A story from the founder of Andy J Leisure - Andy J Hardwick.
How AJL Bouncy Castles began and why we are one of the best bouncy castle manufacturers around
I was born in Liverpool in 1965 to 2 hard working parents, my father a paint sprayer and Mother a ward clerk in the local hospital. My first trade was a butcher working for a chain of shops called Kew House, you may remember them if you are as old as me, they specialised in barbecue chickens. I reached manager status with this company but believe it or not I got fired for throwing knives at the work experience boy. (long story!)
After my tribunal for the sacking (I lost) I was out on a limb and remember my parents being worried about me being unemployed. At this point me and a pal decided to open our own butchers shop, and with luck we done well and opened another 2 shops. But I could see this game dying towards the end of the eighties and we split our partnership and went separate ways, my pal ended up with the big shop in Anfield and I kept the newsagents in Huyton.
This proved to be a stroke of luck as it was here where a guy came into the shop who was suffering from a back injury and asked me did I want to buy his bouncy castle. I jumped at the chance as it was my sons 2nd birthday that week so it would have come in handy, (he is nearly 20 now and manufactures for me in the factory). We decided to put a banner on the shop advertising ‘BOUNCY CASTLE HIRE’ the response was unbelievable. The following year I had 12 of these things and life began to change for the better. I messed around buying and selling castles for a while and repairing, then with the surplus income I built a huge shed on the back of my garden and manufacturing began.
Andy J Leisure was the first to offer Budget Inflatables in the UK 15 years ago. The early days were difficult as we were very disliked by our scarce competition then. In those days an inflatable would cost about £1,400 for the famous most popular 12ft x 12ft. We were probably the first to offer this unit for under £1, 000, and what more we always had stock ready to go. Gosh, how things have changed !!
In them days we very rarely offered artwork or we added a simple clouds and smiley faces to bring the budget castle alive. The following year we moved to Toxteth in Liverpool and opened a bigger unit only to be moved 4 years later for the unit to be floored for redevelopment.
Luckily, I had invested in property along the way and was always looking for the next deal, it came in the form of a big farm on the outskirts of Liverpool. After sorting the planning out we moved in in 1997. The next 7 years saw us go from small manufacturer in a garden shed to Global supplier of budget Quality Inflatables. And guess what we were still hiring as well, with a fleet of approximately 40 inflatables this gave us a hands on insight as to what the punter and hirer needed. But as our business grew and grew we were forced to sell the hire side as manufacturing took all our time.
Investing in Zund cutting machines and wide format digital printing machines has helped in a massive way. We were the first to enter this route and have added a second even wider print machine to give us more advantages. Others have tried to copy our routines but we have a unique manufacturing process that is difficult to copy.
Nowadays things have changed so much we hardly recognise ourselves. The internet made fast, rapid changes and tiers of business disappeared, at one time a third of our business was to re-sellers, now only 10 percent is sold to re-sellers as competition has driven prices to near break-even prices. It certainly is a good time for somebody to start up in hire at the moment as you can get a start up pack deal of 2 x12×14s with trolley. mats, fans etc for as little as £1, 299 from us now. and it wont be puffy clouds art it will be mass art-worked coated with a scratch proof coating for durability and all the bed webbed. See http://www.ajlbouncycastles.com.
A couple of things I would say has kept Andy J leisure ahead of its competition in the budget market are,
PRICE ! We can be any price any country … its our motto.
Keeping our overheads down and hard work, we own all our machines, buildings and land, we have no fancy glossy brochures.
I myself still sew to this day and when I return home at night spend 3 hours online researching and developing,
I travel a lot so my whole business can be run from the new computer system we have installed, from any where in the world. This system allows me to control the cutting, painting, invoicing and cameras from anywhere. Plus anyone who works with me has to produce or they go.
We buy right, sourcing huge deals on our raw materials give us a great advantage.
Aftercare, unlike some, we pride ourselves in being obtainable, we want our customers to be successful so we help them and listen to them. We still offer the ‘ Unhappy with our goods then we will replace them ‘ deal to all. Your success means our success, we’ve done this for 15 years.
We Constantly improve our product through experience. This has kept us growing yearly.
Last but MOST IMPORTANT, we never try to gain a sale by bad mouthing other manufacturers or sellers, it’s unprofessional you wont believe the orders we have received lately from customers put off by other manufacturers slagging their competition just to gain a sale. I pity them, they must be desperate!
If you wish to buy a bouncy castle or are looking for a quote or just thinking about a bouncy castle to buy. Call us on 0151 487 3336 anytime, we are friendly!