In this article we are talking about something that may be a little uncomfortable. But, in reality it can be necessary for many indoor playground owners at one point in their businesses. So let’s cover some strategies that can be used to generate significant cash– some quickly, some over the course of a few months.
In episode 209 of my Profitable Play Podcast we talked about 5 sneaky places where money might be readily available but hiding in your business- but here I want to think BIGGER. We’re talking about businesses that need to generate tens or HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars- not hundreds.
Because one thing about this business is that it seems SO easy and simple from the outside. If you create an amazing space and pour your heart and soul into it…local parents will just start lining up in droves and book out your party calendar, right?
Well, that’s often what people assume from the outside looking in. Social media has contributed to this “rainbows-and-butterflies” assumption so many people seem to have which I discuss in a raw and honest youtube video I did which you can watch here.
In that video I talked about how one of the biggest factors that leads to burnout in play cafe owners is that literally every parent THINKS they have what it takes to run a successful play based business- and they aren’t shy about telling that to us current owners.
However, the reality is often a MUCH different picture. I get indoor playground owners messaging me ALL the time who aren’t paying themselves, who are barely making rent, who don’t know what their next move will be – because this industry is SO much more tough and SO much more nuanced than anyone from the outside looking in can possibly realize.
I had the same false confidence going into this business, BELIEVE ME.
Not only did I have a masters degree in economics and finance but my husband and I had owned businesses in the past, including a brick and mortar one. I had no doubt that we would be an instant success if we put our skill sets together and paired it with our hard work ethic and passion for helping parents of young kids.
But let me tell you, those first few months and really the first year were just an absolute shock.
I quickly realized there is a lot more that needs to go into a profitable business of this nature and that the owners who I had been following were doing WAY more behind the scenes than I could have imagined as an onlooker.
So if you’re in a season where you’re struggling right now– I first want to say that you’re not alone. I would never disclose who reaches out to me here on this podcast or to anyone for that matter– but TRUST ME– those seemingly hyper-successful businesses you follow– may not be painting you the full picture on social media.
So many things can happen that are outside of our control.
A competitor could open up down the street, our build outs could be delayed by months, we could experience inclement weather and have to repair damaged buildings, we could have personal issues pop up that take our attention, focus, and time AWAY from our business, leaving our profits to suffer in the meantime.
Again, if this is sounding a little too familiar– it’s OK and you are far from alone. And I am here for you– my inbox on Instagram is always open.
Things like blogging, improving search engine optimization, increasing your website conversion rate, formulating a winning Facebook and Instagram ad strategy, hiring and retaining a stellar team, standardizing and streamlining your operating procedures– ALL of these and more that we discuss here are meant to be long-term strategies– they’re not going to get you results overnight.
And while those are ALL extremely important (I want to be clear here that I am in no way diminishing the importance of anything I just mentioned because in a perfect world we’d ALL set our businesses up for maximum success from day 1 by doing ALL the things)--
We don’t live in a perfect world.
And YOU try telling a frustrated and burnt out business owner who just dipped into their kids college fund to make payroll that blogging can get them more bookings in 6 months time–
Trust me, it’s not going to go over well.
And YES, that’s something I’ve had to learn from experience.
So while all of those long-term strategies are super important, sometimes things happen. We desperately might need to increase our working capital to get through a slow season, or make a repair or pay a bill that we didn’t expect. Or maybe we signed a lease that was way too expensive or blew our build out budget and we just aren’t making it week to week.
Again, if YOU are in the position of needing to generate significant cash to keep your business afloat– I’m not judging you because I’ve been you. And some people might say, well Michele, why would we keep sinking money into a business that isn’t profitable? Isn’t that just throwing good money after bad, so to speak? Wouldn’t it just be easier and more practical to shut our doors?
And sure, sometimes– yes. The business is just not gonna work the way it’s set up. However, then more I look into businesses in our industry that are struggling, that is more of the exception.
More often than not, money troubles due to some short term issue like a building repair or large unexpected bill is to blame– and let me tell you, when you are in the red in your business, it is SO damn hard to be creative. It’s so tough to innovate, to employ those long-term success strategies when your back is against the wall.
So my goal here with this series of episodes is to help you solve that short term issue so you can get BACK to a place of being able to breathe, of being able to work ON your business and not in it, and again go back to being more consistent with long-term marketing and operations strategies that I alluded to earlier.
So that you WILL be profitable long-term.
Now just to warn you, this article is going to cover my recommendations for the most DRASTIC scenarios. Where owners are needing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their vision back-on-track and sustainable long-term.
So if you’re just needing a couple thousand dollars to again cover that bill you got and didn’t plan for– stay tuned for my article coming in just a few days time. H
ere, I want to talk to those owners who are really finding themselves in a pickle. Who are considering closing up shop and letting go of their dream, and losing everything they’ve already put into their space.
And by the way– one thing I’m not going to cover in these episodes is selling your business because we already talked about that in episode 68 of my podcast as well as on my youtube channel– but that IS an option if you really are wanting to move onto the next chapter in life.
You can even sell and stay on as a consultant or manager if you want to stay involved but not bear the risk of the business anymore– so again, that IS an option but not one we will dive into here.
Alright, without further adieu, let’s get into some of the more drastic and involved ways to generate SIGNIFICANT revenue– like over $10k– in your business fairly quickly.
Now, if you are a loyal listener of my podcast– it might be a bit shocking to you that I am starting off with this one, because I almost NEVER recommend launching this type of business with a partner. It often has WAY more downside than upside potential and can overly complicate even the smallest matters– but hey.
Desperate times can call for desperate measures, and if taking on a partner is what keeps your business alive and can see it through this tough time– it IS an option I’d consider.
