Interview with Samantha Williams, CEO of Rush UK Trampoline Parks

Find out how having children gave former City trader Samantha Williams the confidence to launch her business Rush UK Trampoline Parks.

What’s your career background?

I actually stated as a trader in the City. I was the only woman on the trading floor for more than six months, both here and in New York, when I worked for JP Morgan. I moved between the big financiers, then decided I needed to change career direction if I wanted to fulfil my ambitions.

How did your career change after having children?

It totally changed direction. I started my own business – I needed to create a life that would fulfil me both career-wise and as a parent. My children were the making of my career, they have given me the strength and confidence to make a success of myself. I am driven by making them proud.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I always wanted to create a safe and enjoyable space for parents and children to relax – like a private members cub for families, but without the exclusivity.

Trampoline parks were not commonplace when I had the idea, so I’m proud of pioneering a new form of fitness and fun in the UK. Now Rush is one of the most successful trampoline park businesses in the country, when many have had to close down.

We pride ourselves on quality – we’re the Waitrose of trampoline parks! We don’t just offer the opportunity for kids to jump around, we have fitness classes and some exciting plans to expand our fitness studio and we also have a ‘Rush Arena’ football pitch.

We offer good quality healthy food, have a smoothie and juice bar, and even sports screens and craft beers for parents who might want to relax that little bit more.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

Having graduated from Oxford with a Masters in Maths I’ve always been pretty good with numbers! I knew how to use figures to create a business pan, then I researched the practical side of things.

I scouted out investors and despite having my fingers burnt more than once I finally found a team I could trust to make my dream, and plans, a reality.

What’s your USP?

Quality, the personal touch, and a constantly evolving business model. You don’t get what we offer anywhere else in the UK. Customers travel literally hundreds of miles to enjoy our facilities.

Who’s your target audience?

Anyone interested in family fun, fitness and getting away from screens and enjoying being active. Our parks cater for all ages – from babies right up to grandparents.

We have soft-play, dedicated toddler time, game zones, a Rush Arena Football pitch, dodgeball courts, foam pits and much more as well as of course our trampolines. 

How do you spread the word about what you do?

I’m fortunate to have found a great team with real expertise. I recently recruited a dedicated PR and Marketing consultant who I met through my kids’ school and she has refreshed our whole outlook on publicity and communications so I brought her in-house as our new Marketing Director.

I am a firm believer in trusting your instincts and never sitting still on an idea. Rachael helps me put these ideas into action.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Our recent launch of the High Wycombe Rush’s new soft-play called Ruby & Red’s was our most successful launch to date. My new Marketing Director comes from a PR and Influencer Marketing background and the launch was focussed on word-of-mouth marketing and PR.

It was so successful we had over 600 people visit the soft-play on opening day and press coverage and a social media advert reached over 30,000 people to date so far. 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Personally it would be the stillbirth of my second child. It was a devastating time in my life but recovering from that proved I had the strength to achieve anything I want to.

Professionally it would be relationships with people who have taken advantage of me, often because I am a woman. Business is still a male-dominated world and there are plenty of sharks in suits out there just waiting to bite at the next ambitious woman that approaches them.

In hindsight I should have researched more carefully the people I embarked on professional relationships at the beginning before allowing them into my businesses or circle. But hindsight is a wonderful thing!

And your proudest moment so far?

The opening of Rush’s flagship complex in High Wycombe, just before Christmas in 2015. and to see it open for the first time was just the most incredibly proud moment for me.

My husband Tim later took 18 months out of his career to work with me on the project of opening our second park in Birmingham in November 2016.

Why is work so important to you?

My mind never stops working. I have always been a Girly Swot – always challenging myself and striving to be better than anyone else – and I am proud of that, it makes me who I am. But I couldn’t be the whole me without the support of such a fantastic circle of friends and family. 

Who inspires you?

Richard Branson is a real hero of mine. I love the way he built his businesses up and the way he still runs them. I love the way he treats his staff, and the pride he has in his brand. Pride and kindness are extremely important qualities that many successful business owners seem to forget.

I am also inspired by Sahar Hashemi who started the Coffee Republic chain. Her book “Anyone can do it” was my ‘bible’ which I read several times before starting my own business. Finally I am also inspired by Oprah Winfrey. In particular the following quotes really resonate with me:

  • Turn your wounds into wisdom.
  • The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.
  • Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.
  • Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.
  • Luck is a matter of when preparation meets opportunity.

How do you balance your work with your family?

My children have always been and will always be my priority. I have built a business that they can enjoy because I want them to feel involved, and proud. They all have their own loves – swimming, acting, music – and they know I will support them in everything they do.

I have built a team around me that I can trust, so despite the long hours, I spend important, quality time with my children. They need to know I am there for them whenever they need me, and I am happy that they do know this.

What are your four top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

1) Don’t listen to the naysayers

Stay focussed on your own game and your own goal. If you listen to people who are negative around you it will dissuade you from actually doing it. 

2) Believe in yourself

Don’t underestimate what you are capable of. If you are committed to achieving your dream then you will get there in the end. Any hurdles that are thrown at you are not insurmountable – the key thing is to keep calm and maintain a cool head. Every problem has a solution – it’s just about breaking each part down into bitesize manageable chunks.

3) Know your strengths and weaknesses

Learn to identify your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who are better than you in your areas of weaknesses to build the strongest team.

4) Work out your ‘why’

Don’t start a business for money or to become rich, because if you do, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Instead, figure out what it is that excites you and what you are passionate about. Ask yourself what motivates you to get out of bed every day, because whatever business you start, you have to enjoy it.

If you do something you are passionate about and that you truly believe in, then you will want to put the hard hours of work in that will be required in order to make it a success. And if it becomes successful then the financial rewards will undoubtedly follow anyway as a bi-product.

You can learn more about Rush UK Trampoline Parks on their website.