Dave Spelman is the manager of indoor climbing and caving venue UpUnlimited. Based in Richmond and Moorabbin in Melbourne, his team offer family-friendly climbing activities and climbing education programs that are fun for people of all ages and abilities. We spoke to Dave about some of the highs and lows of being involved in a business going through rapid expansion.
I’m passionate about climbing and outdoor activities, and love sharing this with younger generations. It’s so rewarding and beneficial to do something active, and to get kids into an activity in the city that’s so tactile, colourful and engaging. It’s awesome and a really exciting feeling.
The thing that makes UpUnlimited really special is the focus on personal development and confidence building. We pick our climbing staff based on energy, enthusiasm and passion so they can help kids develop their climbing skills. We constantly receive great feedback about how awesome our staff are, and that makes all the difference.
We sometimes get kids as young as one and a half come to us. Young children often start one of our sessions and are a bit unsure about climbing up high. That’s where our staff come in – they’ll climb with them and encourage them to go up a little bit at a time and fall off. Time after time, we see that by the end of the two hours, kids are climbing all the way up and jumping down themselves! Seeing that leap in confidence in such a short amount of time is really something.
The beauty of building a new business
When I started with UpUnlimited, we had just opened a second venue, and because it was new I was able to help shape its direction. I love coming into something that’s starting up; there are so many different challenges but you really get to help make the mould. Those first few months of business were definitely the most stressful, but the most rewarding for me as well. Climbing has become more competitive in Melbourne over the last few years and we have had to adapt and change how we work.
I was really driven to start a coaching program, and being part of a small business meant I had the autonomy to do so. It makes sense with how popular the sport is becoming – people want to engage more in urban sports. Climbing is even going to be an Olympic sport in 2020 so it’s the right time to start fostering young talent who will want to get involved.
The excitement of expansion
I mentioned the challenge of opening a new venue, and the sudden upsurge of team members was one of those challenges. We went from 2 staff to 70 in such a short amount of time and we needed software and systems that could support that growth. Luckily, we already had Xero – it was one of the first purchases UpUnlimited ever made, and it was a fundamental part of that huge expansion.
Things like being able to merge our booking system and automate processes like payroll meant we had already automated tour most complex financial processes. Xero draws information straight from our staffing rosters which makes the logistics so much easier. The award schemes can be quite complex when you consider overtime rates and working nights – it can be a huge challenge. Xero is really useful in helping us meet those reporting and regulatory obligations, and seeing where to take things next.