I met with Kyle Batta and Kelly Dugger, the owners of Climb Lafayette. Kyle is a Lafayette native, and Kelly moved here from Evansville for school. I wanted to talk to them about what it was like to start their own business, what got them interested in climbing, and how it’s changed their lives. Climb Lafayette is a new climbing gym opening on the south side of Lafayette. Kyle and Kelly are determined to share climbing with the community, create a positive and encouraging atmosphere for others to join in their love for climbing.
Climb Lafayette is having their official Grand Opening June 5th at 3:30. Come out and celebrate if you can!
What was it that got you into climbing? How did you start to get where you are today?
Kyle: About 4 years ago I was quite a bit heavier, I started jogging, eventually I had lost about 96 pounds. I started thinking to myself: “what could I do now that I’m a little more svelte.” I tried climbing a couple of trees randomly and I decided to go skydiving in California. On a jog one day I decided to go rock climbing. I did some research and found a place in Indy. I went climbing with my niece for the first time, and eventually I made some new friends that wanted to climb.
I started climbing once every two weeks, then it moved to every week, and then a couple of times every week.
Climbing was something I had always wanted to try. Watching kids climb, and seeing how much fun they have is something special. If I climb a tree, especially When I would climb a tree and my niece would try and follow, shed get in trouble; but when we’d go climbing at the gym her parents were cheering her on to go higher. I wish there had been something like this around when I was a kid, I would have died of joy, I would have loved it.
Ever since that first climb I found friends that wanted to climb. I’d get several books and read up on everything that I could. I was always learning new types of things. I started eating better, so I could climb better, I started doing more exercises to climb better. I was doing everything I could to increase my climbing as a whole. About a year or so after my first climb I started dating Kelly.
Kelly: I had climbed before. I went to Vertical Escape in Evansville with my church group. I came up here for school for pharmacy. I had asked him to take me climbing with him when I found out about his hobby. He would go climbing on the weekends when I was working, and since then she’s been coming with me and we’ve just been having a ball.
Other than starting your own climbing gym, how has climbing changed you?
Kyle: Problem solving is the biggest part. If you’re climbing and you want to go a certain route you might need to take some time to figure it out, but eventually it just clicks.
Kelly: Climbing is part mental and part physical. Its not just exercising to exercise, there’s a whole mental workout as well.
Kyle: You might take a route and not make it, then come back the next day or the next week and make it this time. I dont make it to the top all the time, but it is not about making it to the top. We feel it is about trying and if you fail, who cares. Flexibility helps, and I’m not flexible at all. If you’re good at yoga, you have a step up on everybody else starting out. If you can climb a ladder, you can climb a route.
What kind of research did you do to open your own climbing gym? What were some of your challenges or obstacles you’ve had to overcome to make it to this point?
Kyle: I met with a couple of small business associations. There are so many free resources for starting your own business to help you get on, and stay on track.
I was living in an apartment during the early stages and I went in to detective mode. I started putting things up on the wall. I started connecting things, assessing problems, and trying to resolve them. Working though the problem solving and trying to nail down the finances.
We’ve been to other gyms and we’ve really wondered why they did certain things. We started visiting other gyms throughout the midwest and tried to understand why they were doing things a certain way. We tried to take the good points and improve on what they’re doing. We’ve noticed a lot of fitness gyms putting in climbing walls, but climbing is more of an afterthought, than the primary focus, and they lose a lot of the atmosphere.
Kelly: The financing was the hardest part. Market research for this area is really small. There are few climbing gyms in this part of the country, finding financing was the hardest part. We caught a break with a company that loans money to healthcare workers. It was a twist on their typical business loans.
Kyle: We worked on 3 year projections, local business owners, and consulted with a climbing gym consultant and they all said it was possible. If we can make it work on those numbers, we’re happy. We just want to share climbing with the community, and just want to share the love with climbing with everybody.