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SBA Programs Help Business Overcome Obstacles

Puzzles Fun Dome

Brief description of the business: Kim and Tim Stevenson own three businesses, The Fun Masters, Puzzles Fun Dome and Puzzles Academy. Since 1992, The Fun Masters has offered interactive games and inflatables to carnivals, picnics, birthday parties and more. In 2002, the Stevensons decided to open Puzzles Fun Dome, a family entertainment center building with educational programs for children (edu-tainment), including inflatables, birthday parties, and many other attractions under one roof. In 2008, Puzzles Academy and Child Care Center, provider of an atmosphere of creativity, play, and discovery that is crucial to early childhood development, was opened.

SBA Assistance: In 2003, Kim and Tim Stevenson developed a business plan for Puzzles Fun Dome and presented the plan to several banks, but they were turned down for financing. At the suggestion of an area chamber of commerce director, the Stevensons sought assistance from the Louisville SBDC. They worked diligently with the SBDC for months. In 2004, the company obtained an SBA 504 loan for the land, building and equipment through Capital Access Corporation, an SBA Certified Development Company (CDC). Later that year, the company had a very successful opening of Puzzles Fun Dome.

Response to adversity or problems: Eighteen months after opening Puzzles Fun Dome, the Stevensons began to experience severe cash flow challenges. Tim Stevenson took a 10-week Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship business management course and then reconnected to the SBDC for assistance. During this time, he explored the option of refinancing the SBA 504 loan but ran into many obstacles. Instead, he and Kim examined a new concept to increase revenue by offering a full-service childcare center within the building. In 2008, after much research the Stevensons decided to open Puzzles Academy, which offers state-of-the-art childcare programs in the Puzzles Fun Dome building. Puzzles Academy was an immediate success. Puzzles Academy has expanded four times in five years, with a capacity of 180 children, making Puzzles Academy one of the largest childcare facilities in the region.

However, in 2009, the impact of the recession dramatically reduced revenue for the Puzzles Fun Dome component of their family of businesses, again causing major cash flow problems. Kim and Tim Stevenson reached out to the SBDC for a third time, asking for assistance and advice with cash flow challenges. SBDC consultants helped the Stevensons develop not only a cash management tool to get the company back on track, but also helped the Stevensons with applying for and receiving refinancing of the original 504 loan, which they successfully obtained in 2010.  The combination of strict cash flow management and refinancing of the original SBA loan had a dramatic impact on cash flow and enabled the company to improve its financial situation.   

Number of employees: Employment has increased to 26 full-time and 45 part-time personnel, and all full-time employees have benefits as well as a competitive salary.

Staying power: Since 2006, total company revenues have grown from $1.37 million, despite the very challenging economy, to a projected $2 million in 2015 and are on track to generate $ 2.5 million in 2016. Puzzles Fun Dome and Puzzles Academy serve over 150,000 guests annually, and in their 23+ years in business, the Stevensons have served over 1 million children.

The Stevensons have developed a strategy to provide a cost effective utilization of building, facilities, staff and marketing. They also have become industry experts, and over 100 industry peers have sought their advice on how to implement the childcare program within a family entertainment center building.

The Stevensons plan to pursue the development of a franchise concept soon, their first franchise location, and they are exploring a regional expansion.

Community Involvement: The Stevensons’ family of businesses has an annual Christmas Caravan, which provides Christmas toys to the Christian Mission and Kosair Charities for their annual parties. They also support Louisville Metro United Way.

Without the loans from the SBA and counseling assistance from the SBDC, the Puzzles family of businesses may well have been another business casualty instead of a successful, expanding small business.

Learn more about SBA’s loan programs, free counseling services and other small business programs at www.SBA.gov, your lender, and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE Chapter or Women’s Business Center.

Company Name: 
Puzzles Fun Dome and Puzzles Academy Child Care Center
Location: 
Louisville, KY