Funtopia Climbs Its Way to Global Expansion

With staring at screens being the dominant form of entertainment for today’s kids, one franchise has made it their goal to change that and get kids moving again.

Funtopia Active Entertainment Centers are basically giant playgrounds where kids can run, jump, climb and explore safely.

“Funtopia was created out of a desire to provide a new type of entertainment that would be an alternative to today’s prevalence of physically-passive display entertainment,” Yassen Nikolov, head of Funtopia’s North American operations, said during a recent interview.

Each Funtopia includes various specially designed activities that not only get kids moving, but challenge them, too. These activities can include: climbing the back of a dinosaur, exploring indoor caves, jumping off the edge of a “skyscraper,” hiking on aerial obstacles, sliding down a huge slide, running through a “Ninja course” or jumping on a trampoline field.

The active entertainment centers are meant to give children the opportunity to do typically outdoor activities in a safe, indoor environment.

Starting with walls

In 2012, Walltopia Group, a company that designs and builds climbing walls and is the biggest producer of climbing walls in the world, saw an opportunity to make a difference in the increasingly sedentary lives of children by introducing a new kind of playground for them.

Nikolov himself always had a passion for climbing and actually started off his career at Walltopia. That company, which had always served the adult market, started making customized walls for children and then slowly added other elements aimed at kids.

Their child-specific products became so in-demand that Walltopia realized there was a niche for a large, indoor playground like Funtopia and they were in the perfect position to fill that niche, seeing as how Walltopia shipped products to over 50 countries.

“Together with my colleagues, we knew we had the best skills and competence to actually build and manage an active entertainment concept with a unique blend of attractions and activities,” he said. “Funtopia is actually the result of finding a perfect formula to keep kids entertained while being active.

From Bulgaria to beyond

Three years after opening its first facility in Sofia, Bulgaria, Nikolov was put in charge of North American operations and eight months later, the first location in North America opened its doors to visitors in the Chicago suburbs.

Currently, Funtopia has three locations in the USA (two in Chicago suburbs and one in Lehi, Utah), four in Australia, three in Israel and one each in Bulgaria, Malaysia and Mexico, plus five more currently under construction.

In the USA, the company is now expanding outside of Illinois and is open to the right opportunity and demographics in every state.

With global expansion in mind, Funtopia has been franchising worldwide since 2015, and within the United States since 2017.

The right fit

The ideal franchise candidate for Funtopia, Nikolov said, would be someone who is looking to be a part of a successful, family-oriented business model.

“Our concept really gives people the chance to be part of a revolution in the entertainment industry,” Nikolov said. “I firmly believe that it is always a good idea to stand with those who think ahead. We are looking for candidates who believe in our core values summed up in our slogan: ‘Have fun, be active!’ We truly believe that being active both mentally and physically is the essence of a healthy lifestyle.”

The head of North American operations noted that the company pushes this philosophy at all levels of the company and encourages all employees and partners to follow these principles. It is the belief of the company’s owners that active people in a fun atmosphere perform the best and also feel good about themselves and their workplace.

Nikolov said that Funtopia is uniquely positioned to help parents provide safe, alternative sources of fun for their kids and unlike other attractions like trampoline parks, Funtopia’s advantage is that it offers a variety of activities.

“While the competition is predominantly focused on one type of activity per venue, we believe that diversifying is the way to go,” Nikolov explained. “That is the reason why Funtopia offers a variety of attractions and each location develops its own sense of adventure.”

As for franchisees, he noted, the company’s global experience has helped it learn what owners need from the company to be successful.

Along with a comprehensive initial training process, the company offers continuous support at all levels and constantly updates all marketing materials and continually introduces new programs to help franchisees.

Some of the new programs Funtopia has rolled out include customized science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) programs, training programs to introduce kids to the art of climbing and being active and healthy kitchen options to teach kids about the importance of nutrition.

Veteran franchisees are also privy to a discounted rate on the franchising fee.

An ambitious man, Nikolov said he believes that within the next five years the franchise will hit the 100 unit mark. All they need is some fun loving franchisees to help them climb to that goal.

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