Sedalia’s 1 Million Cups program continued its trend of introducing new or relatively unheard of businesses Wednesday morning with presenters on youth gymnastics and RV rentals.
Sedalia is one of 88 communities across the country to launch 1 Million Cups, which is designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs. Wednesday morning, a small group of local business people learned about Blue Bird Outdoor Adventures and Twister Sports while drinking coffee in the Thompson Conference Center at State Fair Community College.
Blue Bird Outdoor Adventures in Cole Camp is a family-owned business with a focus on family fun. Co-owner Mark Kestner, who owns the business with his brother Jason, said the company rents recreational vehicles for camping, family reunions or outdoor events in the West Central Missouri area.
The company owns two RVs but also leases RVs from locals who want their vehicles to get a little more use. Linens are provided and each one includes a microwave and a television; Kestner said it has “all the amenities of a hotel room on wheels.”
“There are two things that set us apart. First is there’s no one else that does this, we’re the only game in town,” Kestner said. “Second, many families don’t have the means to fork over $20,000 for a trailer or they don’t have the right vehicle to tow it. We’re a delivery service, we drop it off, set it up and pick it up for them. That really sets us apart.”
Kestner said it’s an affordable option for families, giving Truman State Park as an example: for a Blue Bird RV to be delivered and picked up for Friday night through Sunday, it would cost a family about $258.
Kestner said the company has plans for growth, and his brother has already created a business plan that spans several years. They plan to purchase two more hybrid units by the end of the season — Kestner said their main operating season is April to Oct. 1 — along with upgrading current units and purchasing a new truck to tow the RVs. He also wants to eventually expand to other states.
In an example that shows the power of networking and 1 Million Cups, Kestner said he has already partnered with Von Holten Ranch, renting their customers RVs during many of the facility’s weekend events. Blue Bird is saving those visitors a second or third trip home to grab the RV when they’ve already been towing a horse trailer. Brandy Von Holten was present Wednesday and said utilizing Blue Bird has “greatly helped our business.”
Twister Sports, which offers cheerleading, martial arts, tumbling, dance and gymnastics, began in Warrensburg with a 10,000-square-foot facility, but they had to expand within months to keep up with demand. The company now has a 35,000-square-foot facility in Warrensburg and a 10,000-square-foot facility in Sedalia, which was opened just nine months after the first location.
Danielle Johnston and Angie Fritsch both taught classes at Whiteman Air Force Base and later at Warrensburg Parks and Recreation, but one day Johnston decided they needed their own space.
“We were running over 120 students just between the two of us and we realized we were running out of space, we needed equipment, we needed mats …” Johnston explained. “One day my husband and I were almost kicked in the face by a cartwheel because we were in a room about this size with about 65 kids. It was that day my husband and I decided we have to start a business, we have to open something and create more space and more opportunities for these children.”
Johnston then contacted Fritsch and her husband, and the four of them created Twister Sports. Johnston said she and Fritsch expected to open the business for a few hours each night, but within six months, they both quit their jobs to focus on Twister full-time. Their husbands soon followed suit.
“You can see why we do what we do; it’s not to teach cartwheels, although they are cool. It’s to build their confidence, teach them self-discipline,” Johnston said. “Our athletes, we have to eliminate at least two or three practices every year so they can go celebrate their academic achievements. … We are starting this fall a tutoring program as well for those who maybe do need additional help in classes.”
Twister Sports was named the 2015 Warrensburg Business of the Year and the 2016 Missouri Chamber of Commerce Rising Star Award. On the sports side, Twister Sports is nationally ranked in dance, cheerleading and gymnastics.
In September, Twister Sports started Tumbling To You, a mobile tumbling program.
“We go to seven different day-cares and we teach tumbling during the day to preschoolers, that way if you’re a busy parent … your 2- to 4-year-olds can still take tumbling. We send progress reports and pictures and videos to the parents,” Johnston said.
Johnston added that there are plans to open indoor batting cages in the next few months in Warrensburg, and tap and ballet will soon be added in Sedalia.
1 Million Cups meetings are free and open to the public. They are hosted at 9 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month. For more information about 1 Million Cups, visit www.1millioncups.com/sedalia.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.