Business Leader Magazine recently met the richest clown in the UK and the founder of Partyman Company, James Sinclair.
Having first set up the company at the age of 15, Sinclair has grown his business into an empire with an annual turnover of £10 million and over 300 staff across the UK.
Now 30, Sinclair has built the company from the ground up and is now looking to further growing the company.
Can you give our readers an overview of Partyman Company?
My portfolio of businesses now includes eight indoor playcentres, five day nurseries, three laser kombat arenas, Fort Fun – a family splash park in Eastbourne, Marsh Farm – a children’s activity farm in Essex and TeddyTastic – an online make-a-bear company. As well as this, I have set up The Entrepreneur’s Network, a networking group which aims to support business owners in the art of owning and running their own successful entrepreneurial business.
What are your day-to-day activities?
As the business has grown, my role has changed. Although I still get out and visit Partyman sites around the UK, a lot of my time is now spent working with my management team growing and managing the business and on raising finance. It is important that I also continue to build a network of business owners around me for my own growth and I also continue to generate sales for the group.
As part of my work with The Entrepreneur’s Network, I film a daily vlog called ‘Backstage Business’ which allows me to share my daily entrepreneurial journey, share the highs and the lows and offer business advice based on real life experience. I make this available on YouTube and through social media channels.
What made you want to become a clown?
I wasn’t strictly speaking a clown – more of a children’s entertainer and magician – but it is still all about making people happy and enjoy themselves. I have always had a larger than life personality and at school I found that people liked my impressions and jokes.
I decided that I could make money out of it when I was 15 and my younger sister had a birthday party and had a truly terrible children’s entertainer along to entertain her friends. I knew that I could do a lot better – so I did!
What inspired you to set Partyman up?
I took a passion for entertaining people and turned it into a profitable business by fusing the two together. I knew, that I could take the children’s entertainment concept and turn it on its head by changing it from something cheesy into something magical. The business has grown from there and I have focused on building the Partyman brand and continuing to innovate, but we aim to keep that magic sparkle and exceptional customer experience through everything that we do.
What were the struggles of setting it up and how did you overcome it?
Growing a business is a challenge and you can’t always afford to invest in great people at the start so I had to think laterally as a 20-year-old when I first set the business up. I found somebody I wanted to bring into the business and, because I couldn’t afford to pay him much, I offered him free accommodation. He believed in me and my long term vision for the business and took that risk. Ten years later, he is the Managing Director of Partyman.
How did you scale up the business?
I read a lot of business books at the start of my business journey and I still do. One that resonated with me was Richard Branson’s book. He talks about how he was prepared to be a little bit different and outrageous to get noticed. I decided that it was what I needed to do too – I needed to stand out from the competition and I soon became well known in my local area for being a character and for offering something different.
That helped me to build the Partyman brand and people booked me because they knew the name. I also took advice from Theo Paphitis’s book and his strategy of growing his business by buying up ailing businesses and turning them around. Over the years, I have taken failing businesses and folded them into our existing portfolio. Although you may have to restructure and change the team, the costs are less than starting from scratch.
Apart from that, one of our biggest strengths has been our comprehensive database which has allowed us to market our new businesses to existing customers that already know and like the Partyman brand.
How did you reach £10 million turnover and over 300 staff?
The key planks of growth have been nurturing and then using our database to build up our new businesses, ensuring that I invest in a good management team who can help me to grow the business and finally understanding the importance of marketing to build a strong brand. I am continually looking to innovate to push the business forward and optimise what we have.
How do you build your management team around you?
I look for people who can bring skills to the business that I may lack. My senior management team have the attitude and skillset that help to drive the business forward. In my view, although skills are important, the right attitude that is in line with my vision is vital to success.
What’s next for Partyman Company?
My mission is to grow the business to a £15 million turnover within the next three years and to build the brand into a national family favourite.