The lights are low and the music is pumping as a multi-colored disco ball spins high in the air.
Rays of glittering light dance across the walls. Party-goers croon karaoke, shimmy inside neon hula-hoops, some bounce in a gigantic structure called "The Coliseum" while others joust inside the "Triple Threat."
No, this is not newest nightclub in downtown Minneapolis, but a venue hidden in a fairly innocuous grey building in Plymouth.
Pump It Up, an indoor inflatable facility located at 3500 Holly Lane North, was recently named "Franchisee of the Year" over 150 locations.
The Plymouth business was named the top location in the United States. Owners and couple Michael and Jeni Mand say it’s their innovative approach – hosting everything from birthday parties to theme nights with glow-lights for older kids- that earned them the kudos.
The Mands have owned the business since 2009. The two say they've seen "pretty tremendous growth" since then.
Both have business backgrounds. Jeni has degrees in journalism and marketing and Michael worked for a number of years in management at GMAC. When the mortgage industry imploded in 2008, it gave Michael an opportunity to re-evaluate his life.
"He was working 80 hours a week and I often felt like a single parent," Jeni said. The couple has two children. " But it was the right thing at the right time."
The Pump It Up parent company recommended potential franchisees have at least $100,000 in liquid capital and a $500,000 net worth. The couple took over the 11,000 square-foot facility, and beyond turning a profit, have been very active in the community.
Over 100 charitable causes in the area have profited from the Mands' generosity. They’ve hosted fundraisers for local nonprofits, field trips for local churches and schools, fun summer events to encourage young musical talent and private birthday parties for deserving kids.
"It’s rare we turn down a request for help," Jeni said.
The duo was honored at a franchise conference recently in Arizona, with franchisees from across the country convening. In fact, they said they were shocked to be recognized, but those they’ve worked with aren’t that surprised.
The Mands’ helped organize a 'Light the Night Walk' with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"They deserve the recognition for all their hard work," said Amy Wasik
with the Society fundraiser event. "Jeni and Mike have been great to work with both in the personal fundraiser and as a business vendor. They are very responsive and helpful, and always looking to help the community."
Criteria for the award included having strong community involvement, and exceptional sales. The franchise achieved a 90 percent customer service satisfaction rating, which Jeni attributes to a constant striving to provide a fun, clean and safe experience – a point she stresses with her 40 or so employees.
"Mike and Jeni Mand are rock star franchise owners," said Pump It Up’s CEO Lee Knowlton. "They think creatively and strategically about marketing, operations and expanding their customer base and they are always trying new programs."
Whether its special events at Halloween, Christmas, or Easter or simply helping with nonprofits that help children with special needs, the Mands are pumping up their business for the Plymouth community and beyond.