Adam Breeden is one of those entrepreneurs who doesn’t like to stand still. With two entertainment business successes in a row, can he create a third hit with his table tennis-based social concept Bounce? Early signs say yes.
Adam Breeden is a serial entrepreneur with a string of successful entertainment businesses behind him, including The Lonsdale and All Star Lanes. His latest venture combines a classic night out experience with table tennis. ‘Bounce’ is already growing and plans are firming up to take it global with venues across the US and Asia.
Take us through the story of how you got into business.
I knew from university that I had to open up my own restaurant – it encapsulated everything I enjoyed and was good at, and it also felt like a very noble calling if you think of it as being able to create spaces for people to spend their precious and well-earned leisure time. I wanted that time to be as fun and enjoyable as possible.
My brother and I opened The Lonsdale in Notting Hill in 2002 as he had wanted to set up his own bar. We came together and worked on The Lonsdale and it was an overnight success and went on to win 8 awards including the 2003 Time Out Bar of the Year award.
It was regarded as one of the best cocktail bars in London at the time and it was a huge learning curve! We were pretty stoked to have created something so special on our first outing into business.
Can you describe the three businesses you have started and why they were great?
After The Lonsdale, I founded All Star Lanes in 2006 which was a brand new, ground-breaking concept. No one had fused a leisure activity with such a well executed and stylised food and beverage concept. The plan was again an overnight success and paved the way for other concepts.
I was CEO of the company until late 2010 and we had opened three outlets in London and were teeing up for our fourth when I stepped down to work on Bounce. All Star Lanes demonstrated that people wanted to engage in fun activities as part of a night out, especially as part of a larger group – a market sorely under catered for.
“A lot of entrepreneurs never look at the down side and often gamble with their businesses”
In 2012, I then launched Bounce which was again another overnight success, but this was success on another level. It was clear very early that we had really struck a chord in many different ways (I would go into detail here but I would be giving away some trade secrets as to the success of all social entertainment venues).
The big discovery was how much people love table tennis, as well as how well it works for all different types of group social scenarios.
The way in which we wrapped around the whole food and beverage offerings, design, music, service and atmosphere also meant that we created something more than a table tennis venue but a venue with its very own unique vibrancy, fun and excitement which I don’t believe exists in the same way anywhere else (I would say that! But others do make remarks to this effect…).
The plan from the beginning was to grow the business, including growing it internationally.
What are the ingredients of a great evening experience?
It depends what you want out of a night, but basically there are many different elements that have to come together, most of which the customer is not consciously aware of. But when great atmosphere, design, lighting, food & beverage, service and music come together there is a certain magic that can happen in hospitality. If one element is not present, the whole spell disappears.
Of course I firmly believe that to really have a fun night out, you can also combine a great activity to fuel the experience while still delivering an incredible bar/restaurant experience – this just makes for a better night all round.
Is sporting experience the future of nights out?
The industry, as with all industries, is in constant flux, but I would say social sporting experiences are here to stay. My experience is that they have a great deal of longevity. I think there is a limit as to how many more activities will genuinely work – I have two more up my sleeve, including one that will launch in September at roughly the same time as the opening of Bounce Shoreditch. After these two I really can’t see any others!
Do you enjoy the cut and thrust of being a serial entrepreneur?
Well to be honest I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur until relatively recently! I have come to realise I am a serial entrepreneur but I also am particularly careful to balance risk.
This often cautious approach is the reason why I felt I was not a true entrepreneur at the start of my career, but I have also come to realise that a lot of entrepreneurs never look at the down side and often gamble with their businesses. I like taking bold moves but to have covered all risk factors – it does always take a few leaps of faith here and there though!
But yes I totally love what I do, and I am a very multi-faceted person in terms of my skill set. This business satisfies every one of them, is constantly moving, and is ultimately a creative process including creating product experiences, but a business also encourages creative thinking and strategy.
I always love assuming there is a different way of doing something and to never trust that just because someone else has done something a certain way means it is the right way to do it.
If I stood still too long I would get quite frustrated!
What is it about business that gets you up in the morning?
The creative process, the enjoyment and responsibility of growing a business, and the fact that each day could not be more different from the last.
Do you travel a great deal on business? If so, where?
Yes I do. At the moment mostly to and from Chicago – it’s such a great city. Bounce will be opening its first US venue there in March next year. It has been a two year process of inquiry, due diligence and understanding the market and how we need to adapt.
I don’t understand why more people don’t choose Chicago as their entry point into the US, especially from a hospitality perspective. But I am also travelling to Asia a lot and we are looking to open in Hong Kong at the end of 2016/early 2017. The market there is perhaps more ripe than anywhere else for Bounce.
Where do you see your business empire in 10 years’ time?
I see Bounce opening across America in at least five cities, as well as in Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney and Taipei, but I see two to three concepts in the stable piggybacking on the global network we are in the process of building (all under the umbrella of the Bounce business).
What is your advice to people starting businesses in the UK today?
Know your business.
Be sure that your business excites you regardless of the fear that you might feel when launching a startup.
Don’t give up. You won’t if you feel passionate and excited about it. There will ALWAYS be roadblocks along the way. Often the roadblocks are there to steer you in a better direction – use these road blocks to guide you and do not interpret them as negative.
Just say “F**k it”. The odds are very firmly with the risk takers. The worst thing to do with your life is to play it safe as you will regret it when it is too late. Life is about experiences, so have as many as you can while you can – running your own business is one of the greatest thrills in life.
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