The inflatable equipment rental business is an ever-expanding market, as parents scramble to create memorable experiences for their children’s birthdays. As the sector grows, only one manufacturer, Ninja Jump, Inc. (ToyDirectory), continues to hold legal licenses for top brands.
Understanding the importance of brand recognition, Ninja Jump offers inflatable outdoor and indoor equipment bearing images created by Disney, Warner Bros., and DreamWorks, to name a few. The millions of dollars in advertising spent by these parent companies benefit the owners of the equipment, who, for an average investment of less than $5,000, can start their own party rental business.
“Imagine this: You have a call from a customer and they want to plan a birthday party for their 9-year-old son. You don’t just sell them a bounce or slide, you create an entire themed experience because you have the latest Batman 5 in 1 combo complete with basketball hoop and slide,” says Carol Crain, sales and marketing representative for Ninja Jump. “The Batman paper plates, cups, and costumes from the local party store complete the scene.”
Now boasting roughly 40,000 rental companies worldwide, according to inflatablenews.com, the industry grew from only four inflatable manufacturers in the mid-1970s to what today runs closer to 50. Crain says the industry began taking off around 1993 just as Ninja Jump owner Rouben Gourchounian left the sporting goods and signage industries to begin his inflatable business.
Appealing to stay-at-home moms, seasonal employees, and professionals looking to add extra income, Crain says the unique opportunity has been successful in part because it allows owners to set their own hours and work from home. In addition, lay offs at the end of the dotcom boom added numbers to the inflatable equipment workforce.
According to Bob Loughman, owner of K.E.C. Party Rentals in Longmeadow, Mass., he and his wife began with just two inflatable products back in 2000 and have since expanded to 35. They recently began collecting art panels with licensed images, sold by Ninja Jump, that can be attached to their existing products, when customers began asking for familiar characters.
“We picked up the most requested one – SpongeBob Squarepants,” Loughman says. He claims the addition has given his company an edge. “There’s a lot of competition in the industry – more than you would think.”
Working off of the licensing trend, Crain says the next step is for small owners to tie their products in with national marketing campaigns. One owner was recently able to use her Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle equipment for a marketing event put on by Clear Channel in Las Vegas. The event drew 13,000 people.
“We’re telling people who have our Batman products to contact their local movie theaters,” Crain says, noting that even smaller events, like movie openings, provide opportunities. “They can set it up in the theater parking lot.”
With the summer blockbuster season just around the corner, Crain has been recommending that the party rental companies that Ninja Jump supplies begin to stock up.