Looking to join the growing market for indoor playgrounds or want to boost an existing business? According to IBISWorld, a market research firm, increased disposable income and health awareness have greatly benefited the children’s fitness center franchise industry, which includes indoor playgrounds. From 2012 to 2017, the industry saw 1.7 percent annual growth, and it is expected to continue to grow. Parents, teachers and caretakers are working hard to combat childhood obesity, resulting in high demand for engaging playgrounds.
If you are excited to join a growing industry, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll share business basics and insight to help you open your own indoor play center.
Who Should Start an Indoor Playground?
Whether you manage a museum, own a retail center, run a family-friendly restaurant, or want to start up a family entertainment center, adding an indoor playground or play attraction will attract families and help your business grow. Soft Play® playgrounds can be designed to fit any size or budget.
A comfortable and enticing play area encourages families to take their time browsing, shopping, dining or socializing. You might consider adding indoor playground equipment to your business if you own or manage a:
- Family entertainment center
- Trampoline park
- Any amusement area that you want to make kid-friendly
When kids are happy, parents are happy. A playground helps keep customers relaxed and content no matter where they are.
Why Start an Indoor Playground?
Indoor playgrounds are gaining popularity because they offer comfortable and secure play areas, and they give kids a chance to burn energy regardless of weather conditions. Parents and caretakers can relax as kids freely explore fun games and stimulating activities.
Also, parents realize the importance of physical activity in childhood. According to the American Heart Association, obesity is the number one concern of parents today, and the prevalence of childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Indoor play areas encourage physical activity in a way that is fun. Kids are more motivated to burn calories and stay fit when they are busy laughing and playing. It is also vital that children regularly play to relieve stress, make friends and develop important cognitive skills.
Parents also want to get their kids away from TV and computer screens. The average American child spends five to seven hours a day in front of a screen. Too much screen time makes it hard to sleep at night, increases the risk of attention problems and limits physical activity. With the demand to help kids get healthy and away from the screen, it’s the perfect time to open an indoor playground business.
An indoor playground business can be highly profitable in areas where there is a large population of children and where parents have disposable income. Similarly, communities that experience long winters or frequent rain showers can benefit from indoors playgrounds. There are plenty of reasons to start an indoor playground in your existing business or from scratch. Here are some of the benefits for your business:
- Attract customers and keep them coming back: Families and children will want to visit business.s that offer fun and create positive memories. In a restaurant with a playground, for example, families are more likely to linger, enjoy their meal and return because everyone can enjoy themselves.
- Set yourself apart from competitors: Say you own a health and fitness center. Down the street is another gym. Imagine you have a childcare area full of colorful, exciting playground equipment in your fitness center, and the other location does not. Which fitness center are busy parents more likely to choose?
- Build brand loyalty: You can choose to display logos and company colors when you design your playground. A custom playground is an easy way to advertise your brand and build customer loyalty. If customers have a great time at your business, they’ll remember your name and will surely return.
- Tailored play experiences: You can build a playground that meets your targeted customers’ needs and promotes stimulating, fun play for all ages. Customers’ children will enjoy the physical and mental benefits of play when they visit your business.
- Make customers feel welcome: Your business will make customers feel comfortable bringing their children to your establishment. A kid-friendly environment that promotes play will encourage customers to come back time and time again.
Planning Your Playground
Before you start an indoor playground business, you need to create a business plan. Your indoor playground business plan should include your budget, marketing techniques, a mission statement and operation procedures such as cleaning and maintenance. You will also need to research competitors to learn how to offer something new and interesting at a reasonable price.
Starting an Indoor Playground: Market Research and Location
The goal of your market research will be to discover valuable customer information, such as how many children are in your area, and how much demand exists for an indoor playground. You also need to research what customers are willing to spend money on and where they want to go. To find this information, you can study customers directly through surveys, interviews or online polls. You can also use the information other similar businesses have already collected. Your research will aim to answer the following questions:
- How many children are in your community (ages 0-12)?
- Do you have enough physical space for a playground?
