NOTE: It is time to nominate businesses for the 2016 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, and community involvement is a key component. Team members at Triangle Rock Club – the 2015 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year – work closely with the Ronald McDonald House and host the “Climbathon,” a fundraising event for charity. Apply for the 2016 award and challenge businesses in your community to donate time, money, or resources through #bizgiving on Twitter.
Triangle Rock Club (TRC) was founded by former Marines with a passion for adventure, adrenaline, and climbing. The entrepreneurs opened their first state-of-the-art climbing facility in 2007 and have since expanded to three locations.
How did the company get started?
Andrew Kratz and Luis Jauregui traveled the world with the military, embracing adventure and mountaineering. So what was the right career direction after service? Upward, of course. “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,” Kratz says.
With the goal of creating a community that shared their passion, the duo researched cities across the country before selecting a site just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. “Indoor climbing by nature is community related,” Katz says, before adding that the business is “not just a fitness-related piece, it’s a community experience that has a fitness component.” That community has seen explosive growth since Joel Graybeal joined as a managing partner in 2012. Luis is still an active owner, but Andrew and Joel run the daily operation.
In 2013, a second location was added in Raleigh. The site was an immediate success and profitable in the third full month. Expansion at the Morrisville location included additional climbing space, 55-foot walls, and cardio and weight rooms. And a third location opened in Fayetteville in 2014.
The walls tell the story of the company’s growth: TRC grew 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. There’s a variety of organized climbing programs for youth groups like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Y-Guides, as well as corporate team building. TRC’s youth programs focus on the three C’s: building character, developing confidence, and growing courage.
We are really in the experience and hospitality business; we are not in the indoor climbing business.Joel Graybeal
How does TRC’s community involvement extend beyond its walls?
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 new fundraising event to benefit the charity. The “Climbathon” has participants scale the walls overnight, and teams are awarded prizes for raising the most money and reaching the highest altitude. Over the course of two events, TRC raised more than $100,000 for the cause. In addition, the managing partners are very involved in the community, serving on different boards and representing many causes.
Popping the Question
There have been three marriage proposals at the business.
WHAT ARE THE COMPANY’S PLANS FOR GROWTH?
TRC 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.
DREAM BIG SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARDS PROGRAM
The DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam's Club, celebrates the success of small business and honors its contributions to America's economic growth. The winner, seven regional finalists and 100 Blue Ribbon winners will be acknowledged on June 9 during America's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi_s6j4lUMQ&index=1&list=PLcNyVG9PAJgiksQ...