One of our most popular questions each spring is, “I want to start a bounce house rental company. What do I need to do?” Starting and owning your own rental business can be a rewarding venture but make no mistake about it, it takes a strong plan and hard work. This is not a get rich quick business. We try and help our clients create long term revenue streams.
If you are still reading, you must still be interested. What we have found over the years that there are concepts that apply across the board for starting a rental business and then there are things that are unique to each individual business. In this article we are going to start with the basics and follow up with concepts that can be unique to starting your rental business based on geography. Lets get started.
I hear this all the time: “I am starting my bounce house business and I want to do so with 10 inflatables.” Stop right there. This is critical error number one. While many retailers will be happy to sell you 10 inflatables to get you business off the ground, the likely hood of you ever buying another unit is low as well as your success rate. Why? Because you are tying up capital into inflatables that most likely will be sitting in storage. Write this down: You only make money when your products are renting. Now say it out loud. You only make money when your products are renting. This statement needs to be the mission statement of your business. Lets analyze this statement. Lets assume that you start you business buying 10 inflatables at an average price of $2,000 so a total of $20,000. Obviously there are other start up cost but we are only discussing initial inflatable equipment. Lets assume that you are renting two inflatables out on Saturday and two inflatables out on Sunday every week for the first 12 weeks at $100 a day each. (Rental rates vary per area, I chose $100 to keep the math simple). Your rental income is $400 a week and $4,800 for the entire 12 weeks. While you will have other business expenses, lets also assume that you apply that entire $4,800 to start up debt. You are now in the whole $15,200 on top of other expenses you have incurred. Not a pretty picture. Your motivation will decrease. If we take the above scenario and switch it to purchasing 2 inflatable units at an average price of $2,000 so a total of $4,000, you will actually see a small profit from your hard work. Lets keep in mind that it is not as simple as the two scenarios I laid out above. Obviously if you have 10 inflatables you will have some days that you will rent 3 or 4 units but the best thing you can do when starting a new business is decrease you margin of error.
More confused than ever? Not a problem. This is what we recommend our clients. Start your business with 2 to 3 inflatables to get started. If they are renting out consistently and you are turning away business, add more. This is a great problem to have. Much better than the alternative. We also recommend starting off with generic themed items such as castles like theses:
While you might find these boring, that is irrelevant. The bottom line is these will appeal to the masses. Lets say you have every inflatable rented out for this Saturday accept the Little Mermaid Bounce House that you had to have. You get a phone call for a party rental for a 10-year-old boy. I bet you wish you had that plain old castle now. Remember: You only make money when your products are renting! By the time you are ready to expand your business you will know exactly what “specialty” units your customer will want.
What else do you need to get started? It all begins with a local attorney. You need to seek expert advise. Do not skip this formality because you don’t want to pay the hourly fee. They will be able to advise you about incorporating and starting a business legally wherever you live as well as create the ever so popular rental agreement. Since we are talking about rental agreements, never ever use a rental agreement from someone else. This does not protect you. Make sure your attorney creates a rental agreement to protect YOU! Any retailer that is offering you a rental agreement with the products should not be looked at as an industry expert.
While inflatables are my area of expertise, there are several other things you will need to start your business as well as other categories to keep in mind as you grow. Here is my quick checklist to get started:
- Inflatables (see above)
- Hand Truck – It must be a heavy-duty dolly that can handle a minimum of 600 lbs along with a wider base and tongue
- Rental Agreements
- Rental Insurance
- Vehicle or Trailer to transport
- Cleaning Supplies (Please refer to an earlier article we wrote about Cleaning Your Bounce House)
- A power source (Either outlets or generators. Generators can be an additional revenue stream)
Other possibilities in the party rental business are:
- Tables and Chairs
- Concessions (Popcorn Machines, Sno Cone Machines and Cotton Candy Machines)
We have put together a board on Pinterest to give you some visual ideas. Please follow us on all social media outlets. Stay tuned for our follow-up post that will dive into some differences we see starting a rental business based on geography.
Please visit us at: BounceHousesNow.com
Blast Zone has just released a larger version of their popular Roaring Rainforest. This 18′ commercial inflatable slide can be used either wet or dry. This beauty is the perfect center piece to an indoor fun center or the crown jewel for your rental business. Riders climb up the center ladder to the top platform in which they can choose the left or the right slide. Once at the top they can race side by side down the 22’7″ long slide. On those hot summer days this slide is awesome with a little water added to the mix. If you plan on using this inflatable dry, we recommend adding some sliding mats to make for a more enjoyable experience.