- Are there many tourists in your area, or primarily residents?
- How will you differentiate from competition?
Knowing your customer’s age, income, lifestyle and other important demographic information is a good place to start. You can hire a market research company to do the work for you, or you can use online analytics tools and do the job yourself. With many potential customers using social media sites, you can find great demographic data online.
Next, learn about your competition. Look at companies that are relatively the same size as yours, and which serve the same geographic location. Visit your competitors’ social networks and websites to learn what they are doing. Also, visit their customers’ social media pages and read their reviews and comments about competing businesses. Learn what competitors charge for their products or services, and consider how you can offer something different. The goal is to determine how you can stand out from competition and offer customers something exciting and unique at a price they can afford.
Location is crucial to the success of an indoor playground business. Picking a location near a high traffic draw like a mall or shopping center will help bring in more foot traffic, or select a location based on a high tourist area. For the building, remember to consider building height depending on the type of structure you want. For example, you may need upwards of 15 feet for a 3 story play structure.
How much money do you need to start an indoor playground? A lot depends on the size and type of equipment you want to purchase. Obviously, a large elaborate play center is going to cost more than a single piece of playground equipment. The price is up to you and your business goals. Note that standalone play equipment can be a great option if you are limited on space or budget.
In general, you’ll need to determine the following two factors:
- How big of a playground do you need to handle the number of customers (based on your busiest day of the week)?
- How many playable activities do you want in your playground?
Your budget should include:
- Total start-up costs, including rent and insurance
- Costs to operate the indoor playground such as utilities and salaries
- Marketing and other expenses necessary to support the business
- Estimated or expected profits
Designing Your Indoor Playground
If you’re wondering how to start your own playground business and make it successful, you want to design a playground that is innovative, engaging and fun for all ages, to keep families coming back. Fortunately, the option to design a custom playground allows you to set your imagination free and create an exciting environment that will differentiate from competitor options while also engaging kids.
A thoughtfully designed playground will keep kids entertained for hours and show them something unexpected. Keep the following elements in mind when it’s time to design:
- Space: Consider where you plan to install your playground and its size. You’ll need high ceilings and enough space around the playground for seating, bathrooms and food areas.
- Color and theme: One option would be to use bold primary colors — yellow, blue and red — if you want a simple design. These cheerful colors signify playtime and help stimulate a child’s imagination. Or, consider a theme. A themed playground can capture a child’s imagination even more than a stimulating color scheme. Kids like castles, jungles and pirates, for example — make a playground theme out of it!
- Toys: Incorporate toys and activities that kids love, like tunnels, trampolines, swings, inflatable bouncers, blocks, climbing structures, bright interactive games, playhouses and innovative musical equipment.
- Brand: Keep consistent with your company’s color scheme and style when designing your playground. Think of ways you can incorporate a common theme, or include a company logo on the equipment. For example, if you own a candy shop, you might choose a candy-themed playground.
The benefit of a custom design is that your playground will be unique and offer something competitors can’t. If your playground is fun, kids will never forget it, and they will look forward to returning. Likewise, parents will be glad to take their children somewhere that does not revolve around a screen.
At Soft Play, design consultants know what works best for businesses, children and parents. They will help you design a playground that attracts customers and keeps them coming back. Once you are satisfied with the design, we manufacture equipment at our state-of-the-art facility in Monett, Mo., to get your playground delivered on time and within budget.
Getting Started – Business Licenses Needed to Start an Indoor Playground
Before you install a playground, you need to know what business licenses you need according to your state laws. Additionally, you’ll need to find out if you need any permits regarding child care in your state.
If you do not already own a business you will need to register your business with the playground name and get a tax identification number. You will also need liability insurance and any other permits that may be required by your state laws.
There are two basic licenses you need for an indoor playground. They are:
- Doing Business As (DBA) license: A DBA license allows you to use a made-up name for your business and usually costs less than $50.
- General business license: A general business license is required to register your business and for tax purposes. A general business license usually costs around $300.
