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James Sinclair is perhaps better known now for his entertainment business. Partyman and for founding the Entrepreneur’s Network to bring other start-up founders together, but he started like many others; without seed capital aSinclair first started working as a children’s entertainer in the back bedroom of his grandmother’s house when he was 14. Since then, the 30-year-old self-made man has turned a one-man business into a thriving business that employs around 350 people and has around £ 10 million annually.
Partyman now has five indoor play centers, four daycare centers, three laser kombat arenas, an online Partyman shop from a single source and, most recently, a children’s farm. Here he is talks to GrowthBusiness about the ups and downs of the start.
Surname: James Sinclair
Companies: Party man
Start date: 2001
Number of employees: 350
Sales (pa): 10 million pounds
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I started my first business as a kids’ party entertainer when I was 14 and grew the business from the ground up. This original concept is incorporated into all of the companies I now own.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I could tell from the start that the family entertainment market was growing. Although I diversified into different venues and businesses as we grew, I stayed in the family entertainment space. As our reputation has grown, people associate our Partyman brand with quality entertainment and great venues.
How did you raise money and why?
The Partyman business is very capital intensive, so we used all kinds of tactics to raise finance including equity financing, lease financing, crowdfunding and bank financing. We have raised £ 6m since its inception to help the company grow.
Briefly describe your business model.
I am constantly striving to grow the Partyman brand, and much of our growth and success to date has been achieved by buying troubled companies in our industry and turning them into successful, profitable parts of the Partyman family.
Your lowest point was …
Raising finance is always challenging and can be very stressful for any business, especially in the early days. They know your business needs to make a certain number of sales to cover overheads. Hence, there is always pressure to do so. Growing a business is challenging and you need to think about both the future and the present. One of the biggest challenges is not to get lost in short-term survival, but at the same time to keep an eye on the larger picture of growth.
Overall, the business highs definitely outweigh the lows.
Her highest point was …
There are so many of them! Some of my best heights are working with teams and seeing them evolve and grow and end up running a leading part of your business. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing people who have looked after you and running some part of your business better than you can. It’s so rewarding – delegation is an integral part of entrepreneurship.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
It is important to understand the fundamental puzzle of entrepreneurship, which is balancing short-term and long-term goals at the same time. Good quality management and leadership are so important to your team. When running the business, you need to have a handle on your numbers and understand the daily flow of the operation. However, you also need to look at the bigger picture and know where you want to be next month, next year, or more.
Where do you want to be in five years?
I want Partyman to be a national brand that is seriously building a revolution in the entertainment sector with a brand that families absolutely love because it guarantees a good experience
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be …
I would probably run a school or a charity. Make a difference with a unique approach and try to change the world in one way or another. It just so happens that I’ve tried to do this in business rather than any other area of life.
If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
No I wouldn’t. I’ve learned all of the mistakes I’ve made in business and I keep them in my head so I can refer to them in case this situation occurs again.
What is your business or life philosophy in a nutshell?
Good things happen to good people. Try to remind yourself that within 14 days, one way or another, the most stressful things will resolve themselves. My philosophy is to keep going, not giving up, and remembering that business is a marathon, not a sprint. Instant gratification doesn’t happen in business – you need to be there for the long run and be prepared for some tough times and many good times.
James Sinclair’s new book “The Experience Business” is now available on Amazon for € 11.99.