The children are bouncing off the walls at the Greater Omaha Chamber's December Small Business of the Month — and their parents are encouraging them. The energy is always on at BounceU, an inflatable indoor playground and party spot where kids — and kids at heart — are immersed in higher learning (as in learning who can propel themselves higher).
"We are a family-owned business that provides an environment that's energetic, interactive and fun for the whole family to play together," said Shawn Williams, owner and CEO (chief entertainment officer). He brought the BounceU concept to Greater Omaha in February 2007, quite a leap for a man who spent 15 years as a certified public accountant.
"I did my stint in public accounting and the finance department at a couple major corporations. During that 15 years, I had this gnawing in the back of my mind that I wanted to own my own business. I didn't have an idea for a new mouse trap, so I researched franchises. BounceU appealed to me because it's family-oriented, and it was the first of its kind in Omaha," explained Williams.
Family-oriented fun in a family-oriented community. Omaha has embraced BounceU, and, even though it's designed with kids in mind, some of the most profusive praise comes from parents by way of post-party surveys.
In addition to birthday parties and "open bounce" time, BounceU also offers art camps, holiday-themed bounce parties and parent nights out. (That doesn't mean a grown up free-for-all on the huge slides, air-filled obstacle courses or inflatable boxing ring. Rather, it's BounceU providing the childcare while mom and dad enjoy a movie or dinner out.) Williams said these special events were borne of both necessity and his never-ending desire to improve.
"First, as the economy softened it became necessary to diversify our revenue streams beyond our core birthday party business. Second, I believe we have to continually innovate in order to keep the 'wow factor' high for our customers. We're very good at what we do, but we can always get better," he said.
That commitment to superior customer service is one of BounceU's core values, along with:
- Privacy - "All of our birthday parties and field trips are private the entire time. This is unique in the industry. It's safer and creates a better customer experience."
- Cleanliness - "You might think this is a given, but it's not at all places. We clean all the time and our customers appreciate it."
- Fun - "It's continuous excitement from the minute you walk in the door to the minute you leave. Parents can bounce too!"
"My employees can tell you our core values because we discuss them at every staff meeting," Williams added.
BounceU employs approximately 25 people, most of them college or high school students who work part time. Williams described his team as "a bunch of people who like to have fun while they work, and they love their jobs." You can count him among the infatuated.
"I love it when the door to our bounce stadium opens and I hear a collective 'Oooh... Awwww... Wow...' from the children as they sprint in to play on the inflatable equipment. We're making memories that last a lifetime."
He said he also loves the fact that BounceU provides a convenience for parents.
"Parents are busy; I know from personal experience. We do all the work. A complete party with all the bells and whistles is only a phone call away."
This company that specializes in fun and the defiance of gravity has received its own bounce from extensive Chamber involvement.
"I'm very active in the Chamber," said Williams. "I'm a graduate of Leadership Omaha (Class 31). I'm a member of an Executive Dialogue group. I've been a panelist in their Small Business Perspectives. I've been a speaker at the Midwest Franchise Seminar. I've been an exhibitor at the Buy the Big O! Show. The exposure for my business, and the connections I've made networking at these events, is the true benefit of Chamber membership."
Watch a video about BounceU.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska is the sponsor of the Small Business of the Month award. View more information or nominate a small business online.