An added bonus for the Roaring Slide (both the regular and this 18′ version) is that you can change the them of this inflatable by adding different art panels. Currently, Blast Zone offers art panels in 10 different themes ranging from Birthday to Space to Jungle. For more information regarding this inflatable slide, please visit us at BounceHousesNow.com
Backyard Discovery has introduced a high-end residential wooden swing set line called Backyard Odyssey. All of these wooden swing sets are made of Cedar Wood, which is naturally resistant to insects and rot. These swing sets all conform to ASTM standards. To view the entire line of Backyard Odyssey Swing Sets please visit our swing set website: BuySwingSets.com
Island Hopper introduced the Fort All Sport Bounce House at Bounce Houses Now. This multi-use bounce house is for residential use only, meaning kids under 100 lbs. With a “Natures Right” appearance, the initial feedback on this unit has been great. Kids can bounce, climb, slide like most bouncer slide combos but can also play soccer and basketball with the built in goal and hoops. On top of that, it is the first residential inflatable to incorporate a game of twister into the bounce floor. For more details on this bounce house, please visit our website: BounceHousesNow.com
With spring a couple of weeks away, it is time to work on your 2014 bounce house plan. I recommend all of our customers go through this exercise annually. It is a great way to not only evaluate your business but your competition as well. Lets make our list and then we can go into more details.
- Inspect All Existing Equipment
- Purchase New Equipment
- Re-quote Insurance
- Pricing Strategy
- Marketing Plan
The top priority to any inflatable rental business is safety. Having properly working equipment is fundamental to safety. Equipment inspection can not only avoid injuries but it can prevent downtime to your rental fleet. Inspecting all equipment should not just be a preseason event. I recommend all of our customers inspect their equipment periodically during the season and prior to storing for the winter. Why do I recommend inspecting equipment at the end of the season and as part of the preseason plan? What if you store your commercial inflatables in a barn and field mice make it their home for the winter? What if your store your bounce houses in the basement and did not realize you had a water leak? You get the point. I always start with the inspection phase because the results can dictate the the next few steps.
With all inflatable rental businesses, I recommend building into your yearly budget the purchase of new units (we can discuss at a later date selecting the right bounce house). This does a few things for you. First, it keeps your fleet new and fresh for your customers. Second, rental inflatables will be abused. You have to plan on replacing them in order to survive. Lastly, it is an excellent way to market your business. When customers see that you invest in your business, they are more likely to invest in you.
Insurance is a big expense to a rental business. Just like your auto and home insurance, you should quote out your business annually. This will ensure you are either paying the right amount or too much for insurance. Having completed the two previous steps will allow you to give insurance companies detailed information that will get you the correct coverage and rates. It is important to note that the price of you premium is not the only concern here. Make sure that you have enough coverage to protect you and your business.
The number one question I am asked by start up rental businesses is how much should I charge for a rental. This is the million dollar question. Its simple, charge as much as you can to get as much business as possible. What does this mean? I tell everyone you have to do a market analysis and find out what your competition charges. If you can rent a commercial bounce house for $150 a day in your market, why not charge $140 and gain market share? Make sure when you work on your pricing strategy that you pay attention to the services and amenities that are being offered. For example, if a competitor is offer $100 daily rentals but the customer must pickup and return, maybe you can charge $100 as well but offer a delivery and pickup service. This ties into your marketing plan. Make yourself standout from the competition.
Marketing is huge to a businesses success. Spend too much and you are in trouble. Spend too little and you are in trouble. Where do you start? I recommend starting with a critique of your previous years marketing plan. What were you good at and what were you bad at. It might be over simplified but in 2014 try to do more of what you were good at and less of what you were bad at. If you seem to attract daycare parties, you need to reach out to more. Once you complete your critique, it is time to move on to the competition. See what works for them and try and improve how you approach that marketplace. Do not try to reinvent the wheel! Like I mentioned above, make yourself standout from the competition.
Taking the above steps will get you a jump on the competition. Have a great 2014!
One of Blast Zone’s most popular inflatable themes, the Misty Kingdom Combo, is available in a Commercial Inflatable Slide. The Mystic Mountain design theme resembles both the residential Misty Kingdom and the commercial Misty Kingdom. This single lane inflatable slide is 12′ wide, 22′ deep and 15’6″ tall. Like all Blast Zone Commercial Inflatables, this slide features reinforced vinyl ranging from 15 oz on non-impact areas such as the palm tree leaves to 18 oz on impact areas such as the slide and bounce areas. Each seam features commercial double stitching as well as 30 oz vinyl reinforcements to ensure the integrity of the item. With heavy duty safety netting at the top of the slide, Blast Zone has made this not only an aesthetically pleasing slide but safe beyond industry standards.
This inflatable slide is identical to the Roaring Rainforest Wet/Dry Slide accept for the them and can double as a wet or dry slide to maximize uses. Simply add the water mister to convert your slide to the wet slide. Another bonus feature to the Mystic Mountain Slide is the front archway has the ability to and one of there colorful themed art panels. With nine different themes currently available, you can convert your tropical themed inflatable slide into a birthday party or princess themed. The ability to convert one inflatable into 10 by adding different panels in a huge perk for inflatable rental businesses.
