Business Owner Spotlight: John Nettleton of Monkey Moe’s

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Today’s Business Owner Spotlight is of one of Inflatable Academy’s founding Partners Program members. John has a great attitude toward business, collaboration and the success mindset.

Being featured on a Business Owner Spotlight is something that’s available to all, but members of the Inflatable Academy Partners Program will have first priority. Please comment below if you’re interested in being featured. Your story will also get a linkback to your website, which can be valuable for SEO.

So let’s jump in… Here’s John!

Brief Intro

Howdy everyone. I agree with John Bennett’s comment about being excited to be a part of a group such as the Inflatable Academy Partners Program. It has been an encouragement and already valuable for our business.

My name is John Nettleton. My wife, Roberta, and I started Monkey Moe’s Party Rentals over 7 years ago. We are located in Branson, MO which is in the Southwest corner of Missouri. We are only about 30 minutes from the Arkansas border. This is a very rural area with a population of only 10,000 in Branson.

We started with only 6 units and within the first 3 months added 2 more units to ensure that we were able to acquire a key customer in our area, the Branson Landing, which is a key tourist location for those traveling to Branson. We have grown gradually from that point on and I would now consider us a mid-size company with about 20 inflatables, dunk tank, carnival games and concessions.

Even though we may be smaller than some, we have built a brand identity in this area that people look to when desiring to rent inflatables. We strive to focus on customer service, safety and clean enjoyable fun at an economical price.

Why or how did you get into the inflatable rental industry?

This is an interesting story that many people ask. I always blame it on my wife. LOL.

Back in 2008 I was informed of a change in the ministry I was working with and my wife (who is a true entrepreneur) was looking at starting a ministry geared towards single moms in the area. One of the ideas for the ministry was a toy library.

With the change in personal finance we had to look at what could produce income for the family, so the next idea was a toy rental business (thinking more along the lines of smaller toys). Since that would have been a cutting edge idea we realized the income may not start streaming very quickly and could incur some startup capital that we didn’t have.

So then we were driving somewhere and we thought why not an inflatable rental company, seeing at that time there were churches using them often. We thought this could produce a pretty good income in a short time and that the inflatables would market themselves. Also with my ministry connections with churches in the area there would be some warm leads to start with.

I also came from a background within ministry that focused on planning events so this seemed like a good fit in many ways. It also should be stated that there was not an inflatable rental business in Branson. So the idea occurred in June of 2008 and we had our first rental July 4, 2008. We moved fast and it doesn’t seem like we have slowed down.

What do you enjoy most about the inflatable and party rental industry?

We truly enjoy working with the schools and churches in our area to further their impact as they reach out to kids and families in sharing the Gospel. I also find great enjoyment in planning events, as that is where my giftings tend to be.

On a more personal note it has been enjoyable (and at times not so much) to own our own business. Our kids are now 17, 15 & 11 and each of them have helped in different ways over the years. It is always a joy to hear people pay compliments as they are working alongside mom and dad. I think it adds a work ethic that can’t be taught any other way. It also made them appreciate mom and dad more when we are working.

I know this is not specific of the industry but the freedom and flexibility that owning your own business for us has been very rewarding. Given, there are times I wish I could go home and leave work at work, but when you weigh it all out I would not trade this for punching a clock for someone else.

What are your current goals in this business?

Our current goals in this business have changed since joining the Inflatable Academy Partners Program as we didn’t know how to get to the next level.

We now are looking at marketing in a different way and looking to be more proactive instead of relying on just our inflatables bringing us business. We will be, with the partnership of this program, be investing in creating leads and trusting that when doing so business will also increase.

Therefore we would love to increase our business by 50% within the next few months and start moving closer to that 7 figure income. We feel this is possible now that we have access to tools and consulting that were not in our strengths that will allow this to happen. We are reinvigorated for our business and hoping to get off this plateau that we have been on for the past couple years. What is the Albert Einstein saying… “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Tell us about a particularly memorable day as a business owner.

Of course the word memorable usually brings to mind those challenging moments. I will have to say there is one that stands out and will never be forgotten.

It was the second year of our business when we had all 10 of our units up at the Branson Landing. They were lined up all down the shopping promenade for the kids and families to enjoy.

Well, a thunderstorm decided to pop up about 5 hours into the 8 hour event. It must have dumped about an inch of rain in about 30 minutes. And if that was not enough our units were covering the drains all along this promenade so guess where all the water collected.

I was not aware until this point how much water a deflated bounce house could hold. Our normal 350 pound combo unit could not be moved by 3 young college guys, it probably weighed close to 800 pounds. It took 6 of us to pull it over to release all the water.

We spent the next 4 hours inflating and getting off as much water as possible and trying to roll them up all while it is still raining. But the issue was not the water outside of the inflatables but INSIDE.

As we all know now as experienced operators, it took the next three weeks to get all the water out of those units. I guarantee my trailer and truck were way past any load limits by the time we got them all loaded on. We broke two dollies and found many sore and painful backs by the end of that day. But we look back and laugh.

What advice would you offer someone who’s considering starting a business in this industry?

My advice to someone looking into starting a business in this industry would be to make sure you are willing to put in the work and I mean the physical type. Also, like any business be sure to treat your customers well and they will continue to return for years to come.

The other key area in this industry that will set you apart would be cleanliness. We get more comments about the condition of our units than probably any other area. We take pride in that. Yes it takes extra work through the week but it is one of those factors that keeps us above the competition and when you are dealing with those organizations that handle kids (moms included) this is a critical area.

Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve had in growing your business. How did you handle it?

Our biggest challenge is two-fold: learning how to let go of all the control, and hiring help to make that possible.

We now have a full time delivery person along with 4 part time (as needed) drivers. As owner operators it was a challenge to let go as we realize that no one we hire will treat this as their own business. However if we empower and equip our employees with proper training and invest in them as part of the team we have found that it has given us more freedom. No it doesn’t mean we don’t have issues but each issue is an opportunity to continue that training and investment into our team.

Now the next step is hiring someone to answer the phone and take on some of the office work. Finding good help is a challenge but can be very beneficial when you find the right people. Don’t settle for less when looking for team members, you will know when it is a good fit.

What is your typical day like?

There is no typical day as they vary week by week, but I have gotten to the point that I don’t go out on all the deliveries, so I answer the phone and deal with all emails requesting information. I also ensure that the delivery guys have everything they need.

I spend some time each week doing some training as there are always areas for my guys to continue to learn as they encounter new equipment and events. Throughout the week I will do some site visits, inspect equipment (both for maintenance and cleanliness) and general management of the business.

Doesn’t sound that intense but there are many early mornings and late nights. Despite having the delivery team I still find myself out on deliveries and pick-ups as needed.

Any last words?

We have experienced a lot in this industry and have a lot of experience, but on the flip side there are many others out there that we feel we can learn from and have seen more and been around longer. We always enjoy learning and desire seeking advice and wisdom from others.

At the same time we also find it beneficial to invest in others that may be at the place we were years before. I think mentoring is vital both on the receiving end but also on the giving side. We have found it to be a challenge in this industry to find a mentor and therefore we are excited about the Inflatable Academy Partners Program and how it is supporting this industry and creating new growth for each of our businesses. So if we can help others we are here to share what we have learned.

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