Moore extends Monsterz reach

Johnson Reed
6m read

Having successfully established his brand in Ruswarp, near the North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby, Brian Moore has taken the plunge to open a second Mini Monsterz site, in Scarborough. He tells Indoor Play why now is the right time to expand and why he went back to previous partners to help facilitate the new site

When Little Hoppers closed its doors in Scarborough in April, it was the second of the town’s indoor play areas to shut in 12 months. Located in an industrial estate on the edge of the sleepy seaside resort, the 9,000 square foot facility was taken over on a 20-year lease and re-opened after a significant cash injection as the second in the Mini Monsterz stable of family entertainment centres.

“It was a bit manic, to say the least,” says Brian. “We basically had three weeks to get everything sorted. This is a very different centre and already we’re noticing the clientele is quite distinct. In Whitby, we get a lot of tourist trade and we’re located amongst the countryside and hills. We’re a bit further out-of-town in Scarborough, which is not as popular with tourists as Whitby.

“Whitby is also a purpose-built play centre, which we designed using House of Play’s Business in a Box service, whereas in Scarborough we’re basically in an industrial unit. There is something I really like about it here though. We can do things that we haven’t been able to do in Whitby – go-karts for instance, and also in the five years we’ve been operating, things have changed a lot, and we’ve been able to reflect that with the equipment we’ve put in. I think it’s far more challenging for the kids now.

“I feel like I’ve got a better deal this time around. That’s not to say it wasn’t good the first time, but because we were building the centre from scratch, it wasn’t as obvious then how much room we had when we bought the playframe. We added things on as we expanded, but here, we knew exactly what we had and so we’ve been able to be more precise and buy everything in one go.”

Choice supplier

Second time around, there was no need to search around for an equipment supplier, he adds. “When we first researched the industry seven years ago, we spoke to the main suppliers and visited a lot of centres. What impressed us was that House of Play’s equipment just seemed to have more longevity – I didn’t want to spend a massive amount of money on equipment that would start to look shabby after a year. We’ve been open five years and we haven’t had to do anything major. The kit still looks really good.

House of Play’s Shaun Wilson comments: “As a customer Brian is extremely demanding. He expects the absolute best product at the best price possible and ensures that he uses each and every part of the services offered by House of Play on an on-going basis. We have never let him down or given him any reason to doubt our expertise or integrity.

“When developing his second project, Brian had no interest in going to the market because he knew that on all levels of design, quality, price and support services, House of Play would step up to his mark,” says Wilson.

“Well done for making the right choice again, Brian. We look forward to number three.”

Financial challenge

Financing the business has been a challenge over the last few years. “It’s been hard; we’ve had to work very hard for everything we’ve got. We paid for the build ourselves and had to refinance and get a bridging loan. The recession was a massive blow and our bank pulled the plug on us, despite the fact that the golf course was still trading as a business at the time and they could see that we were managing to pay the bridging loan out of the income of Mini Monsterz,” says Moore.

“The bank said the figures we were forecasting were unrealistic, but revenue was way above what we projected. With House of Play, we had looked very hard at how to run an indoor play business and always at the forefront of our minds was there was no point over-projecting and saddling ourselves with a huge debt we couldn’t repay.”

When it came to finance for the second centre, the decision on a preferred partner was pretty straightforward, Moore says. “I went back to Johnson Reed – there really wasn’t any question that I would, as they were so good the first time we worked together. I said what I planned to do, what I wanted finance wise and they just got on and sorted it out for me.

“I felt really comfortable with Mark Johnson straight away. He’s been in the game a long time and has a lot of nous, and you get the impression that nothing is ever too much for him. Everything happened so quickly here, and I rang him in a bit of a panic, but he was brilliant and pulled the finance together in a couple of days. Without that, we would not have been able to open in Scarborough on the day we wanted to.”

Johnson Reed has provided finance for the soft play and catering equipment and the furniture at both centres. “It’s obviously nice that Brian came back to us,” says Mark Johnson. “Having worked with him previously, I guess it’s easier to work with him second time around because he has shown he can run a successful business and we had established a good relationship. A lot of people have aspirations to run more than one centre, but not that many actually get round to doing it.

“I think he’ll do very well – I bloody hope so, through our network of funding sources and also using our own resources and funds, we’ve just provided facilities for £140,000 worth of play equipment!”

Family affair

Mini Monsterz is very much a family affair. Brian’s four daughters are all involved in the business in some capacity, and the sons in law and grandchildren also play their part. “All of my daughters went to university and got their degrees and could have done other things,” says Moore. “But Mini Monsterz is what we’ve all been striving to make a success for the last seven years.

“You obviously learn from experience and it’s nice to be able to put our stamp on something different.”

That stamp has made its mark on customers already. “We’ve been really chuffed with the response so far. This place had a poor reputation and we’ve got to repair and rebuild. We’ve had a few people who’ve tried it on because we are very different to the previous owners. It’s 50p more expensive than before and we also charge £1 for adults, but we believe that’s a small price to pay for the 5-star hygiene and kitchen ratings, the vastly improved standards of cleanliness, heating and a great playframe. All in all, Scarborough now has a far better facility and as long as we are prepared to explain that to people, they’ll accept the small increase in the entry fee.

“We’ve got a good following in Whitby and that reputation has obviously spread here, because a lot of people know us. I think we’ve got the best of both worlds now. We’ve already had a lot of people from Whitby here and we have a lot of people from Scarborough in Mini Monsterz at Whitby. People like to drive somewhere fun for a treat and a break from the norm.”

For more information on Johnson Reed’s Soft Play finance, please visit our dedicated page.