Tony and Christina are coming up on their 2 year anniversary with Knockerball and we wanted to catch up…
When did you join the Knockerball family?
Lets start from the beginning, what were you doing before KB?
Before starting Knockerball SLO, my wife and I owned a dog walking company on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We started that company in 2010 and owned/operated it until we sold the business in February 2019.
Please tell us about your personal story…what inspires you and what makes you tick? What makes you who you are?Tony has lived all over the country with stops in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, New York before arriving in a little known but beautiful town in California called Morro Bay. For any Finding Dori fans out there, you’ll recognize that name as it was Dori’s home in the movie. Christina is a native to the area and is glad to be home after living in LA and NYC for 20 years. After leaving the “big city” life behind us, we’ve settled into the slower life in our little seaside town of about 10,000 residents. The ocean and surrounding mountain ranges makes our home peaceful and gives us plenty of outdoor adventures. Tony loves running on the beach or conquering trails to stay fit and recently joined some poetry groups to share the numerous poems he’s written over the last 20 years. Christina re-caught the acting bug after stepping away from the profession when she left LA and has found her second wind as an actress with local theater companies. We both love bringing fun and excitement into the lives of other people which is why Knockerball has been such a great experience. Getting to share the joy and exhilaration Knockerball brings our players is like hearing a baby laugh…it’s contagious and you can’t help but smile or laugh yourself. As someone who’s owned different businesses over the last decade, Knockerball, by far, has been the most rewarding business we’ve owned.
What equipment and games do you currently have (KB and non-KB) and what are you considering adding on to your your business?
We currently have 12 Kid and 12 Adult sized Knockerballs in addition to yard games like corn hole, Spike Ball, ladder ball and more. We hope to add more team based games like Human Foosball, Connect Four Basketball and Foot Darts.
What events are your main focus?
High Schools, Middle Schools, Elementary Schools
Corporate / Corporate Team Building
Bachelor / Bachelorette Parties
How do you go about marketing and promoting your business?
Before starting his entrepreneurial endeavors, Tony worked as a producer for BBDO-Detroit and Campbell Ewald. He’s used that knowledge and experience to put together some great videos we share on social media and to send out to potential clients. We’ve also signed up with our local Chambers of Commerce and try to get out in public as much as possible. When people see the Knockerballs in action, they can’t help but come up to us! That’s not something most products/services can say. We live in a small community so word of mouth is way more impactful than traditional advertising like tv, radio or print. And as an “outdoorsy” community social media advertising like FB or Adwords doesn’t carry the same weight as some other areas so we’ve limited our advertising budget on those areas thus far.
What is your business plan for the future?
We are looking to expand our inventory to add more team based games to offer our customers fun and competitive activities for their guests. People like competing against each other and having unique interactive games has a way of bringing people together.
What would you say are the 3 most important things to remember as a KB owner?
I’d say Safety three times, but I think that defeats the purpose of the question so let’s just put it in the number one slot in caps (SAFETY!). We want to ensure all our events are run safely, that players are given proper instructions prior to playing and are closely monitored during game play to maximize the fun and eliminate any potential injuries. Second would be to remember to have Fun. And that applies to us as much as it does our customers. If we’re having fun out there, they will too. Third would be to have Patience. Remember this is a marathon and not a sprint, start off at a pace you can sustain and work towards the growth your market will allow. You’re going to have some great months and some terrible months, don’t base any decisions on peaks and valleys. Have the patience to not panic during the down months or not to overspend on the better months.
What are 3 pitfalls you would avoid if you could start over knowing what you know now?
Always take a profit (read Profit First by Mike Michalowicz) from every deposit. Too many people (including me to start) reinvest everything back into the business which can sometimes create more problems. Even if it’s 1%, take the profit out and spend it on yourself at the end of the quarter as a reward for having the courage to start your own business. You don’t need everything you think you need. We all buy things for the business because we think it would be cool. And it probably is, but is it giving you any ROI? If not, then ditch it or don’t buy it to begin with. Don’t do free events. This was a big one. So many event organizers promised us “great exposure” if we would come to their event. They wouldn’t pay us and we couldn’t charge people to play. Know your value and don’t accept anything less. People will always try to get something for nothing, but don’t let them get that something from you.
What is your most memorable KB moment?
This has happened a few times but basically we get a kid who is scared or timid in the ball and is on the verge getting out and running away. They barely bump anyone and just stand off to the side. Then about 5 minutes later, they’re running around like crazy, taking on everyone on the field and 100% fearless. It’s amazing to see this transformation and the smile on their faces when they get out of the ball.
What advice would you give other affiliates or people considering becoming an affiliate?
For existing affiliates, I think costs should be the first thing you look at. I was running at 75% of my revenue going to operating expenses. You likely can cut 10-15% of your expenses immediately. I knocked out 30% within one month. Again, I highly recommend reading Profit First. For new affiliates, do your research and have a plan in place before you get started. If you’re trying to figure it out while you have monthly expenses accruing, you’re starting in a hole you may not be able to climb out of. Have enough money to sustain the business for 3 months with no bookings so you don’t feel that immediate pressure. Read as many books as you can. Sign up with SCORE for free business mentoring. And for both, always be learning. Plato said, “I know that I know nothing”. Assume you know nothing and seek out the knowledge that will help you improve your business.
Tony and Christina Harris
A big thanks to Tony & Christina for sharing their perspective and lessons! If you want to learn more about changing your own pace in life, take a peek at start your own Knockerball business!