CHATHAM, NJ--- Two long-time friends and New Jersey natives, Lucas Kovalcik and Timothy Walsh know what it is like to climb to the top. They took their passion for fitness and rock climbing and turned it into a successful business.
Today the owners of The Gravity Vault LLC, a premier indoor rock climbing facility with locations in Chatham and Upper Saddle River, were named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2013 New Jersey Small Business Persons of the Year.
In making the announcement at the company’s Chatham facility, SBA’s New Jersey District Director Al Titone said Kovalcik and Walsh were selected for the award based on criteria that include: Staying Power (a substantial history of an established business); Growth in Number of Employees; Increase in Sales; Financial Strength of the Company; Innovativeness of Product or Service Offered; Response to Adversity and Contributions to Aid Community Oriented Projects.
After successful careers in the private sector, where they held key management positions, both Kovalcik and Walsh felt strongly enough to leave that all behind them and start The Gravity Vault in 2005 in Upper Saddle River. Since that time, they haven’t looked back. The Gravity Vault is one of the top indoor rock climbing facilities in the state of New Jersey providing a safe and healthy environment for climbers from ages five and up. In 2009, they opened their second location in Chatham. This year they plan to open a third company owned facility as well as their first franchised location.
According to Titone, Kovalcik and Walsh enlisted the help of the SBA and TD Bank. Each time they opened a location they utilized the SBA’s 7(a) Guarantee Loan Program to grow their business. When the third Gravity Vault facility opens later this year, they will have over 60 employees and sales in the mid seven figures.
“As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of National Small Business Week, this is a great time to highlight the successes and achievements of New Jersey companies like The Gravity Vault,” said Titone. “Lucas and Tim have taken their passion for rock climbing and have turned it into a thriving business. These guys are living the American dream, going to work and loving what they do. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
“It’s a great honor to be named the New Jersey Small Business people of the year,” said Lucas Kovalcik, co-founder of The Gravity Vault. “To be able to able to share our passion for climbing and spread it throughout this community is something special.”
“Our goal is to take The Gravity Vault concept and bring awareness to the sport of climbing,” said Timothy Walsh, co-founder of The Gravity Vault. “With growing demand for new and alternative fitness options, climbing is positioned to be a fun and exciting option for people of all ages. With the introduction of our franchise model we’ll be able to change as many people’s lives as possible.”
From first time climbers to seasoned pros, The Gravity Vault offers a little something for everyone. They offer their customers monthly and annual memberships, birthday parties, youth classes, team building events, scout groups, and the home to three youth climbing teams.
In addition to being astute small business owners, Kovalcik and Walsh make sure that The Gravity Vault is connected to the community through their philanthropic contributions. The company donates to dozens of organizations including the NY/NJ Trail Conference to establish and maintain trails in their area; The Access Fund to help keep U.S. climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment; and Mohonk Preserve to support their mission to protect the Shawangunk Mountains by inspiring people to care for, enjoy, and explore the natural world.
Additionally, Kovalcik and Walsh donate over $10,000 a year in free climbing to local Parent Teacher Organizations, churches, temples, youth organizations and schools. During Hurricane Sandy, The Gravity Vault offered free food, warmth and electricity to those in need by opening the doors to their Chatham facility that was fortunate to maintain power following the storm.
“These are well-rounded entrepreneurs who have the right balance and formula for success,” said Titone. “It all starts with a great idea, but it’s the drive, the passion and perseverance that brings it all together. This is an exciting time for Lucas and Tim as they embark on the next phase of growth for The Gravity Vault.”
“Franchising will eventually allow them to bring their indoor rock climbing facilities to other areas across the United States.,” added Titone. “Of course, we are grateful for our partnership with TD Bank which provided the necessary injection of capital that has led to this remarkable success.”
As part of SBA’s National Small Business Week festivities (June 17- 21), Kovalcik and Walsh will be honored in Washington, D.C. by SBA’s Administrator Karen Mills, where they will compete for the title of SBA’s National Small Business Person(s) of the Year with representatives of 49 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.