You might say that Andrew Kratz and Joel Graybeal have always aimed for the top. To be more precise, the former Marine and ex-mortgage banker both share a passion for rock climbing. Kratz was the former High Adventure Instructor at the Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia and opened the first indoor rock climbing gym, Triangle Rock Club (TRC), in 2007. Graybeal was an early TRC client and quickly became friends with Kratz. In 2011, Graybeal exited the mortgage business and began helping his friend grow TRC – he climbed aboard full-time as a managing partner in 2012.
The owners attribute their success to their focus on the customer experience and the high quality of their staff. Since 2010, TRC has grown from 21 employees in 2010 to a staff of over 50. In addition to staff growth, revenues have also steadily increased from $330,000 in 2009 to over $1.5 million in 2013. They’ve open up two world class indoor climbing facilities with plans for more.
TRC has faced its share of challenges during the firm’s ascent. When scouting for the second location, there were already two parties vying for the space. Knowing it was crucial to their growth plan, Kratz and Graybeal quickly mapped out a strategy to educate the landlord on the strength and reputation of their company and promptly entered into negotiations for a lease-to-own option for the space. The pair opened the new facility within 5 ½ months of signing the lease.
The SBA has assisted TRC in their ascent to success with funding through the SBA 504 and 7(a) loan programs. In July of 2009, TRC purchased their first location in Morrisville with the help of $775,000 through Self-Help Ventures Fund and VantageSouth Bank. In June of 2013, the business closed on a construction loan through SunTrust Bank to fund expanding the original Morrisville location. That project will fund construction of an additional building and will add 17,000 square feet of climbing terrain to the existing 9000 square feet in the original facility. Once completed, the Morrisville facility will be the largest and tallest climbing gym in five states.
In January 2014, TRC closed on a third 504 Loan for over $2.4 million from Business Expansion Funding Corporation (BEFCOR) and VantageSouth. TRC used these funds to purchase their second facility which is in North Raleigh. This facility includes 13,000 feet of climbing terrain and opened in September 2013.
Graybeal added “we would not have been able to grow our business at the pace we have without the great lending terms we have gotten thru the three rounds of SBA financing to purchase real estate and equipment.”
TRC adds over 2,000 new customers per month - guests use a monthly membership, a day pass or participate in a group activity. In the next 1 – 2 years, Kratz and Graybeal plan to open up a third gym in the Raleigh-Durham area. In the next 1 - 3 years, they’re looking for locations in the Triad and possibly the Charlotte area.
TRC also holds a strong commitment to give back to the community. TRC actively supports public and private schools plus a whole host of charities. In addition TRC has also been supporting the Durham Ronald McDonald House (RMH) through its new fund raising event called the Climbathon, where teams of climbers climbed overnight from 8pm until 8am the next day. Teams were awarded prizes for raising the most money and the most ascents. In two events, TRC raised over $100,000 for the Durham RMH.