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Making A Difference

Birthday Party And Event Business Puts Smiles


June 12, 2008
By Karen Hall

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Children look forward to the excitement of their birthday all year
long, and parents, in turn, anticipate the emotion and happiness they
can deliver to their birthday boy or girl on this special day. Hero’s,
a new birthday party and event license business, is helping to make
this happen.

Birthday Party And Event Business Puts Smiles On Children’s Faces

Children look forward to the excitement of their birthday all year long, and parents, in turn, anticipate the emotion and happiness they can deliver to their birthday boy or girl on this special day. Hero’s, a new birthday party and event license business, is helping to make this happen.

Laurien and Chester Henry, who own and operate Adventure Zone, a family entertainment centre in Calgary, Alta., have teamed up with Frank Price, the founder of Birthday University in Holly Springs, N.C., to launch this exciting new business.

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“We have been developing, refining, and testing the Hero’s concept for five years,” Laurien said. “It is a business that is only open three to four days a week (and only when an event is booked) and it focuses on one thing – being the best in the world at birthday parties and children’s group events.”

Taking birthday parties outside of the home has become the norm, Chester said, so Hero’s aims to elevate the birthday experience to a much higher level. Everything is designed around the birthday child’s interests and making him or her feel very special.

“Our party heroes (party facilitators) learn things about each birthday child and what is special to them – their favourite characters, colours, games, TV shows, etc. – and then design the whole birthday party around their favourite things,” he said. “So it becomes very customized.”

Inside the Hero’s facility, the party hero leads the children through the different stations, which include an inflatable stadium (air bouncers, obstacle courses, and giant slides), carnival games, a wacky gymnasium (full of sports, interactive games, and a rock wall), a customized activity area (crafts, magic, a stage, and themes), and the party room (for food, drinks, cake, and presents).

According to Chester, the idea is that people can run five or six Hero’s locations much easier than they can run one family entertainment centre.

“We have found it can be difficult to have the diversity that’s required to specialize in the family entertainment centre,” he said. “There are birthday parties, a café, games, a welcome centre, walk-in traffic, group traffic, programming, and different things that have to be done to make the business successful. And each one of those is really a specialty, almost a separate business, and they have to be marketed separately.”
Hero’s, on the other hand, is not nearly as diverse, Chester added, so the hiring, training, marketing, and the whole operation, is much less complex.

He said they looked at the actual capital cost requirements and the ongoing expenses on a monthly basis for a family entertainment centre.

“They’re both huge and they both create a lot of stress,” he said. “If you have a difficult month it can be very costly and it can sometimes be difficult to recover. And that’s where folks have run into some problems.”
It can cost between $800,000 and $1.5 million for a basic family entertainment centre, Chester said, but someone can purchase a license and open a Hero’s facility for $120,000 to $150,000.

“And the ongoing monthly expenses (to run a Hero’s facility) are one-fifth of what it costs to operate a family entertainment centre,” Chester said. “So that’s a huge difference and it opens up the door for a lot more folks. It really eliminates a lot of pressure off the business.”

Hero’s is like a turnkey franchise, Chester said, but without all the restrictions.
“And it’s actually elevated to a much higher level than a lot of franchise systems,” he said. “We really help people eliminate a lot of the initial mistakes that happen with a small business. So we’re very much involved.”
According to Laurien, although all businesses face challenges, they have designed Hero’s to eliminate the typical frustrations of opening, training, and operating a business.

“A license is more of a win/win agreement,” she said. “It allows you to bring your ideas and innovations and creativity to the table, and we’ll bring ours as well. We wanted to create, not only a business that was remarkable, but also a remarkable opportunity for others. We did.”

The license package includes: a business plan template; marketing templates (brochure, postcard, radio copy, ad template, and website templates); all internal party forms, letters, and systems; territory protection; name/logo recognition; and initial training with opportunities for additional training.

Initially it was thought that Hero’s would appeal to people who wanted a business opportunity but did not have the skill set to put all the pieces together.

“Ironically, the existing licensees are seasoned entertainment business professionals who loved the new idea and completeness of the business systems, and the full-time profit potential from a part-time business,” Laurien said. “The truth is, most business owners work harder and longer and for less than they imagined. At Hero’s, we broke the mold.”

Chester agreed with Laurien, and added that Hero’s allows owners to choose how much he or she would like to participate in the business.

“We want people to work on the business and work on things that are important to them,” he said. “We don’t want them to be buying a job.”

A Hero’s facility is expected to open in Calgary in February or March 2006, and two licenses have currently been sold in the U.S. market.

Chad Cook, who operates Freedom Station Family Fun Center in Prescott Valley, Ariz., purchased one of these licenses and opened his Hero’s facility this past June.

“After two decades in the family entertainment centre business we found what we had been looking to achieve,” he said. “It always seemed to be out of reach, until now.”

According to Cook, although they faced some challenges when getting the Hero’s facility and program up and running, change itself was what made things seem difficult at first.

“It truly is out-of-the-box thinking and doing – not to mention all the support we’ve had from Chester,” he said. “The connection with the human element and the feelings of making a difference in a child’s life is what I enjoy the most about it.”

Chester added that it’s exciting to see the emotion in children’s and parent’s faces alike.
“You know how much of a difference you’re making, even if it’s for one day,” Chester said. “You’re building a memory that they are going to recall and they are going to talk about. Parents want to make sure that when they spend the time and money, it’s for a real family experience. So that’s what we’ve designed and that’s what we deliver.”


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