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Saturday, June 3, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Clockwise from right: Claire and Delbert Kim with their
children, Jamie, Janzell and Randall, in front of
the huge Titanic inflatable slide.

Family's inflatable business is expanding

The business is booming, but it
allows flexibility so they can
care for Grandma

By Rod Ohira


CLAIRE and Delbert Kim turned Kim Chee the Clown's misfortune into a fortunate opportunity as owners of a prospering home business that allows them to care for an ailing relative.

"It's a blessing," Claire said of Xtreme Fun Rentals Inc., the Wahiawa inflatable-games and party company she and her husband started three years ago.

With a flexible work schedule, the Kims have been able to fulfill their commitment to provide home care for Claire's 88-year-old grandmother, Kaaha Medeiros, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Delbert first heard about inflatables, which are also called bouncers and jumpers, during his Kim Chee the Clown performing days.

"I had a booking cancel a day or two before a party because this guy found a package deal with a clown and bouncer," Kim said. "It was the first time I heard about bouncers.

"About two weeks later, my cousin had a party with a clown and bouncer."

Intrigued by the potential of inflatables, Kim did market research that showed only six of them were available on Oahu in early 1997.

"We saw there was an unfulfilled niche," he said. "So we used Claire's retirement money, about $40,000, to buy five inflatable units -- three jumpers and two crawl-throughs -- and a van."

A home-based business was ideal for Claire, who had given up a good-paying job at Sprint Hawaii for the better hours of doing desktop publishing at home.

"It was a risk, but if you don't take risks, you're always going to wonder later if it could have flown," she said.

Last year, Xtreme Fun Rentals grossed $400,000.

The company now employs 20-35 part-time employees and claims to have the largest inventory of inflatables for children in Hawaii.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The Kims avoid being crushed by the footsteps of a balloon-giant.

Among their stock of 65 inflatables are "big-boy toys" for adults such as 24-foot-high rock-climbing walls and a 110-foot-long, 33-foot-high obstacle course and slide called "Titanic" which weighs 1,000 pounds.

A Sand Island-based company has an indoor rock-climbing wall, but Xtreme Fun Rentals is the only company in Hawaii with walls that can be set up anywhere, Delbert said.

Tihati Productions is also in the "big-boy toys" business, but Xtreme Fun Rentals has some different inflatables, so it's not unusual to use both companies at one site, he added.

The Kims have developed their clientele base mostly through trade shows and word of mouth.

"It's popular because people are just dying for entertainment and challenges. ... With the inflatables, the party comes to them; they don't have to go out to (amusement) places," Delbert said.

"We do 150-200 parties in a good month. The average is about 40 parties per weekend."

Xtreme Fun Rentals specializes in children's parties, offering 30 inflatable themes, ranging from castles to jungle animals and dinosaurs. Inflatables for keiki parties cost $140 to $550 for four hours.

The "big-boy" items are more expensive. It costs $2,300 for four hours to rent the "Titanic." A smaller, children's version called "Tot-tanic" rents for $500.

Delbert is looking at marketing regional community fairs featuring large inflatables as an option to carnivals. "Renting carnival rides is expensive," he said.

The Kims agree that what adds to the success of their business is that it gives them the opportunity to care for Medeiros, who is Claire's maternal grandmother and her only relative living in Hawaii.

"Claire is a caregiver; that's really her full-time job," Delbert said. "She's been taking care of Grandma for 8-1/2 years.

"There are days when she'll pass her off to me because it can get real stressful, since everything with Grandma is instant gratification.

"We took her to the Brothers Cazimero Christmas concert, and she tapped her feet and sang along with the music. But she couldn't remember anything about the concert afterward."

The Kims have three children -- Janzell, a Class of 2000 graduate of Kamehameha Schools; Randall, 15, and Jamie, 12.

Delbert, 42, is the youngest of Louise and Ferry Kim's six children and a member of Hawaii's 1984 Family of the Year. His mother was also Hawaii's Mother of the Year in 1997.

"Between the company and Grandma, it's a full life," said Kim, a Wahiawa native.

Kim met his wife, the former Claire Septon, while they were students at Brigham Young University-Hawaii in 1980. They have been married since 1981.

Claire is the daughter of retired Marine Sgt. Arthur Septon. Her mother, the former Naomi Lo of Hawaii, died when she was 16.

"It's hard looking after Grandma, but as I tell my children, they're very fortunate to have a living great-grandparent. And we're very fortunate to have her with us, too."

Despite the growth of Xtreme Fun Rentals, Delbert has not given up his full-time insurance business. He admits it is becoming very difficult to do both.

"I've been selling life insurance for 20 years, and I've got over 1,000 clients," he said. "I feel a big obligation to them because keeping my promise to service them is important to me.

"So we're starting to look for someone to help market the rental business full time."

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