Profit Leap

A former actuary jumps into the indoor trampoline market.

Four years ago, on a weekend trip to Columbus, Ohio, Colleen Fitzgerald and her two children visited the Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, a national franchisor that got its start in 2004. After spending a few hours at the park, Fitzgerald, an actuary for more than 20 years, decided to make a career change.

“My children were 6 and 8 years old at the time, and all they talked about was returning to Sky Zone,” Fitzgerald says. “I was impressed with how clean and how well-run the place was, and (with) all of the activities that were going on. Kids and adults were getting lots of exercise, and it was fun.”

After returning home, Fitzgerald and a group of investors did some research and soon opened Sky Zone franchises in Shelby Township and Canton Township. This August, another location will be added in Taylor and, in the fall, a Sky Zone will open along Beck Road, a mile north of I-96, in Novi. Locations are also coming later this year to Albany and Syracuse in New York.

As Fitzgerald is quick to point out, there’s no shortage of games, exercises, and activities on the large, spacious trampolines — many of which are equipped with angled jumping pads. During a recent trip to the Sky Zone in Shelby, which spans 35,000 square feet, she showed off the trampolines and a host of complementary features, including a multi-use party room, an entertainment center, a parents’ room, food service, and video and prize games from Sterling Service in Canton Township.

“Apart from jumping for exercise or helping a bride get in shape before her wedding, which is part of our Sky Robics program, we have dodge ball leagues, dodge ball tournaments, toddler time and, soon, trampoline volleyball,” says Fitzgerald, who also has investments in residential real estate. “In the summer we have extended hours, and when there’s a snow day, school kids just flock here.”

The entrepreneur also worked closely with the Snyder administration to introduce the Trampoline Safety Act, instituting common protection standards. It’s the first such legislation in the country. “It raises the bar for all of the trampoline operators in the state, and the Sky Zone corporate office supported us,” she says. “We want to keep everyone safe and hold all of the operators to high standards.”  

Each of Fitzgerald’s Sky Zone locations employs between 70 and 100 employees, and each is open every day except Monday. In addition to drawing families, students, and field trips, the Sky Zone parks are used by businesses and organizations for team-building exercises.

“Every kid understands the business, so we get lots of comments about how fun it would be to run a trampoline park,” Fitzgerald says. “People can pre-purchase jump time, so we try to make it as easy as possible for people to come here. Eighty percent of our business (at a particular location) comes from people who drive within a 30-mile radius.” db