Without a rope: How an Idaho small business is climbing to new heights
With two growing businesses competing for space, the owners of Idaho-based Asana Climbing, with the help of their Wells Fargo banker and the backing of a U.S. Small Business Association loan, financed a new custom build-out to accommodate both their gym and production facility.
Editor’s note: A priority for Wells Fargo is helping our customers improve their financial health. And for many of the bank’s small-business owners, their focus is on helping improve the physical health of their clients and communities. In our ongoing “Healthy Living” series, we feature several of their stories, showcasing how their businesses are helping people live healthier lives.
Walking into business owners Jamey Sproull and Rory O’Leary’s new facility in Garden City, Idaho, you’re greeted by large white walls that jut out at disorienting angles, each covered in a dizzying rainbow of colored markings reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting.
But this masterpiece is something altogether different.
It’s the home of Asana Climbing, an indoor facility where visitors can test their climbing skills on the hundreds of color coded climbing holds attached to those crazy sideways walls.
Along with operating the climbing gym, Asana is an internationally known manufacturer of custom indoor padding systems, crash pads, chalk bags, and other accessories for rock climbing and bouldering — a type of rock climbing performed on boulders or climbing walls without the use of ropes or harnesses.
“Ironically, I did not start Asana to be the owner of a company this size — this started as a hobby,” said Sproull. “I was not a risk-taker, but I followed my passion where I saw climbing and bouldering going because it was still really in its youth in the late ‘90s. So what we committed to was not only building the best gear possible, but really to grow the sport and its leaders.”
Sproull’s hobby became so successful that he eventually quit his day job as a middle school teacher to focus 100 percent of his time on managing and growing his company. During this transition, Sproull and O’Leary began working together on the gym, creating a place for the local climbing community to come together, and a way to showcase the quality of their products directly to their customers.
“In addition to climbing, the other services that Asana offers — ninja warrior, aerial silks, yoga, and capoeira classes — create an environment where people can challenge themselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and even socially,” said O’Leary, who originally joined Asana as a part-time employee during his summers off from college.
Bringing both businesses under one roof
About a year ago, the success of both the manufacturing business and the climbing gym caused Asana to outgrow its operating space. Sproull and O’Leary needed a larger building that could house both the production facility and the gym under one roof. So, the two friends and business partners looked to their Wells Fargo banker, John Bowler, for ideas on how to finance this next phase for the company.
“Jamey had talked about wanting to move into a new facility, but he didn’t know how that would work out financially,” said Bowler. “After evaluating Asana’s capital position, it made sense to pursue an SBA 7(a) loan to cover the cost of the custom build-out at a new location to create both the gym and the manufacturing spaces.”
A U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loan from Wells Fargo gave Asana the ability to do just that, without the upfront costs associated with other loan products*.
“With a conventional loan, you’re looking at putting 25 percent down, whereas you can get into an SBA 7(a) loan with only 10 percent down,” said Bowler. “And to make it work even better for the small-business owner, some of the costs already in the business can count toward that 10 percent, which is what we were able to do with Asana.”
Now up and running, the 30,000-square-foot facility has allowed Asana to shorten production cycles and double its daily visitor count.
“Asana is what we call ‘everything bouldering,’ in the sense that we live, breathe, and sleep bouldering,” said Sproull. “We love it, we love the sport, and we love the people involved in it.”
Walking into Asana Climbing’s new facility, the sounds of laughter, cheers, and words of encouragement from instructors and friends fill the cavernous building. It’s pretty clear to hear and easy to see that this is a community that Sproull and O’Leary have worked hard to build, even if you’re hanging upside down.
*All financing is subject to final credit approval.