Riders begin by entering the Mystic Mountain Slide on the front left hand side. They can climb single file order up the climbing wall to the top of the slide. We have not gotten the exact height of the slide platform but we estimate it at 8’6″ high. Once at the top of the slide platform, riders can easily slide down into the slide stopper barrier and then exit to the left.
Overall we are very impressed with this inflatable slide. It offers a lot of versatility and functionality. Most slides in this same size range are typically more expensive with inferior materials. We think Blast Zone will have a top performing water slide with the Mystic Mountain Inflatable Slide.
When the temperatures begin to soar my kids immediately start asking to go to the pool to cool off. The idea of packing up the bags, putting together snacks and loading into the car isn’t always exciting to me. We have a blow up pool and sprinkler that used to be much more thrilling when the kids were at a younger age, but times have changed. It was time to add an inflatable water slide to the mix. In my search, I quickly discovered there was a lot to think about. First off, how much would I want to spend. This is certainly a big investment, but I did not want to skimp on price to in turn end up with something low quality. The next thing I discovered is that the water slides did not have to always be used with water. This opened up the idea of getting something we could use year round, making it a little less painful to spend the money. Finally, the fact that there were units that were not just slides, but also had a bounce area, was the perfect scenario for me. We had always talked about getting a bounce house and now we would be able to have the best of all worlds!!
I came across a website called bouncehousesnow.com. This site was so easy to navigate and had a ton of choices for what I was looking for. There was actually a section for residential water slides!! Talk about simplifying the process. I quickly scrolled through the water slide page and found seven choices of water slides that also had a bounce area. Each one of the slides had very specific details including dimensions, weight and features, clearly stated on the product page. A friend of mine had told me to pay attention to how much the inflatable weighs, because most of the time I would be taking it out of the garage and setting it up on my own. After, careful consideration and the collaboration of my kids and husband, we decided on the Misty Kingdom Bounce House and Ball Pit by Blast Zone!! Let me tell you we were not disappointed!!!
The Misty Kingdom shipped out the same day I ordered it and was at our house in no time. Great service bouncehousesnow.com!!! My kids and all of their friends have used this thing non stop. It is for sure the hit of the neighborhood. It kind of bums me out that I am not a kid again, how fun. Because this is a residential grade bouncer, there is a weight limit of 100lbs for each user and a total weight limit of 500lb. The max weight of 500lbs would be five 100lb children using it at one time. It is very important to obey that 100lb limit to keep the integrity of this unit up to par. We have had kids from 1 year old to 8 years old using it and they all enjoyed different features in their own way. When the child first enters through the velcro enclosure, they end up on the bounce area. This is about 7′ x 9′ and easily fits 3 kids bouncing at a time. There are hand and foot holes on the climbing wall that make it pretty easy for the kids to climb up to the slide area. The slide is about 6′ wide and 6′ long. This is not a huge slide by any means, but certainly does its job. For obvious reasons, it is much faster when using the water feature. As for the water, it is continuously flowing out of a sprinkler at the top of the slide and ends up pooling a few inches at the bottom of the slide to provide a splash. When using it without the water, the areas at the base of the unit can be filled with balls to form a shallow ball pit. This is a great option for the colder season.
Set up was surprisingly easy. I really did not know what to expect, but there is nothing to it. I have it down to a science now! I take the bouncer off of the shelf and place it in a wagon and wheel it out to the yard. At 60lbs it is definitely manageable for a 5’2″ woman. There are two air tubes coming off the back of the bouncer. The short air tube gets tied closed and the longer tube gets tied around the blower. I plug the blower into a normal outlet and press the on button. There are stakes included that anchor down each corner of the bouncer and the blower. That’s it, the Misty is fully inflated in less than two minutes. When using the water feature you simply connect your garden hose to the connecter on the Mist Kingdom and turn it on. When the kids are exhausted at the end of the day, they will be, taking it down is a bit of extra work when wet, but a MUST. On days that we have used the water feature, I turn the blower off and detach the air tube and open up the other air tube to let the air out as quickly as possible. Once there is enough air out, I tip it over the best I can to get the majority of the water out of the splash areas. I then re-inflate the unit and let it stand inflated until it is COMPLETELY dry. The risk of mold and mildew is very high if you were to roll this up wet. Once the bouncer is fully dry, I have found that folding it up in three or four folds the long way and then rolling it like a sleeping bag works the best. It does come with the storage bag, but after struggling to fit it in I decided to use a rope and tie around it to secure the sleeping bag form. This also lets it breathe better than the storage bag.
Although I really do not have any other brand experience to compare to, I think Blast Zone really does a great job. The Misty Kingdom has commercial grade material on the bounce surface along with commercial double stitching. Blast Zone reinforces the areas that take the most abuse with an X-weave stitching pattern. I felt very comfortable knowing there was a 90 day manufacturers defect warranty on the inflatable and a full year on the blower. I did not have to use either of these. All in all this has been a great purchase for our family that we intend to use for years to come.