We had the good fortune of connecting with Louisa Barnett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Louisa, how do you think about risk?
Risk is my middle name!
I’m a firm believer in the saying, ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’, and to grow a business, you need to take risks.
Of course, taking risks can be dangerous, so there’s a balance and a limit. I take risks but ensure they’re not at the detriment of our staff. For example, I’m not going to take a risk that could put us in financial jeopardy and risk us having to lay-off employees.
Let’s face it, starting a business in itself is a risk. Look at the stats. 20% of businesses fail to survive the first year and half in the first five years. That’s a pretty scary statistic and one every business owner must be acutely aware of when starting up any company.
The pandemic has taught us a huge amount about taking risks. When the state-wide stay-at-home mandate was enforced, we took the incredibly risky decision to get out of our lease and permanently shut-down our brick and mortar location – switching to a solely mobile business. That was a huge gamble and while it thankfully paid off, there were huge risks involved.
Every time we hire a new staff member, it’s a risk. We have to ensure the business can continue to grow and be able to pay for a new team member. Bounce currently employs 6 coaches and 2 admin staff and while we’re still small in the grand scheme of things, that’s 8 people’s livelihoods we’re responsible for which is a huge risk in itself.
I’m a ballsy person by nature which has clearly seeped into my business acumen. I left a great job back in London to go in it alone and then a few years later, packed up two suitcases and moved half way across the world to Los Angeles, with no guarantee of a job or where it would take me.
Taking risks encourages innovation and when it pays off, the rush and buzz of that is indescribable. And even those risks you take that fail, can be a valuable learning experience which can help shape your business in the long-run. As long as you recognize that risk and ensure it teaches you going forward.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Bounce is a mobile movement program for kids aged between 6 months and 10 years old – offering private and public classes, birthday parties, school programs & events across the city of LA.
After opening our physical space in July 2017, we created a movement which quickly spread far and wide thanks to our incredible Head Coach and co-founder, Coach Ace. As well as being a former college athlete, Ace worked as a behavioral therapist alongside special needs children for LAUSD before combining his passion of sport and fitness with his love of working with children.
His award-winning age appropriate programs – designed to target the child’s physical AND emotional development all while having fun through play – quickly took off and became the ‘go-to kids gym in LA’. His programs aim to also teach children the fundamental skills they can practice in their every day lives.
When we decided to shut down our physical location permanently during the pandemic, we managed to successfully pivot into offering outdoor private services thanks to the incredible client base we’d garnered during our three years in business in the heart of Beverly Hills.
Fast forward two years, we have a team of 6 coaches all with their own Bounce vans filled to the brim with equipment to build the best obstacle courses and provide the 5* quality programs we’ve become famous for and we’re rapidly growing – expanding into different parts of the city every few months.
As well as our regular private at-home clients (who include many A-list movie stars and musicians), last year we secured a contract with the City of Beverly Hills as their sole kids movement, sports and gymnastics provider. After starting our classes daily at Coldwater Canyon Park, we expanded to Roxbury Park, due to popular demand and with growing waitlists, we’re expanding to La Cienega Park this summer.
Easy?! I don’t think ‘easy’ is a word that you can ever put in a sentence about starting-up a small business. We’ve faced and still face challenges on a daily basis and have made huge sacrifices to come this far – both professionally and personally too.
As parents to two young daughters, it’s been challenging to say the least. Putting our life savings into a business we had no idea would work or not, working 7 days a week, missing-out on family time….the list is endless. But there are the upsides which make it all worthwhile too. Building a brand and a culture which is positively impacting so many children’s lives, creating the Bounce movement across our incredible city, connecting with so many incredible people and knowing our children will grow up knowing the value of hard work and learning important lessons they can take into their own lives.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone starting out is to prepare for how tough it can be. Being your own boss has it’s perks but there’s a lot to be said for clocking off at 5pm and collecting your pay check without worrying if you’ll be able to even pay yourselves that month.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is not giving up at the first hurdle. I never take no for an answer too….never!
The second and most important is to recognize the value of your staff. Our Bounce team are the absolute paramount importance of our business and we ensure that they are taken care of and valued in every way possible.
We take pride in hiring the best, most dedicated coaches and that’s reflected in our programs and is what sets us apart from our competitors. Whereas our competitors might hire part-time actors and musicians who enjoy working with children, our coaches are all former athletes, with degrees in kinesiology who’ve been working with kids for over 10 years. They dedicate their lives to helping get the best out of our Mini Bouncers and thrive and love what they do. When we interview for new coaches, we are looking for the ‘X Factor’. Without them, Bounce wouldn’t be what it is and it’s thanks to them, we continue to be the very best.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d start by taking them to Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica for breakfast and then ride bikes all the way along the PCH down to Malibu.
We’d stop at Malibu Farm for a cocktail and then spend the day down in Paradise Cove.
At sunset, we’d go for sushi at Nobu, Malibu and then if we had the energy, we’d go dancing to 80’s music at Break Room 86 in Koreatown.
Sunday morning, we’d visit the Rose Bowl Flea market, go for brunch at Osteria La Buca, a late afternoon hike in Bronson Canyon followed by dinner at Pace in Laurel Canyon. I’m a lover of Italian food in case you can’t tell 🙂
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mum and dad are also both business owners and have helped shape me into the business owner I am today.
When I was growing up, I often used to resent my mum for working full-time, but as I got older, that changed and I had a huge amount of respect and admiration for her and what she did.
As a female growing up in the 60’s, her parents sent her to secretarial college after school and she was expected to be a home-maker. Being the fierce force of nature my mum is, she decided to go against the conventional route she was forced into and follow her dream of becoming an interior designer. She got an internship at a famous fabric company in London and hustled her way into the design world, eventually setting up her own business – growing it while having three children and being an incredible mum.
My dad also hustled his way to become a successful businessman. After leaving school at 16, he went to work at his father’s jewelry shop and when hard times hit, he decided to open up a carwash in central London, he decided to name, The American Carwash Company. It was the first carwash which started contracts with big chauffeur companies and he grew it over the years – ending up with sites all over London until he sold it and retired in 2019. In 1993, him and his brother, also set-up a lighting company called Lyco Direct, which he still runs to this day.
It’s thanks to my dad that Bounce is what it is today. He acts as our non-executive chairman and has been instrumental – as has my mum – in helping us to launch and grow the business. If it wasn’t for them, I’m pretty sure Bounce wouldn’t even exist today.