“Not everyone will agree with you”

It’s game point to the cofounders of Bounce, London’s happening ping-pong venue

When Dov Penzik first had the idea for Bounce, back in 2010, his wife thought he was mad. But, five years on, the 1,115m2 temple to table tennis and drinking, where revellers combine cocktails with competition on 17 full-size ping-pong tables, is one of London’s buzziest nightspots. A second location in east London is due to open early next month, along with plans to launch in the USA. But it’s not been an entirely smooth ride for Penzik and his partner, serial entrepreneur Adam Breeden, who’ve faced angry mobs, irate builders and unreasonable celebrity advisers on their path to business success.

Budget and plan AB: “When my brother and I completed the build on Lonsdale [a previous business], we’d made such a shambles of the costings that we were unable to pay the builder. He was threatening legal action, which would have instantly shut us down, so I rode pillion on a scooter up the M11 on a mercy dash to plead with the owner of the building company. We gave him half the money then and agreed to pay the other half later. It was a very close call.”

Treat people how you would like to be treated AB: “There was a morning in Bounce when we had an extraordinary electrical blowout. It killed every piece of equipment and, as 400 customers were due to arrive in a few hours, it could have been a massive, massive blow. Thankfully, we’d maintained good relationships with our suppliers and they swooped in to help us in our hour of need. They begged, borrowed and lent spare parts, patched up what they could and got us up and running in six hours.”

Not everyone will agree with you AB: “We applied for a liquor licence for another venue once, but there were a number of local residents who were unhappy for various reasons. We were invited to speak at a public meeting, and rather than the usual handful of residents showing up, 50 did. They were furious – the only thing missing that night was the flying tomatoes! I didn’t even get to explain our plans properly and they won the day.”

Trust your instincts AB: “When we were initially raising money for Bounce, it was in the middle of the credit crunch. However, the head of a major European bank was very interested in us and, incredibly, he offered us the entire funds. But there were conditions and they favoured him in every single way, so we had to walk away from the deal. It felt bad at the time, but we didn’t want to be lured away from our financial plan by a big name from a big bank. He knows the numbers we’re doing nowadays, so perhaps he’s kicking himself….”

Beware of ‘advisers’ AB: “I once found myself having a meeting and a drink with Kevin Spacey and he wanted to get involved in a deal that would work for both of us. He came to Bounce and we worked out the details. However, it was then handed over to his adviser, who basically said: ‘I don’t care what you’ve agreed with him, this is how it’s going to work’. He then reeled off a list of impossible demands and that was the end of that deal.”

Press the reset button AB: “I meditate every morning and have done for eight years. I’ll do it on a plane when I’m travelling on business or whenever I need to – it’s not that big a deal. It works for me and enables me to press a reset button that gets rid of the stresses of working life. I find that it gives me an enhanced sense of intuition, too, and when you combine that instinct with logic, you’re onto a winner.”

Fly smart AB: “I had my first first-class flight recently and I was so excited. I got on the plane and had a glass of Champagne and then another, and then sampled the wonderful wine menu (including dessert wines). Long story short, I got smashed and arrived at my destination in a much worse state than I ever would have had I been flying economy.”

Fatherhood changes you Dov Penzik: “They say that when a child is born, a father is born, and when my first came along in 2002, I gave up my day job and started a business in media distribution. It began with just me at home, working on a laptop and taking deliveries of video tapes. It was a bit mad, but it was the beginning of a solid business and it gave me the nerve to get myself out there.”

Embrace your passion DP: “After years of running that business, there was a downturn in the market, so I started looking for other things to do. My mind drifted to ping pong, which I loved when I was younger. I thought it made perfect sense to do something that was a passion project. Before I knew it, I was writing a business plan.”

Stick to your guns DP: “Bounce was a new concept. It was untried and untested. My wife thought it was mad, but I never had any doubts and just pressed on. There were objections and people doubted me at every turn, but it’s like the story of the [Victorian] shoemaker who was trying to expand into Africa. He was told, ‘Nobody here wears shoes, so there’s no market for your products.’ The shoemaker thought, ‘Great news! Nobody over there wears shoes, so there’s a huge market for my products.’”

Be adaptable DP: “When I was working as a sales manager for a tape distributor, we would give out Christmas presents to our customers. One year, a driver was ill, so I had to get suited up in the Santa costume and deliver the presents. Everyone wanted to chat to me, the driver, that day, and I got more information out of those firms than I ever would have as a sales manager.”

Be open to new experiences DP: “I got talking randomly to a hotel manager at a party and told him that we were installing a new ping-pong table. He said we really must meet someone he knew, who was the great-grandson of the creator of the game. We went along and, sure enough, that man turned out to be the head of Jaques, which makes and sells tables worldwide. Even more amazingly, he had a picture on his office wall of the building where we were planning to install Bounce and, when I told him, he was gobsmacked – it was where his great-grandfather wrote the rules of ping pong all those years ago.”

Two heads can be better than one DP: “I’ve run a business without a partner, so it was new to me when Adam came on board. The good thing is, we have very different roles, and I come from the sport side and he from the social. We do disagree sometimes, but we give each other credit where it’s due. It’s a true collaboration.”

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/