It’s not often you hear that a man dressed up in shark costume inspired a business – but that is exactly what set Chris Buck and Janine Ryd on the path to starting up their fun firm.
The dynamic duo set up mascot hire service Fun Timez Mascotz in 2014, after meeting the man-come-shark at a charity run around Shipley Country Park.
Chris, of Heanor, said: “It is quite an unusual way of creating a business plan, but it worked for us.
“Janine and I met around seven years ago in the gym, and after sparking up a friendship we began to train together.
“We took part the charity run, which many entrants were dressed up for, including the man dressed as a shark. If I’m honest the costume wasn’t great, and both Janine and I made a casual comment about how we could do better.”
But this casual comment lead to a serious discussion about setting up a business together.
The father-of-two said: “Off the back of that conversation we started to look at mascots on the internet and bought some thinking we could try our hand at entertaining at children’s parties – making an appearance as their favourite characters, having photographs taken and playing a few games.
“It all sounded pretty straight forward and we were excited about giving it a go.”
The entrepreneurs bought six costumes, named themselves Fun Timez Mascotz and set up a website, and haven’t looked back since.
The 45-year-old, who is also a full-time grounds maintenance worker, said: “Business has really grown since the humble beginning. We now have around 55 different mascots and have gone from 20-minute appearances to often spending up to two hours at a single party.
“The mascots are real crowd pleasers, the kids absolutely love them, and while we’re there it gives the parents a bit of a break.”
Despite it being a bit of fun, it’s something Chris takes very seriously.
“We create a magical party experience, we will play games with the children, provide music, dance, take photos and have lots of fun. Their faces light up and we help give them a really special day to remember and in turn create memories for everyone to cherish forever.
“Both Janine and I do full time jobs as well, so the appearances are a stress relief for me and I don’t really see it as work, I really enjoy it.
“It is so rewarding to put a smile on the kid’s faces, you’re only young once and we work hard to keep the magic alive for them before they got older and more sceptical.”
And Chris says that from now until the end of December he and Janine, 36, from Jacksdale, will be going from party to party as its the firm’s busiest time of year.
“We are non-stop from now until the end of the year now especially with Hallowe’en and Christmas coming up there are lots more parties. It’s great being busy though, it’s how we would like it to stay.”
And there is one particular role that Chris can’t wait to play – Santa Claus.
He is already checking his outfit is in pristine condition and preparing his homemade sleigh.
“For everyone else October might be too early to start thinking about Christmas, but not for me. I’m already booked for appearances over the festive period and I honestly can’t wait – it is truly magical.”
As well as Santa, Chris has a wardrobe full of character costumes including Pokemon, Minions, Elsa, Anna and Olaf from Frozen, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Buzz and Woody from Toy Story, Fireman Sam, Darth Vader, Captain America and many more.
“The most popular costumes tend to be the result of what is in favour film or music wise at the time – Frozen was huge earlier this year, but is dying down now. However, you can never seem to go wrong with a Disney Princess.”
The appearances can also include music, with Chris’ son Adam, 13, pitching in to help DJ.
“Adam often comes along to help as does my daughter Lucy.
“My wife Louise also sometimes helps with the bookings, and Janine’s daughter Chelsea has been involved too. It is a real labour of love and certainly a family affair.”
Next May will mark the company’s three-year anniversary and Chris and Janine hope to continue to go from strength to strength.
“We have done a lot to be proud of in the past couple of years.
“We were responsible for creating the Donington Park mascot Donny, which was a great achievement. But I am most proud of starting from nothing and developing the business into what it is today, with eight staff and constant bookings.
“But there is still so much we want to do. Next year looking to use the business to be able to host charity days for causes close to our hearts.
“Both mine and Janine’s grandmothers died of Alzheimer’s and I have nephew and niece which suffer from Down’s Syndrome and Autism, so these would be our chosen charities.
“It’s early days yet and we will need to start planning, but we would like to be able to give back to those in need – success is nothing without sharing.”
For more information about Fun Timez Mascotz visit: http://funtimezmascotz.co.uk.
Alternatively, call 07811 145579 or 07990 577261.