MACON – Mercer University alumnus Trent Coggins recently shared with students his journey and successes opening an entertainment complex in Valdosta.

A triple Bear who holds his B.A., MBA and J.D. from Mercer, Coggins spoke during the first session of the Stetson-Hatcher School of Business’ new Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.

During the talk, held Oct. 25 at the Mercer Innovation Center, he told students how he went from being a real estate attorney and then professor at Valdosta State University to also an entrepreneur.

After visiting a trampoline park with his family, Coggins decided he wanted to venture into opening one in his hometown, and he named it Recoil Trampoline Park.

“I started contacting franchises, and they weren’t interested in Valdosta because they said we were too small,” Coggins said. “So, I started going back on some of the education that I had received, particularly the MBA, and doing research to determine whether or not I thought it would work in a place like Valdosta. I determined what the expenses would be, put together a business plan and ultimately made the decision that I thought it would work.”

The trampoline park opened in September 2019. Despite having immediate success, it had to be closed indefinitely five months later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While waiting for the pandemic to subside, Coggins knew he wanted to expand his business. In September 2021, he opened an area for laser tag and recently added a virtual reality station.

Additionally, Coggins is preparing to open a 5,400-square-foot arcade, which will be the largest in South Georgia.

“I went from being an attorney and a professor to what I call an accidental entrepreneur and running a pretty successful trampoline park business,” Coggins said.

The motivation for this journey can be attributed to Mercer professor Dr. Andrew Diele, who taught Coggins when he was pursuing his MBA in the late 1990s.

Dr. Diele urged Coggins to “invest in things that your children are interested in” and to remember that “your business is either growing or dying,” which are two concepts he shared with students who attended the Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.

Based on the ideas that his professor left him with, Coggins wanted to complement the trampolines in a way that would attract other age groups to his business. Eventually, his primary age group went from kids around age 5 to now including preteens due to the inclusion of laser tag.

“The virtual reality station that we have is pretty much brand new, so it’s too early to tell any actual numbers as to what it’s doing to our age group. But I think that virtual reality can be geared towards anyone. Teenagers, college students and even adults are attracted to that kind of stuff,” Coggins said.

In addition to utilizing the knowledge from his MBA courses, Coggins was able to use the legal education he garnered from Mercer’s School of Law. In particular, he remembers how professor Reynold Kosek emphasized the importance of contract law, which played a large role in negotiations he has encountered with his business.

Coggins aims to continue expanding his business and has plans for one, three, five and 10 years in the future. The next phase includes opening another facility that is 12,000 square feet, and he is looking into adding outside attractions.

The Entrepreneurship Speaker Series will continue to highlight alumni while simultaneously teaching students practical applications of entrepreneurial content. Organizers hope to build connections between students and successful entrepreneurs.

“We don’t have the dates and times and speakers nailed down yet, but we’re going to have two or three in the spring semester,” said Dr. Marko Horn, associate professor of marketing and management.

Dr. Horn hopes the Entrepreneurship Speaker Series will continue to be an inspiration for students and teach them they don’t have to be afraid of venturing into the business world.

Featured photo courtesy Marko Horn