The Native Influence Q+A
We saw a similar concept in Spain and we decided to bring in France because we didn’t have anything comparable there.
The success was immediate, which made us the Leader in Europe after 10 years with over 80 locations.
Any emerging industry trends?
Shopping centers and malls are looking for new attractions to draw families in their locations. Large anchors like Toys R Us, Sears, Forever 21 etc. are closing. (These empty stores are making the malls very quiet.) These vacancies needs to be filled if the LL doesn’t want his property to become less and less attractive for customers to come in.
Entertainment is the key to revamp shopping centers. Cinemas, bowling, trampoline parks, indoor playground, etc. attract hundreds if not thousands of people a day. This is what is going to make shopping centers come alive again.
There are thousands of cinemas, bowling, and trampoline parks, but there is not a real concept of an indoor playground targeting children under 12 years old. We currently have 40 leases signed, or in the process of being signed, all over the country with the biggest shopping center landlords (Simon, Brixmor, Brookfield, Kimco…) and many more are coming!
Kids Empire attracts 15,000 people a month per park after 2 months of opening!!
Our plan is to open 40 new parks a year for the next 3 years.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
As of today, all I see is opportunity. I have not seen a children’s playground concept that is managed correctly. The way we run our business is hands down better than anyone else in the US and we’re 2-3 years ahead of everyone.
Our product is from Europe. You cannot find a better product for a great price in the US. We even have an exclusive with our suppliers, giving us an edge on our potential future competition.
I see an open freeway in front of us and we are going as fast as we can!
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
My inspiration behind the business is from the idea of a food court in the mall. You go to the mall and you have several choices. You can have mexican one day, american or chinese the next on. I want to recreate the same idea with entertainment. People ask me all the time if I worry about Chuck E Cheese, or trampoline parks but I think we all complement each other. One day the kids may want to play video games at Chuck E Cheese, while the younger ones come to Kids Empire, and the older ones go to the trampoline park. Either way the family can come to one shopping center for all their entertainment needs.
Chuck E Cheese has 550 parks in the US and there are over 600 trampoline parks. That is what my goal for Kids Empire is.
What’s next for the Business in the near future?
We are opening a lot of parks very quickly! The next 18 months will be insane. We will go from 2 parks in 2018 to 25 parks in 2020! The future is very bright for us.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Just like a large restaurant chain, such as McDonald’s, all of our parks are the same (playground, mascot, uniforms of the staff, colors, murals, furnitures and prices). The customer in Atlanta will find exactly the same products in Chicago or LA. I feel that uniformity is key to a chain’s success.
But, the most important keys are Safety, cleanliness and experience for the families.
To help with cleanliness we don’t serve any foods in our parks (only snacks like chips or ice cream). This helps us to keep the park from smelling bad like other indoor parks who serve food.
Another way to help with cleanliness is nobody can enter in our park with shoes. Everyone (parents and children) have to wear socks before they enter. Once you enter the park the doors lock behind you. Only a staff member can open the door to enter or exit. This is how we keep the children safe. We check to make sure the children are with the parents before entering or exiting.
Lastly, we make sure our employees are cleaning the park throughout the day and playing with the children. We have designated employees for the cash register/check in, cleaning, and watching the playground to make sure kids are being safe and having fun.
Your most difficult moment at the Business?
The most difficult part of this business is to obtain permits from cities. They don’t know about our concept and there is no dedicated code for our use or our playground. Cities ask us for several modifications and it takes time to do them.
We always comply with their requirements but it takes time (months). We are still in a learning phase with the permitting process but we will be more and more efficient moving forward.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
Family fun for a very cheap price: 15$ a day per kid, and free for the adults for unlimited access throughout the day.
Parents can play with the kids in the playground. They love sharing time with their kids in the structure. It is very fun (you can check our thousands of revues online!!).
No Arcade games which means only healthy exercise.
How do you motivate others?
Very easily! My whole team knows we are growing very quickly and we are the next McDonalds!!
Career progression is amazing in my company if my employee wants it!
Career advice to those in your industry?
Non stop working…. Vacations, holidays are for our customers… not us!!
What do I do best?
(Tell us what you think you do better than anything else – personal or business related)
Management, organization, finding the best staff and motivate them!
What makes me the best version of myself?
Working hard and being available for my team at all times. I know this concept like the back of my hand and how to manage it in all aspects. I have been doing this for 10 years and we already had a number of trials with my French and American parks. I know exactly how to be successful and how to duplicate it (with each park).
What are my aspirations?
I aspire to be the leader in USA of indoor playgrounds. I plan to model Chuck E Cheese, Dave and Busters and Sky Zone.
My Biggest Success?
Opening parks that are very profitable from the first month!
My Most Challenging Moment?
Leaving France was very difficult for me and my family. We moved in sept 2015 to the US.
We have 3 kids (in 2015: 11 yrs, 9 yrs, 5 yrs) and, at the time, nobody spoke English. We had never been in the US.
We spent all of our lives in Paris and it was traumatic for us to leave our friends and family.
After 4 years in the US, nobody in my family wants to go back to France. We love being in the US for the quality of life, mentality and amazing possibilities in business.
Respect everyone, don’t wait for someone to call you, move yourself, don’t be a robot (think about why you are doing something), and the sky is the limit!!
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My main models are Ray Krok (Founder of McDonalds), Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. They began with nothing (like me) and they built an empire with their energy!!
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
To be in my parks and seeing kids and adults have fun together. I never miss an opening of a park. It is amazing when a child or a parent sees the playground for the first time. Their faces are illuminated with their eyes wide open!
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Technology and software as a whole. Everything is automatized in my business. No paper!!
Data is very important for our business and we use it a lot.
I love to create or adapt software to what I want.
My Current Passions?
( Anything in your life that you are currently excited about or enjoy)
My Daily Thoughts:
Goal of the Day: no more than 100 emails in my inbox…
Thought of the Day: Be better tomorrow
Action of the Day: Let’s go! Run!
Deed of the Day: Ask myself, what are my priorities?
Tip of the Day: Don’t do the same thing twice!
A Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City?
Quiet, clean, safe.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – sleeping…
10:00 AM –
purging all my emails from the night (from China or Europe)
12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
No time for lunch!
7:00 PM – debriefing of the day with my team
11:00 PM – answering all the emails I didn’t get to during the day
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Water during the day and French wine in the evening!
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
App – Microsoft Teams. Instagram – All the Kids Empire accounts!
What should everyone try at least once?
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
In a mall with a lot of families who don’t know what to do to….