Several months ago, I came across a New Zealand business in Australia by pure accident. It was a birthday party for a friend's teenage daughter at Clip 'n Climb, and it's such a quintessentially Kiwi business that learning about its heritage came as no surprise.
The indoor climbing centre has hit a lot of the right notes in Melbourne. It is garishly bright and cheerful, with blaring music that makes it part nightclub, part amusement park, and it does something many other brands would kill for: it appeals to kids of all ages (including adult ones).
It seems the perfect antidote to the usual indoor entertainment complexes, places like Luna Park and XX, which feel pretty tired these days and in need of serious makeovers.
Clip 'n Climb comes hot on the heels of trampolining brand Bounce, which popped up about 3 years ago in Australia and underwent an epic national expansion.
Both brands have tapped straight into traditionally fickle and difficult markets and they've worked a bit of magic by appealing to both girls and boys who are primary school aged, teenagers and young adults - all at the same time.
And it's not just the kids who are happy. Parents are delighted to take their kids to a sporting place or outsource their kid's birthday party somewhere age appropriate and fun. The power of word-of-mouth and social media has played a big part in the success of both Bounce and Clip 'n Climb.
I took my kids to celebrate a 13-year old girl's birthday. I watched the teenage girls climb with equal enthusiasm as the boys, I saw kids in their late teens enjoying the place, and then my 5-year old son scaled some serious heights in his little harness too. You can't fault a business that engages so many groups and gets them out and active.
I got chatting to the managing director of the first and only Clip 'n Climb in Australia. She told me a little of the history between serving giant pizza for a booked-out birthday for 80 kids. I learned that the business was launched in Christchurch in 2006 by John Targett and Tim Wethey, an Irishman and a Kiwi, and that the concept is now in the Europe, North America and Asia. She also told me that the harness equipment is manufactured in New Zealand, with safety a huge priority.
The Australian business has a connection to the original New Zealand founder, but it is run independently. In fact I'm pretty sure the MD introduced me to the founder's brother, who is also working on the Aussie business.
Clip 'n Climb operates under a licensing model and different climbs or "challenges" can be bought individually to recreate a centre of whatever size. Right now there are 28 challenges across a number of levels, with names like Leap of Faith, Speed Climb, Dark Tower and Big Cheese.
Having been to so many of these places for my own kids and taken them to a multitude of birthdays, right now Clip 'n Climb is in the lead. It's reasonably priced at AU$18.50 for one hour (or $12.50 for under 5-year olds), serves pretty decent food that you don't mind your kids eating (in other words, not reheated hotdogs and nuggets) and you don't get the injuries that Bounce has become known for.
Next time I might leave the kids behind and give it a go myself.