By finding a partner who shares a similar vision and brings complementary skills or resources to the table, you can access additional financial investment and expertise to fuel growth and generate working capital.
Now I highly recommend hiring a business broker who can put a fair valuation on your business, but let’s say hypothetically your business is worth $500,000 based on its assets and revenue.
That means, and yes this is going to sound like an episode of Shark Tank, you could potentially sell someone a 40% stake in your business for around $200,000.
Now these numbers will depend on a multitude of factors which is why it’s worth it to work with an expert– but this can be a really attractive path to take that COULD result in a win-win.
For example, if someone in your area is currently in the daydreaming or planning phase of opening a new business that will directly compete against yours, you might reach out and propose joining forces. This way, the potential competitor will be able to walk into an established business and save a ton of money and time in the start-up phase and also bear less risk as well.
YES, as a 40% owner they won’t have as large of an upside potential when it comes to take-home pay, but for many potential owners the protection against risk is WORTH forgoing that potential.
And again, if this is someone who can help you expand or refresh your business in addition to getting out of whatever financial situation you might be in– and if this person has some skillset you don’t possess that could really benefit the business– again it could be a win-win for everyone involved.
So if you are needing to generate that large of a cash amount– this is something to think about. You can start quietly reaching out to some trusted friends or customers and planting the seed around town that you are looking for a partner or investors.
Just be extremely careful about evaluating candidates and be as explicit as you can about where their money will go and what each of your responsibilities will be moving into the future– and again a broker and lawyer combo will be able to help you put together a mutually beneficial agreement you’re happy with and is fair.
This is an option I’ve grown very fond of the more I learn about the nonprofit world from the experts I have been working with to complete some Playmaker Society exclusive trainings.
But, converting a for-profit indoor playground into a nonprofit organization requires careful planning, strategic decision-making, and a commitment to serving the community. The transition involves changing the fundamental structure and purpose of the business, shifting the focus from generating profits to fulfilling a social mission.
The process typically involves restructuring the organization, obtaining nonprofit status, and establishing a board of directors to govern the nonprofit's activities. By converting to a nonprofit, though, the indoor playground can access various funding opportunities, including grants and donations, to support its operations and initiatives.
And YES, you can use this influx of grant and government money to pay yourself. As long as your salary is reasonable given your responsibilities and role in the business and is approved by your board– you can oftentimes much more easily pay yourself a substantial salary as a non-profit founder.
The two worries I hear most often from people considering this are:
And in this podcast episode, I share exactly why these two fears are completely unfounded.
So if you’re a Play Cafe Academy or a Play Maker Society member- you already have the tools and resources to get started on this process. And if you’re not yet a member, you can join here. I’d love to help you make the transition as easy and seamless as possible.
This transformation from for-profit to non-profit can allow your business to enhance its community impact, expand access to its services, and prioritize the well-being and development of children, while still maintaining a sustainable business model.
This is probably the most common route business owners take when they need a large amount of cash quickly. They might refinance their home or take a second mortgage, they might apply for a new business loan from a bank or credit union, or apply for some other sort of financing.
While this is the easiest and quickest option we’ve gone over– it also comes with the greatest risk. If you can’t afford the payments and you DON’T end up turning your business profitability around with your cash injection– not only are you now on the hook for the remainder of your lease and any initial loans or investments you took on– you’re responsible for this new loan as well.
So if you feel very confident that your money woes are short-term and easy to resolve and are NOT the result of a more systemic problem in your business model or vision, this is definitely a route to consider, and this is actually what I did after my first year in business and after I had some big expenses pop up that I didn’t plan for.
And all worked out extremely well in the end because I was in fact able to make the payments and use the cash to propel my business forward and become very profitable month after month after the short term issue was handled.
Now I did a full podcast about how currently open businesses can utilize crowdfunding to refresh or expand their space in episode 157 of my podcast, so I’m not going to go through all of it again here.
My best recommendations are in that episode but one thing that is worth repeating is this– you MUST structure your campaign in a way that is actually going to incentivize people to participate and donate.
Give away products or services that are very valuable to your customers but are high profit margin for you meaning they don’t cost a lot to execute. Packs of play passes are an amazing example– or you can ask for sponsorships of certain parts of your play area which holds a ton of sentimental significance and value which I talk about in episode 157.
I recently saw a play space launch a crowdfunding campaign and they were selling raffle tickets for like $25 for a CHANCE to win a party– and only one was being given away. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $100 or even $25 laying around for a SMALL CHANCE at winning a party. But am I happy to contribute to a small local business in exchange for something I will use and may have even bought anyway? YES!
And you might be thinking– well, why don’t I just run a sale on play passes then?
Well, oftentimes people will be more motivated to contribute to something specific, like a campaign for an expansion or a new piece of equipment if something went wrong with your current stuff or to help repair a burst pipe– plus, you can potentially get sponsorships from other local businesses and family or friends or people from your extended network who would not typically participate in a general sale.
And you don’t HAVE to ask for donations, either– you can also do crowdsourced LOAN with a company like Kiva. With Kiva and others, community members and customers contribute one lump sum and then they are paid BACK monthly by the business owner.
This can be a way to generate even more money without giving away your services, and without taking on as much risk as a traditional loan.
So again if this is something that interests you, go back and listen to episode 157.
If you’re finding yourself in one of these situations, please feel free to join our community of current owners OR message me on Instagram– we are here to support you through whichever option you choose.
Your Business Plan is the first major milestone of your planning process, but MUST be completed with accuracy and detail to ensure success in this industry. Join me WEDNESDAY December 6 at 12:00 PM ET!
I asked 7 Play Cafe Academy and Play Maker Society members what is working RIGHT NOW in their businesses to attract customers and grow sales. I want to send you their answers in my FREE newly updated 2023 "What's Working" Guide!