Depending on your state, you may need additional licenses to run a child activity center. You will need to contact state officials to determine exactly what you need to operate an indoor playground business in your city and state. For example, if you plan to serve food at your indoor playground, you may need a specific license for food-handling.
Preparing the Site and Installing Your Playground
Once you have all the necessary licenses and your location picked out, it’s time to install your playground. Soft Play takes care of the installation for you, so you do not need to worry about hiring a construction crew for your playground. Our installation professionals are trained and certified to ensure proper installation and care with every playground.
Once you have your new playground in place, it’s time to enjoy your hard work and reap the benefits of fun. First, you’ll need to promote your playground and get families excited to check it out. Here are ways to spread the word and generate buzz in your community:
- Have a grand opening: Invite families to stop in and play during your grand opening. Make sure to have special offers like party discounts or free samples during the grand opening.
- Set up a website: If you already have a business website, don’t forget to add information about your playground. If you need a site, make it a priority to set one up. Also, join social media groups to promote your brand and connect with customers. Share family friendly tips on social media to build trust and appeal to your target audience.
- Sign up for an email service: Make sure you can send newsletters, updates and special offers to current customers and potential customers by gathering email addresses on your site. Email is one of the top ways to keep customers engaged at a low cost.
- Get involved: Get involved in your community to promote the benefits of playgrounds for kids. Become an expert on the subject of playtime and share your knowledge with others. Join local parent organizations and let it be known that you are not just another business owner, but also care about the community as a whole.
- Advertise in print and online: Place ads and coupons in local papers and magazines, as well as via online sources, to make sure you reach as many people as you can.
The goal of advertising is to raise awareness among your target audience about the exciting new product or experience you have to offer. You also want to educate customers about the benefits of your product. Once families experience how fun and convenient your playground is, they will continue to return and share their positive experiences with friends and other family members.
Soft Play playground equipment is designed to be low-maintenance, so you can spend less time worrying and more time focusing on your customers and business goals. Each playground component is made to last thanks to high-quality materials, and a commitment to quality control at state-of-the-art facility in Monett, MO. Our customer service team knows our equipment inside and out, and are available to answer questions or identify parts if you do need to maintain, repair or update your equipment.
Although Soft Play equipment is durable and easy to maintain, it’s still smart to make maintenance part of your budget and business plan. Schedule days for cleaning as germs can build up quickly in play areas, and immediately replace or repair anything that is broken, loose or damaged.
Contact Soft Play to Learn More
Are you excited to attract customers to your business with the best playground you can find? Are you ready to launch an indoor playground business? Starting an indoor play center might feel overwhelming, but Soft Play is eager to help you through every step of the process from financing to installation.
Since 1984, Soft Play has been the global leader in contained playground equipment and has installations in more than 60 countries. We are committed to providing excellent service and unique custom playgrounds so everyone can have fun. We are proud to say we are experts at bringing families back to businesses again and again.
Why choose Soft Play? Here are a few reasons:
- Finance solutions: We offer competitive playground equipment prices and financing options, so you do not have to wait to invest in your business. We are happy to walk you through every step and pick an option that is best for you.
- Design consultation: We work with you to design custom playgrounds that fit your budget, space and audience. Whether you want a large themed playground for your new retail space or a smaller play area to draw families to your restaurant, we can’t wait to help make your vision a reality. We will make sure your playground is fun, exciting, innovative and encourages active play.
- Sales support: Our customer service professionals are experts when it comes to our equipment. They are ready to answer any of your questions and help you decide when it is time to repair or update equipment. Our sales representatives are pleased to guide you from design to installation to make sure the equipment will be fun for your audience and all-inclusive.
- Expert installation: We make sure certified professionals install every piece of your custom playground, so you can rest assured that your playground is ready for use.
Starting an indoor playground is a great business investment whether you wish to add a playground to your existing business or enter the industry anew. At Soft Play we have the tools, knowledge and industry expertise to make your playground a success. Don’t wait to give your business a boost — contact Soft Play today!