Rockin’ Jump Franchise Sales Director Leaps to Franchise Ownership

Rockin’ Jump is a family-friendly, indoor trampoline park with over with arenas for open jumping, dodgeball, basketball, a foam pit and private party rooms. Aaron Bakken has been Franchise Sales Director for Rockin’ Jump since 2010, and as of the last year, he is also a co-owner of a Rockin’ Jump in Madison, WI.

We recently spoke with Bakken about his experience in starting a franchise. We learned how he went about location selection, what he would do differently if given the chance and how potential competitors eventually became his business partners. This one is a must-read for potential franchisees.

How long have you owned a franchise?

One year.


What were you doing before becoming a franchise owner?

Selling franchises.

Why did you choose your franchise?

I’ve been working with Rockin’ Jump since its inception in 2010. I eventually moved into a role as their Franchise Sales Director and began to realize that I would be a much better advocate for the brand if I owned a park of my own (not to mention I wanted to get in on the potential long-term return on investment I’d been pitching to and seeing my franchisees earning).

What were some of the challenges you faced when starting your franchise?

Getting everything organized. There are so many moving parts to getting one of these parks opened successfully. Also, I have business partners, and we haven’t always seen eye to eye on how to manage everything. It’s taken some time for us to settle in to a routine and a process for making decisions on how to run the park.

Where did you research or get advice about starting a franchise?

Well, my situation is unique since I’m part of the brand already. While I understood the marketing and operations pieces well, I really needed to understand the financing and operating financials at a deeper level. I worked with my local bank and a couple of mentors to create and assess my pro forma financial projections and to understand how to best leverage my financing options. My partners and I also had to look hard at my local market area and assess the real estate options available to me for a park. Our market has a population that is just big enough that a competitor might think they could make a go of it despite my park already being in place. However, the economic realities of the region would result in both parks generating average results at best — the region just isn’t big enough for two parks. So my location selection had to be strategic and the type and size of park needed to be very competitor unfriendly. We received a lot of advice from the Rockin’ Jump corporate team and our local real estate agent. Ultimately, we chose to build a brand new structure in order to best leverage a centralized location that would make it difficult for future competitors to put adequate distance between our respective parks without being way outside of the city limits and therefore inconvenient for a majority of Madison’s residents.

How much did you spend before your doors were officially opened?

$1.7 million.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I handle the marketing functions of our franchise location and serve as a back-up operations manager to my majority ownership partner, who is currently serving as our general manager. I spend a lot of time searching for marketing opportunities that are cost-effective and that will get us in front of as many locals as possible. Many of the offsite promotional events available to us are on weekends, so despite being a behind the scenes partner, I still have a number of responsibilities on nights and weekends — which is inherent to the main operation of the business (something franchisees need to be aware of — this is a nights and weekends business during the school year). I also spend a good amount of time at the park talking with our guests in an effort to develop more ideas on how to reach our community of potential guests.

What is your secret to success?

Organization and regular meetings with my partners. As stated previously, there are a lot of moving parts to running a 25,000+ square-foot park with 90 part-time employees. Creating a schedule, staying organized and having clear set responsibilities between our three partners has been a key part of keeping this park a success. The same can be said if I were a sole owner and have a few managers vs. partners. Clear communication and expectation setting/follow through with our staff is also essential.

What would you do differently if you had to do it all over?

Partnerships are difficult if the partners don’t see eye to eye on key matters of operations, financing and marketing. While going it alone would be a lot more work, I some days wonder if it would have been a better choice (and I’m sure my partners sometimes feel the same way). In the end, our occasional divergence of opinions has also been an asset and helped us avoid some potentially bad decisions/investments in the business. So it’s a double-edged sword, I suppose.

Where do you see your business in five years?

I anticipate our debt will be paid off in 3-3.5 years and we will be through our first partial remodel/brand update at that point. We’ll have well-established local partnerships and will be primarily focused more on retaining our existing guest list than building awareness of our existence. I also would like to be involved in a second and perhaps a third regional park by then.

What is one trend that really excites you?

The evolution of social media as a communications and promotional platform for local businesses.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  • Facebook is our primary online/social media tool to interact with our guests. I find Facebook to be very easy to leverage via boosting posts and setting up easy ad campaigns. Facebook makes geo-targeted marketing a cinch.
  • Our website is an ever-evolving online resource and I continue to search for ways to make our site’s content more useful.
  • We have over 10,000 people coming through our doors monthly, 60% of which are new customers (on average). As a result, our list of email subscribers has grown quickly. We send out a bi-weekly newsletter and have found that our engagement levels are huge when compared to industry averages. So we put a lot of thought into the offers and info we put into our email campaigns.

Do you (or did you ever) have a mentor?

I do indeed. I have a few. You need impartial advice when making big decisions. Friends and family are usually too close to the situation to give you objective suggestions.

What advice do you have for others looking to own a franchise?

Pick something you really want to do and don’t limit yourself to only concepts you can afford. Just because a quick food, dry cleaning, pest inspection or froyo concept might be a lower investment entry point, and therefore seem like the only options available to you given your personal finances, doesn’t necessarily mean one of them is the right choice for you or the only choice available. I’ve been amazed at how many people are interested in investing in a smart business concept, but have no interest in being involved in the operations. Think big, think outside of your comfort zone and work your network of potential investors. Don’t settle for a dull concept. Do something you really want to do and find people to back you in the venture if you need extra $$ in order to do so. You’re going to work hard regardless of the franchise you choose, so it may as well be something you really have a passion for.

Would you recommend others be franchisees? Why?

I’ve started five other businesses in the past 15 years. Some were successful for a time, and some not at all. All of them were from the ground up — no template, no support, just hard work and trial and error. That process has proven to be exhausting and at times heart wrenching when it doesn’t work out. Franchising makes starting a business so much easier. It’s no guarantee you’ll be successful, but I can say that having a franchisor/franchisee network of support, paired with the upfront intellectual property and project management provided by the franchisor, will make your chances infinitely greater than striking out on your own.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I mentioned earlier the strategic nature of my real estate and location search process. Why this ended up being so important was proven to me near the end of my search for a location. I was a day or two from signing a lease for a property and launching my own park — I had no operating partners. I received a call from our trampoline equipment manufacturer indicating that he’d been contacted by a duo that were planning to bring an independently branded park to Madison. And their preferred location was only five miles away. Bad news for both of us.

Fearing that our respective year-plus of planning was about to be seriously jeopardized, I agreed to meet with this independent park team to discuss the market and our plans. There was some proverbial chest pounding about who was going to have a better park, but ultimately we came to the same conclusion: Madison isn’t a big enough market for two parks. We began talking in detail about how we could work together, and tried to quickly get to know one another. I agreed to come in as a 20% investor and manage our marketing, while one member of the duo would be the primary owner (62%) and the main operating partner, with the third partner (at 18%) serving as our construction and facilities manager. They agreed to join me in my franchise program and I agreed to open a park at their preferred location and to follow some of their property layout and interior design plans.

In the end, it hasn’t been a perfect marriage, but we’re all going to benefit far more financially, with less risk, by having pooled our resources and our experience. Ultimately, we’ve built a bigger and better park than any competitor would be prudent to consider trying to out do. 

Where can people get more information on Rockin’ Jump franchise opportunities?

Visit the website here.

Where can people find your Rockin’ Jump on social media?