The Time Has Come, 06.24.20

The Time Has Come, 06.24.20

12:05 pm by Jeremy Balboni

Dear Brooklyn Boulders,

Today I am writing to let you know I am leaving my day to day responsibilities as CEO of Brooklyn Boulders. This is a decision that has been in the making for the last few weeks. For the last 10 years, Brooklyn Boulders has been my home, my shelter, my family, and a huge part of my life.

When this all began, I was only 19. A friend invited me to go climb. I learned how to tie a figure 8 knot in the parking lot and walked into the Boston Rock Gym a bit timid. I obviously failed the belay test although thankfully back then gyms were less strict. So up the wall I went.

It changed everything for me. Life had not always been easy. I lost my father when I was 4 and it was just me and mom. It had always felt like it was me against the world and I had not yet found my home. But from that point on, everything would be about climbing. What people thought of me became less important. “Success,” however people define it, became something else. Today I know what it all means but back then I knew it felt real, but I didn’t know why. Climbing gives us our superpower. It gives us purpose and belonging, the very foundation of happiness. It gives us a community. A shield against the world. A place to call home when everything else falls apart.

I wrote the business plan for Brooklyn Boulders shortly thereafter. I knew I wanted to bring this sport to a bigger audience. I knew how many people felt just like me and needed only a hand to look up and believe. Life took its twists and turns, and we didn’t revisit the business plan until a few years later. It was 2008 and the world was beginning to shake as the Great Recession was upon us. BKB opened its doors in the midst of that chaos, which was challenging from a business standpoint, but much needed when it came to giving the community a refuge.

We had no idea what we were doing but we knew why we were making BKB happen. So we fought. We survived. We didn’t listen to the naysayers and the ones that didn’t believe. We were going to bring climbing to Brooklyn.

We never imagined what would happen. Everyone came. Different backgrounds, different income levels, different looks, different feels, different flavors. Rebels, misfits, the pretty ones, the weird ones, the young and the old. It didn’t matter. It was an open house party. At that point, we knew what it was like to give others the superpower we had discovered. I quit my cushy job, my nice salary, my title, my identity, I risked all that I had built until then. I dedicated my life to Brooklyn Boulders. It was 2011 and for the last 10 years it’s all I have known. Day and night, weekends, holidays, vacations, I lived, breathed, and only thought about BKB. The ups and the downs, the successes and the failures, the lessons learned and the lessons given. But one facility after the other, it was all worth it. The business was successful but that was secondary. It was the change we made, the people we united, and the trail we blazed that mattered.

While I have been winding down my role as CEO in the recent weeks, Lance and I will continue to advise the Company from our seats on the Board of Directors and the team will be led by an executive committee of Shane O’Brien, David Hurd, Mark Seiger, Martin Adler, and Ty Foose. I will continue to offer support until we have finalized the new executive structure. Beyond this point, and as I begin my next adventure, I will ensure to always have BKB front and center and help the company in any way I can.

I leave BKB in a tempestuous time. Not unlike when it all began. Today the world is shaking because it’s time to make real change happen. BKB has the people, the beliefs, and the core values to do its part to once again make a difference in people’s lives. Its senior leadership is ready to respond to the call. Give purpose and belonging to people and they will find happiness. The world needs BKB and BKB needs the world.

It is now up to the next generation to keep moving it forward. The time has come to pass the baton. Every company deserves new ideas, new passions to ignite, and a new rebel to take up the good work we do and see it thrive. I cannot wait to see what you will do. Take this moment and make the world shake. Give it hope. Give it leadership. Give it a place to call home when people need refuge. Unite people. Give them a common enemy to fight.

I love you BKB. You will always be in my heart.

A Letter From Our CEO, 05.15.20

4:24 pm by Jeremy Balboni

A Letter From Our CEO, 03.30.20

10:54 pm by Jeremy Balboni

To our BKB Community,

To ensure the safety of our community we, like countless businesses around the world, suspended our operations earlier this month. In the weeks since, our world has changed around us in unprecedented ways and our doors remain unable to open. Few of us could have ever imagined what has transpired and yet we continue to stand strong, as one community, ready to do whatever it takes to make it through and to support as many people as possible, together.

Throughout this crisis we’ve had three main goals that have driven all the decisions we’ve made:

  1. Ensuring our staff has the financial support, tools, and resources necessary to make it through this tumultuous time.
  2. Safeguarding BKB’s future, ensuring it is standing strongly when we reopen.
  3. Keeping our community as happy + healthy as possible,  by doing our part to flatten the curve while staying connected even at a distance, through virtual programming, including climbing training for our BKBeasts teams, fitness programming, community events and more.

To support our team, when we closed all our facilities on March 16th, we immediately committed to paying all employees as normal through March 31st. Our goal was to minimize disruption while our government prepared to respond to the unprecedented economic fallout caused by this pandemic. The generosity of our members who chose to convert their payment to future credits has allowed us to accomplish that goal, retaining 100% of our team members until our government could deliver a longer term solution. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARE) Act has ensured the employees we must temporarily furlough will be afforded an unprecedented level of benefits and consideration, exceeding the resources BKB can provide during this time including many receiving 100% of their previous pay. Going forward, we will retain a critical contingency of staff in each of our facilities as well as senior leadership, departmental managers and some support staff, and community support teams in our Headquarters.

With the extension of nationally enforced social distancing rules through the end of April, all BKB facilities will remain closed at least until that time. We continue to ask the members that can to continue to invest in BKB until we reopen by maintaining their monthly membership in exchange for future credits so that we have the financial means to support as many necessary expenses as possible. As the storm continues we will be working with a smaller team but one that is necessary to ensure Brooklyn Boulders weathers this tempest. Over the last decade we have made it through many ups and downs and have always come back stronger; this time will be no different.

In addition to State and Federal benefits available, we wanted to ensure that our furloughed team members maintain access to healthcare during this time.  Therefore we will not only continue to pay for the employer portion of our team members’ health insurance premiums, but will also cover the employee portion so that there is never a choice between medical coverage and bills. To make this possible, all senior leadership and remaining team members have taken substantial pay cuts. In addition, I have personally decided to forgo my entire salary so as to retain as many team members as possible while creating additional opportunities for our furloughed employees.

One such opportunity can be found in our new professional development fund created for our furloughed employees so that those who qualify can use this time to pursue their interests and expand their knowledge.  With financial support for professional development, paid opportunities to teach virtual classes for our community and ongoing access to our Culture team for guidance, we’re working to stay as engaged and connected with our entire team as possible.

Our roots are in NYC, the epicenter of the crisis here in the United States. We know how difficult and harrowing this has been for everyone, and how much harder it has been for all those fighting this war on the front lines. Our first responders, our nurses, our doctors, and all the staff necessary to provide medical care to those in needs are our heroes. My family and I will make a $20,000 donation to NYC medical non-profits and BKB will match this donation with revenue from membership dues. This means a portion of your continued commitment will go directly to support those on the front lines. In addition, and once we reopen, we will provide $110,000 in free access for first responders, medical professionals, and their families bringing our total contribution to these heroes to $150,000.

We cannot wait to climb with you again. Until then, please do all you can do stay safe and we’ll do all we can to stay connected.

Climb on,

Jeremy Balboni

Chief Executive Officer