It all started in 2014! In the days when I was on facebook, around about Easter time, as I recall, there was a video doing the rounds showing people having great fun in Bumperballs (mini-zorbs, loopy balls, bubble balls as they were also called). We thought they looked great fun. There wasn't to our knowledge anything like this in Christchurch so we ordered a set from our Chinese supplier and waited (they take a while to produce!), Finally at the end of September they arrived and our first bookings came in in October. "We'll make a mint", we thought.
Within two weeks of advertising, we discovered three more sets within Christchurch! Seems we had all had the same idea at the same time (probably all saw the same video on facebook). Worse for us still, one of the other operators had a bumperball franchise and so we couldn't call our bumperballs bumperballs. We changed the name to bubble balls.
Jobs went well. And it was a 'bumper' time for revenue (pun intended!). However, bumperballs are not like bouncy castles. With bouncy castles, slides etc maintenance usually boils down to cleaninf and repairing the occassional tear (patches done maybe once in five years for a castle?). The bumperballs, though needed constant cleaning an repair. We spent 90% of our maintenance time, just keeping them going. It all got too much for one of our competitors and they dropped out. Good for us!
In 2016 the bumperball franchisee wanted to sell up. We thought we'd buy it. We paid way too much and he received way too little - the definition of a fair price? Since then we have been able to use the bumperball email and trademark.
They still take up most of our mainteance and cleaning time. They are far more expensive to run than a bouncy castle (they need replacing almost yearly) and the revenue from them is falling as the 'novelty factor' wears off. That said, I wouldn't be without them - I like playing bubble soccer, bull rush and piggy in the middle with them and I love the reactions we get from people using them for the first time.
Just don't ask me how I feel when it's 11pm and I am cleaning the mud off, with a hose, in the freezing cold, ready for a job the next day. You might get a very short answer!