Spotting a niche in the trampoline market and being willing to roll up their sleeves and try things has seen a pair of Waikato brothers develop a global business.
Hamilton company Jumpflex is now exporting its trampolines into Australia and is about to launch into the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. In January Jumpflex moved into a purpose built new headquarters in Burbush, northern Hamilton.
Links that the two brothers, Steve and Matt Tubbs developed within China during their OE played a big part in the development of their business. The brothers’ relationships with China began when they embarked on a seven months marital arts work out in a Shaolin camp based in a castle in an isolated part of northern China.
“We wanted to give the body a shock,” recalls Matt.
“It was great for our fitness.”
But the pair also had an entrepreneurial bent, shown by the fact that they raised their money for their OE in the first place by importing little motor bikes from China and selling them on TradeMe.
“We operated out of Dad’s farm shed,” recalls Steve.
“That was a bit of a taste.”
“After the Shaolin experience we did a couple of trips to some expos in China and I think that’s where the seed was planted. We saw behind the scenes how the likes of big operations like Bunnings and Mitre 10 get suppliers. When we came back to New Zealand the dream was to create a brand that was global and had the potential to be in everyone’s homes.”
They saw an opportunity, carving out a niche as specialist providers of quality trampolines.
“You have your real expensive $2500 trampolines then your cheap and nasty trampolines,” says Matt. “They cost about $300 to $400 and literally last 12 months and then just fall apart. There’s this huge gap here. You could either spend hundreds or thousands and nothing in between, so we built the whole brand around selling nothing but trampolines and developing a trampoline that was under $1000 with an eight year warranty.”
“Neither of us had experience in that field so it’s been a massive learning curve, making mistakes along the way, a step back and a step forward while we figured it out.”
They took a shipment of generic Chinese trampolines and when they started “flying out the door” they knew they were on to something.
“We started out of the farm shed at home just to give it a go and containers were just selling through Trade Me. That was real hands on, speaking to every customer and helping them load their car. We heard people saying what they were after in the product. They all said similar things. Jumpflex was born from there because we thought ‘hey we can improve on this trampoline. Let’s design our own.’”
Key changes they made were around the quality of materials and the distinctive lime green and black colour scheme. JumpFlex was the first trampoline to pioneer curved steel braces on the sides. Matt and Steve feel it looks good and also takes the steel further away from the safety net. The look has since been copied by dozens of other makers.
But Matt and Steve’s other edge came about through the way they did business.
“We worked on how we presented ourselves and how we engaged with customers, it was all about ensuring a positive experience all the way through,” says Matt.
The brothers built their own website and painstakingly developed it into a powerful tool where thousands of people now shop each week. “There was a lot of playing around with it to get it how we wanted it,” remembers Steve.
“We just gave it a go and thought if we put enough time into it we would figure it out. We’ve done that for every area of the business really, manufacturing, quality control, distribution, the website and design.”
The business started in 2011 and has had 100 percent growth every year. The brothers now dominate the Australian market and have 30 percent of the New Zealand trampoline market alone.
The basis for the business was opening a manufacturing factory in China with the help of a partner. It was a huge and very time consuming undertaking requiring numerous trips to the factory and many months of work but it has paid off handsomely. The factory supplies New Zealand and Australia directly and has stock on the way to US, Canada and UK also. The Hamilton office acts as the nerve centre, receiving all phone calls or emails and ensuring the factory supplies each country directly. The scale of growth on an annual basis is challenging to manage, says Matt.
“We’ve noticed a massive change in the last three years. It was always 100 percent growth but off a small base. Now it’s just getting bigger and bigger. We’ve been sort of waiting for it to slow down.”
The basic staff at Jumpflex is 11 but in summer when most trampolines are sold it swells to about 25 as contract staff come in to help with dispatch. Sales staff are also needed as Jumpflex has an arrangement with Westfield where it displays trampolines at malls in a number of cities around Australasia.
From September to February is when Jumpflex sells 75 percent of its trampolines in Australasia.
“We sell 100 trampolines a month in winter and 100 a day in summer,” says Steve.
Massive work has gone into ensuring systems are ready for when the Jumpflex website goes live in the northern hemisphere countries in July. This season is more of a “soft launch” as the brothers fine tune systems.
“Next year it’s going to really ramp up for us and we won’t have a winter at all,” says Steve.
Jumpflex has been in the new building in Arthur Porter Drive since January. It is purpose-built for growth and has a large warehouse. After constantly having to shift premises as the company expanded, it feels good to be in a permanent home. The move is reward for years of hard work where Matt and Steve poured any profits straight back into the business and did most of the work themselves – everything from unloading containers, answering the phone to driving the forklift. After years of travelling under the radar there is also now recognition within Waikato that Jumpflex is a global business.
Matt and Steve says they have many more innovations related to their trampolines to unveil when the global platform has been set up.
In the meantime Jumpflex held a celebratory function in May and Steve says it was a deliberate attempt to stop and enjoy the moment. “You get so caught up. You always have this vision of where you want to be and you forget about the journey.”
“You are always looking ahead, you are never going to get to the final destination so this was one of those moments to just enjoy where we’ve got to so far.”