Jun 09, 2015 - 2:15pm

Triangle Rock Club Climbs to the Top – 2015 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year


Andrew Kratz, left, and Joel Graybeal, managing partners of Triangle Rock Club, have grown a community built around their passion: rock climbing. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

2015 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year

Triangle Rock Club
Morrisville, North Carolina
Andrew Kratz and Joel Graybeal, Managing Partners

Triangle Rock Club – founded by former Marines with a passion for adventure, adrenaline, and climbing – has reached a peak, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year.

The Morrisville, North Carolina, business was announced as the winner from among seven exemplary regional finalists during America’s Small Business Summit, being held this week in Washington, D.C. The entrepreneurs opened their first state-of-the-art rock climbing facility in 2007 and have since expanded to three locations.

“When you have two skill sets — climbing rocks and shooting guns — you are limited in your employment options when you get out [of the military]. … It was a natural choice to go to rock climbing,” said Andrew Kratz, one of the managing partners.

Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue noted that the success of all the finalists comes during troubling times. Recent Gallup research shows that for the first time in 35 years more American businesses are being shuttered than started.

“Despite the grim statistics, many U.S. small businesses of every kind — from scrappy startups to multigenerational Main Street fixtures — manage to overcome obstacles and long odds to survive and thrive in a challenging environment,” Donohue said.

Triangle Rock Club exemplifies that spirit, and the walls tell the story of the company’s growth: TRC expanded its climbing terrain from 9,000 square feet to 47,000 square feet from September 2013 to November 2014.

The business is a community hub and sells and rents climbing gear, serves food and drinks, teaches classes, and holds nationally ranked competitions.

“We are really in the experience and hospitality business; we are not in the indoor climbing business,” said Joel Graybeal, TRC’s other managing partner.

That community connection is made in many ways:

  • TRC is now a destination when it comes to popping the question: There have been three marriage proposals at the business.
  • The business has been a big supporter of local charities and PTAs, but it has had a special relationship with the Durham Ronald McDonald House. TRC management even invented a “Climbathon” fundraising event to benefit the charity.
  • A variety of organized climbing programs for youth groups like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Y-Guides, as well as corporate team building, are part of TRC’s mission.

More business heights are ahead for TRC as it is planning to add three more climbing and fitness centers to its family in the next five years. Expansion markets include Durham/Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and Charlotte.

For more information about the DREAM BIG winner, contact press@uschamber.com.

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