Small Business Development Center hosted by El Camino College
Planet Bouncy – Los Angeles, CA
Sergei Sychev was working in business development for a consulting firm when he noticed a co-worker coming to work every Monday with bruises on his hands. The man told Sychev he worked delivering inflatable jumpers and bounce houses to children’s parties every weekend—and business was booming. Intrigued, Sychev began investigating the industry, and bought three inflatables to start his own weekend business, Planet Bouncy. When the recession hit and Sychev was laid off in 2008, he knew his business could become more than just a sideline.
Inflatables are capital-intensive, so Sychev began exploring financing options—a search that led to the El Camino SBDC. One-on-one counseling with Senior Business Advisor Sharon Peterson helped him obtain an SBA-guaranteed Community Express Loan of $25,000, increase sales by $100,000, add new employees and hone his business strategy.
- Do the math: “Sharon walked me through my loan options and helped me put together a business plan,” Sychev says. “She also helped me put together projections, financials and cash flow that I probably wouldn’t have done on my own.” As a result, not only did he get a loan to finance equipment purchases, but he’s been able to make better business decisions.
- Target the most profitable customers: Peterson helped Sychev understand how amortization and depreciation affected his business. “Our equipment has a limited life, so depreciation is a huge issue,” he explains. Bigger customers (parks, organizations and events) require more inflatables, trucks and staff, while putting more wear and tear on inventory. Instead, Sychev is focusing on residential customers and working to increase the per-rental average by adding extras such as balloon services, tables and chairs, and popcorn machines.
- Help is out there: For an entrepreneur on a budget, finding a free source of business expertise was invaluable. “I don’t have to hire expensive advisors to help me manage my business,” Sychev says. “The [SBDC] has everything I could ever need.”
“Every month has been bigger and better than the previous month,” says Sychev, who projects sales of $250,000 this year. Planet Bouncy made Los Angeles Magazine’s “Best of L.A. 2010” list, and recently added balloon services. Immediate growth plans include renting warehouse space (he currently uses commercial storage units for the inflatables) and hiring additional delivery workers and administrative help.
Sychev is working with the SBDC to get additional financing and plans to seek advice on legal issues such as independent contractor compliance and workers’ compensation insurance.
Planet Bouncy’s long-term goal: expansion to three warehouses in the South Bay/West Los Angeles, Orange County and San Fernando Valley. “With three centers, this could be a $10 million to $20 million business,” says Sychev, who sees franchising in his future.