to encourage people to prepare for the worst having to sell their equipment. but its great to have a successful business man like troy agree with me. You are a good friend. take care, max

  14. I imagine it would be a tough business to get into in the first place and staying in it would be harder. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to have the, “weekend warriors” creating distraction for clients and under valuing the service. The truth is though, if you’re going to rent something like this, you want to make sure you’re using someone with experience. It doesn’t take much to turn a fun time into a trip to emergency if the equipment isn’t set up properly.
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Don’t Be FlipMy Profile

    • Hello; You are so right. when it comes to the kids safety you have to do your homework and find someone who knows what they are doing. And the way they hire train and retain help is a key there. And we both know how tough it is making a living or trying to make a living blogging but we keep doing it because we love it. Its the same way with Troy and many other small business owners out there. Thanks for your comment and take care, max

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