Today, though, they are more than this. AFCM now works on adventure facility concepts from A to Z where Fun walls are just one of the attractions - somewhere in between trampolines, soft play, zip lines, rope courses, artificial caving, etc. And hence, where the "open" relationship comes. Walltopia is just one among the many suppliers AFCM work with. Learn how AFCM sees their role and what they have to tell us about their active entertainment franchise model. Read below the interview with Tania Kishkin, AFCM Vice CEO, who's been with them since the foundation and has gone through the whole process of turning a concept into a working model.
WT: What is behind Funtopia Franchising?
Tania (AFCM): The power and enthusiasm of several young people who adore challenges and overcome them as it is their second nature. Adventurous, sharp-witted and creative, they are conquering the entertainment market and spreading Funtopia centers all around the globe.
WT: We’re often approached for Funtopia quotes and you’re often approached for Fun Walls quotes. How would you explain the difference between the two?
T: The difference is simple – Fun Walls is the Big Mac on the menu and Funtopia is the McDonald's restaurant. There are many other offers on the menu. Having a Funtopia, you provide your visitors with a mix of adventure attractions where they can climb, jump, slide, crawl, fly, celebrate, have fun with family, friends, colleagues, etc. Fun Walls are the anchor activity but Funtopia's strength is hidden inside the operations, marketing program, events’ packages, tournaments, team buildings, etc. Funtopia has it all to triple the revenue of Fun Walls.
WT: What was your drive to turn Funtopia into a franchise? And what are the benefits that this would bring to clients?
T: Funtopia is a great concept, we know it. There were 2 options – to develop and run in a slow motion our own Funtopia centers or to sell the concept to many other enthusiastic, energetic people who see the benefits. We strive to develop. Franchising is the fast way to become global and, of course, the more challenging, the more compelling it is for us.
The benefits – Funtopia franchisees have 4 times greater chance to succeed compared to non-franchisees who struggle with guesswork for the first several years from the start of the operational business. The tasks to be accomplished are countless and while the non-franchisees spend time deciding what to be done when, where and how – sales drop down. Funtopia provides clear and consecutive structure in steps so that sales start growing right from the Soft Opening.
Funtopia possesses the buying power of equipment and supplies and the shared knowledge of the franchise system both of which make the brand stronger and more attractive for potential franchisees. Moreover, for the period of the agreement, next to the franchisee there is a dedicated young and enthusiastic Business Development Manager with extensive experience and a fine sense for adventure operations. This person, together with other professionals from the team, supports the franchisee with legal advice, business planning, project management, trainings, price policy review, programs & packages, on-site opening assistance, performance coaching, benchmarks & KPIs.
Funtopia has developed a customized POS software which tracks every single minute of operation, sales and results by group of services, promotions, online bookings. It can also send personal messages to your customers. This is a small part of what we provide to franchisees – they also get a website and social media profiles along with a completely developed marketing program with numerous tools and a rich pool of designs and visuals. Of course, all this is accompanied by the Funtopia Operations Manual including all necessary instruments to run the operations from day one.
WT: You have 9 centers on 4 continents to date. Do you already have a recipe for success?
T: Old but gold – the recipe for success is to love what you do. Our team is not just a group of employees – this is a team that possesses the energy, power, know-how and desire to draw the world for the franchisee. Funtopia is on 4 continents because we work hard and we are devoted to what we do. Every successful business requires serious approach, though we are in the entertainment one.
WT: What is the typical profile of a Funtopia owner?
T: The owner is a person with a positive attitude towards young people. Funtopia is in the service sector and its customers are parents with kids and teenagers. The owner must have this inner gut feeling and desire to become the most beloved and preferred place for these target groups. It is not just the concept but also the staff, their appearance, courtesy and politeness that make the place what it is.
The owner has to also be energetic, entrepreneurial, creative and keep an eye on each square centimeter of his Funtopia center. It is not required to have previous experience in the entertainment business – we’ll teach him/her about that but it is highly recommended to possess experience in running a business.
WT: Looking back, what has been your biggest challenge so far?
T: To franchise on 4 continents in 6 different countries is quite an interesting job. Some will understand. Behind these stand different legislations, cultures, approaches, activities, habits, etc. Performance indicators are different and hardly can be compared between countries. The success of a single location is measured throughout the prism of the local culture. The challenges start from the franchise legislations, the design & architectural requirements of the local authorities and do not end with the Grand Opening. We have to be fast-adapting, flexible and open-minded if we want to grow.
WT: Your biggest reward?
T: In terms of business – to be presented on 4 continents is not a small reward, you’ll agree. But what’s more satisfying is that our franchisees open second location less than a year after the first one. It speaks for itself – the brand becomes stronger, people love Funtopia and need more of it, they trust us. This makes everyone happy.
In terms of social responsibility, every day we hear or read comments from parents who are thankful and appreciate the hours their kids spend in Funtopia, because this experience has replaced part of their daily dose of screen entertainment. We want kids to grow happy, energetic and sharp. In Funtopia they can enjoy all adventure activities, participate in different physical challenges, compete and share the joy and fun. This is the FUNbelievable adventure which we took on not too long ago…
WT: Funtopia in one word is….?
WT: What should we expect from you in the future?
T: Our ambitions are great but we are brave and smart and we’ll achieve them. The proof: you can expect 7 new Funtopia centers to open by the end of 2017.
Inspired by the story above? Check out the rest of our interviews here.