By Ken Cleveland, Correspondent Posted Jun 10, 2018 at 3:58 AM
BERLIN – The poles and ropes being knotted together into the Boundless Adventures aerial obstacle course are transforming a Berlin hillside much as Lorrie and Brian Funtleyder transformed their Wall Street careers.
It all started with a family vacation.
“We had always prioritized giving our children unique and life-enriching experiences,” said Lorrie Funtleyder, who took her children rock climbing in Aspen when they were 6 and 8 years old.
On another family vacation, “We visited an adventure park in West Virginia during 2012,” she said.
“I watched my children’s confidence grow before my eyes,” Brian Funtleyder said. “They felt independent and I think they realized for the first time that they can achieve something special without our help.”
“The experience had such a positive impact on our entire family, that we decided to research the possibility of opening one close to home,” Lorrie Funtleyder said.
That took them from their existing jobs, Lorrie as an equity analyst at several hedge funds for 17 years. “My focus was investigating companies that were committing fraud.”
Brian worked for hedge funds as well as a large international bank as a portfolio manager.
“Initially, we partnered with an established company and opened our first park in 2014 with this partner,” Lorrie said, later venturing out on their own. “We had a specific vision of where we saw the business going and we used our contacts in the industry to help us go it alone.”
That developed into Boundless Adventures.
The outdoor park in Berlin features seven treetop obstacle courses that include multiple zip lines, bridges and rope challenges. It is set to open in Berlin on June 16.
“After having spent 17 years analyzing and evaluating other businesses, we were highly motivated to put what we had learned to use for our own business,” Lorrie said. “We were also excited to grow a brand that is value added to society by giving our guests the gift of self-confidence, empowerment, camaraderie and challenge. We had a lot of financial and operational data from our first park which was very helpful in building a business plan. As with most businesses, there are certain key variables which are the most important levers for profitability. We have highlighted those levers internally, and have the entire organization focusing on them.”
A little different than a traditional business, it required some creative development rather than a bank loan to get started.
“One thing that we really found attractive about the business are the high financial barriers to entry. It isn’t possible to get a traditional loan because our biggest asset is the forest in which we are building. This is something that has a lot of value to us, but the industry hasn’t matured to the point in which banks would be comfortable providing attractive financing. Also, there is a sizeable financial commitment upfront to deal with feasibility studies prior to even knowing if the municipality will support the project,” Lorrie said.
But the potential kept the couple going.
“This is the one and only business that has been able to evoke the passion and excitement in us to devote the blood, sweat and tears required to be successful,” Lorrie said.
“There is so much that goes into running a business, and because we are such a small company, we all have to wear a lot of hats,” Brian said. “Sometimes that entails taking on a role that you know nothing about and you have to teach yourself how to do it from scratch.”
With the first site in Purchase, New York, open and the Berlin site set to open next weekend adjacent to the Riverbridge development, Lorrie and Brian Funtleyder may just be starting. “We have a handful of locations in the pipeline for future development.”
“We located in Berlin because we found a fantastic property in a warm, welcoming town with wonderful people. The demographics of the surrounding area are very advantageous for this business.
“The biggest challenge is finding the right location and dealing with zoning and weather challenges,” Lorrie said. “We have amazing designers and builders so once we get beyond the external factors, we are confident in the success of the project.
“Berlin has welcomed us with open arms, and is extremely supportive of the project. The town officials and the citizens are great people, and we are excited to become a part of the community,” she said.
The Boundless Adventures park at 154 River Road West will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer. Information on the park courses and admission is available at boundlessadventures.net.