PROFILE: Providing some bounce

Published 10:26 am Monday, February 23, 2009

COAL GROVE — Out of the mouths of babes can come some fine business advice.

That’s what Mick Clark has found out. Owner and co-founder of M&M Inflatables, Clark says it’s his son who often guides him in decisions on what to add to his ever-expanding inventory.

That’s because Clark’s business offers an extensive variety of one of the leading party items today: Inflatable games and other party-oriented inflatable items.

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“I have a little 8-year-old. I go on what he likes,” Clark says. “Anything themed kids usually like.”

Right now M&M has an inventory of 200 inflatables at its Coal Grove location.

“Anything you can think of. Slides to obstacle courses. Football throws. Boxing. Dunk Tanks,” he said.

A little Web surfing on the Internet shows how popular inflatables are. There are hundreds of entries there of businesses providing party inflatables across the country.

Locally, Clark has found a business demand for not just inflatables but items that go with the items.

“We also do costumes that match,” Clark said. “If you get the inflatable Sponge Bob Jumper, you can get the (Sponge Bob) costume.”

Clark got the idea for his business venture six years when he was at a school carnival and saw the popularity of inflatables there. He hasn’t looked back since.

Since its inception M&M Inflatables has dramatically expanded its market share, going beyond the Tri-State region south as far as to North Carolina. The reason, Clark says, is the quality of the product and the cost.

“We have a really good price,” he said.

Expanding market share is an endeavor Clark does on many fronts, taking advantage of the high tech world we live in along with more traditional approaches. All have proved effective, he said.

“We do a lot of stuff on the Internet. We do a lot of postcards, out to churches, and word of mouth,” Clark said.

In fact, once an organization or individual giving a party uses Clark’s inventory, he says he will get calls from others in that town or neighborhood want to rent items.

And the popularity of inflatables isn’t just coming from youngsters. All ages will call for inflatables for their party or event, he said.

“We do party rentals for birthday parties, corporate events, family events,” Clark said. “We do a lot of after proms, adult parties. There are inflatables for Super Bowl (parties).”

There are basketball shoot inflatables that can be rented for NBA playoff or March Madness parties, as well as dunking tanks and football-themed inflatables.

When partygoers rent inflatables, M&M can provide a staff member who will handle the installation and removal of them. However, the business also offers pickup specials where the client handles installation and removal his or herself.

As Clark watches the popularity of inflatables, he is taking advantage of another trend he has been seeing: the increase in party giving.

Because of that he is working toward building a specialized party center on Third Street in Ironton, near Marion Pike, that can be rented out.

In six years, M&M Inflatables has shown itself to be a growing area business that owes its beginnings to a school carnival and some entrepreneurial imagination.

Profile 2009 is The Tribune’s annual section about the people, places and issues of Lawrence County and the surrounding area.