Heathfield trampoline park could close without Government support
A Heathfield business which is one of the largest employers in the town is facing an uncertain future due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Urban Jump Trampoline Park, on Ghyll Road Industrial Estate, was formally closed on 23rd March in line with the UK Government mandate. Because the park is so large and its ‘rateable value’ exceeds the threshold set of £51,000, it is not eligible to receive any form of Government grant. More than 40 staff currently employed by the business have all been furloughed.
Owner, founder and Managing Director of Urban Jump Trampoline Park, Richard Hand, explains: “Everyone involved with Urban Jump has worked painstakingly to build the wonderful business we have today, so it is very difficult to see everything we have all worked so hard for come under threat through no fault of our own. It’s very difficult right now.”
As part of his cry for help Richard is asking people to support the #raisethebar campaign and #ForgottenLtd which call on the Government to expand the rateable value threshold for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses from £51,000 to any business with a rateable value up to and including £150,000 in these sectors, allowing further businesses the opportunity to access Government grants.
Richard explains: “We have invested everything into Urban Jump Trampoline Park and overcome some incredibly difficult challenges to reach this point. Through no fault of our own we now face a very uncertain future and potential closure.
“Being excluded from the grant scheme simply because we have large premises seems completely unfair and ill thought through. We need help just as much as all the smaller businesses and the national businesses who have been given rate relief while seeing their profits soar during lockdown.
“The lockdown means we are unable to earn anything, but many of our bills still need to be paid. It’s so unfair and the Government must step in to avoid seeing business ‘stuck in the middle’ like Urban Jump falling through the cracks. Our livelihood and the jobs of more than 40 staff are at enormous risk without the support we desperately need. We started Urban Jump from nothing back in 2016 and it has become a firm family favourite for thousands and thousands all across the South East of England.
“Urban Jump is an incredibly expensive business to run but, despite that, it’s a real success story and a great place which draws customers from miles around. Families, schools, colleges, clubs and teams all love coming here. We have supported lots of local charities and I am incredibly proud of what we achieved and built from nothing.”
Urban Jump Trampoline Park opened in November 2016. Previously there were two derelict warehouses, spanning over 25,000 square feet of floorspace, which were renovated at a cost in excess of £1,000,000. The business was doing well before having to close on 23rd March however the growing media coverage of the pandemic saw significant falls in trade from as early as 8th March.
Richard went on to say: “The journey to reach our three-year milestone has been incredibly challenging. We have overcome every obstacle and challenge thrown at us and borne enormous personal risk to reach this point. We were within touching distance of the ‘finish line’ at the end of February this year but now we’re at risk of losing everything.
“Setting up and growing the business was so difficult and far more difficult than I would ever have imagined. Our start-up costs were incredibly high and we used various funding options to help launch the business. We have repaid well in excess of £1,000,000 since launch which has been a constant strain on our cashflow.
“We’ve battled from the very beginning to establish Urban Jump and we are all incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. The place has an amazing vibe about it when it is full of happy, smiling jumpers. It’s still an amazing feeling to see that and we hope that we will see that again very soon.”
Richard, a Chartered Accountant and ex Investment Banking Consultant is applying to a Government CBILS loan, but is reluctant to burden the business with more debt. He has insurance cover for loss of income but says “the whole industry is pushing back on claims now” and is unsure whether he will receive a pay out.
Despite its rural Heathfield location Urban Jump was, according to Richard, generating very strong annual revenues. It has created new employment for over 100 staff members since launch while supporting many charity causes and becoming a formally established service provider for hundreds of local schools, colleges, clubs and teams.
“We need urgent help to save this amazing family business. After all that we have overcome, all that we have achieved and to all those customers and staff who depend on Urban Jump, it deserves better from the Government,” Richard added.
Richard is an inspirational businessman, having originally left school with just a single GCSE. He went on to become a fork-lift driver for a couple of years. He then returned to education and completed his A levels in one year before graduating with a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Business. From university Richard joined KPMG in London as a trainee accountant. His job involved significant amounts of travel, domestic and international and, after working in the City for over 20 years, it eventually became too much.
“I completely lost my life balance and needed to get out and look for a new way of supporting my family and hence Urban Jump was born,” he said.