‘I hope the community sees the value we bring here’: Launch Richmond working hard to stay open during pandemic
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A trampoline park in Chesterfield is working hard to stay open after a challenging year due to the pandemic. Like so many local businesses that have struggled to make it, Launch Richmond is optimistic that customers will continue to support the business.
For more than a year now, the owners of Launch Richmond - which opened nearly three years ago - have weathered the storm of the pandemic. Today, the business is fully open, but foot traffic is much slower than before. The owners are hoping to change that.
“It’s been challenging getting capacity to 100 percent,” said Managing owner LaShawnda Moore, who says the space can hold up to 700 people. “I hope the community sees the value in what we bring here.”
The sprawling indoor entertainment park, which fills some 29,000 square feet of space, is complete with nine attractions including a two-story laser tag room, trampolines, an obstacle course, a full menu cafe, arcade and more.
Those who stopped by for some fun out of the sun say it is the perfect place for kids and those who are a kid at heart.
“They just have so much fun,” said Samantha Brunow, who scheduled a play date for her son at Launch Richmond. “They’re glad to be able to go someplace like this, play with their friends, interact and just be kids again.”
It is everything Moore dreamed of as a means to create jobs and entertainment for the community while teaching her four kids life lessons about entrepreneurship.
“I want to just open up the doors, see everyone lining up to get in here every hour,” said Moore, as she smiled just thinking about bringing the best experience to as many customers as possible. “That would be amazing.”
When the pandemic forced lockdowns, Launch Richmond took a major hit like other businesses throughout the area. Moore says she had to let all but two employees go as revenue fell by 80 percent when the doors were temporarily closed. For a while, federal loans helped, but ultimately, most of the expenses were paid out of pocket. She said she had to pull from her family budget to make ends meet.
Today, things are slowly turning around. One issue she pointed to is the fact that people may not know they are open, so she is doing her best to get the word out.
“The SBA stuff, that’s over,” Moore said. “The bills are back in full.”
“I’m operating on a whole lot of faith right now, and I’m taking it one day at a time,” she said.
Since the pandemic started, some 400,000 small businesses have closed around the country, according to President Joe Biden during remarks from the White House this year. Black-owned businesses were the hardest hit, and the effects of the lockdowns were felt almost immediately.
Black ownership fell by 41 percent between February and April of last year. It was the steepest drop compared to any other racial group, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Here in Central Virginia, the number of Black-owned businesses remains unclear today. That is why Melody Short, who is director of marketing and communication for the Metropolitan Businesses League, and Todd Waldo, the founder of a consulting firm, teamed up to launch a study that would identify local Black-owned businesses and their needs. The survey is still open for the Black Business Opportunity and Investment Study. Business owners are welcome to complete it.
“Data is very critical for the work that we do,” said Short. “We’re seeing that Black-owned business owners have very specific and unique needs.”
So far, a few hundred businesses have responded. Short said the goal is to have the city capture the numbers on an annual basis. Once the numbers become available, they will be presented to community partners, city officials and others to garner funding and resources. Short explained some of the deep-rooted challenges that have been identified so far.
“Access to capital has always been a need, even prior to COVID,” Short said. “We’re oftentimes bootstrapping when we’re [Black-business owners] starting these businesses, and we’re not left with money from previous generations to get the business started.”
Moore is all too familiar with some of those challenges but continues to keep her head up. Aside from entertainment, Moore is really passionate about serving the community. Launch Richmond has been used for school supply and blood drives. The private party rooms have been transformed into tutoring hubs when needed. It is still available for events that will help the community.
“I’m going to keep operating like I’m going to open the doors tomorrow,” said Moore, who has been pleased more business in recent weeks. “I believe that we’re going to make it.”
Launch Richmond is located at 10903 Hull Street Road, Midlothian, VA 23112.
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