On Starting The First Axe Throwing Club

Published: October 5th, 2019
Sarah Sed
Houston Axe Throwing
from Houston, Texas, USA
started June 2017
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My name is Sarah Sed, and I own Houston Axe Throwing. I opened the first axe throwing club in Texas, and one of the first in the United States, on International Axe Throwing Day June 13th, 2017. We provide axe throwing classes on-site at our facility and off-site via our mobile axe throwing unit. Anyone can throw an axe, and we do allow children 12 years of age or older to participate with a parent or guardian present to supervise. All classes are taught by one of our Axeperts (or Coaches) and include a variety of axe throwing games and even a mini tournament for longer sessions.

Houston Axe Throwing is one of the largest World Axe Throwing League (WATL) affiliate locations in terms of membership each season. The World Axe Throwing League is the body of the governing rule for our particular target style, point scoring, ruleset, and league format. In April 2019 I accepted an advisory role on the WATL Council. I have been honored to become a representative of the sport on a larger scale and to help the sport grow. League is for people of all skill levels; we have beginners and internationally ranked players on-site at the same time. A lot of the more experienced players love to coach new players and help people grow in the sport.

Houston Axe Throwing Youtube Video.

What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I didn’t realize until I was much older than I had the entrepreneurial bug from an early age. My very first business was cutting grass at 10 years old. I started just learning on our grass and expanded to our neighbor’s yard. Through word of mouth, my tiny business began to grow. Eventually, I was cutting half of the block making anywhere from $70-$150 a month. Without realizing it, I had reinvested my money back into my business and diversified my portfolio. Most kids would use that pocket money to buy video games or fun things. I always saved for a few specific things. 1- Money to re-invest into candy boxes to sell for a profit, 2- Sports equipment, 3- Back to school (and general replacement school supplies), and 4 - Our one family trip to Geauga Lake we took every summer. Since we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, I began to depend on my little stash of cash every year.

It takes time and research to find the right answers, and anything worth doing is worth doing correctly the first time.

I didn’t decide to fully commit to running my own business until many years later. I went to college (on scholarship) to The Ohio State University, and had all your very typical work-life milestones after graduation. Things changed when I got a part-time job at a zombie-themed escape room. I noticed that the escape had a lot of growing pains associated with a rapidly expanding business, so I offered to help with the day to day operations. After being promoted to an Assistant Producer I tripled profits at that location within 6 months. My hard work caught the eye of the owner and an opportunity to take over the Houston, Texas location as an owner was brought up.

I decided to take my savings and a small investment down to Houston with my then-boyfriend Matt, now husband and started the adventure. We opened the shop, paid back our debt in 6 months and expanded. When we were looking for a new project a friend told us about this new Canadian sport called axe throwing.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

At the time, the closest place to Houston, Texas to throw axes was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The mutual friend arranged a time for a bunch of people, some I already knew, to all go together. Things took a turn when there was a huge snowstorm on the east coast and my flight was canceled. I ended up flying out to Saint Louis to drive in with a friend who was also going, making it just hours before our appointment.

From the moment I walked in, I had an absolutely amazing time. I happened to pick up on throwing very quickly. Our session ended by playing a mini-tournament. I joked with the group that if I won I would have to open one. To my astonishment, I won the mini-tournament. I was completely hooked and saw so much potential for the sport and the community to grow. On the business side, it solved a lot of the issues I had with owning an escape room.

I told my husband everything and talked with the other participants about their experience. Since we were all business owners, we all had great points about different aspects of the business. I was ready to dive in when I went home. Just a few months later we opened on the first International Axe Throwing Day, June 13th, 2017. Things were going well right out the gate. We had people interested in throwing, TV personalities come out, well attended open houses and a steadily growing business. That all came to a halt on August 27th, 2017 when Hurricane Harvey came to town.

The news footage of streets flooded to the 2nd floor was literally 1 block away from our apartment. We were living in a 2nd-floor apartment so we were safe from the water but we lost both our cars. Both businesses were unaffected other than some treatable roof leaks, so overall we really considered ourselves extremely lucky.

We were surprisingly steady business-wise and attributed it to us being one of the few places open around us. People were looking for things to do who weren’t affected and were just happy that something was open and operational. Eventually business picked back up fully and we have been steadily growing ever since.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Over the past 2 years, we’ve expanded to our full capacity in terms of ranges/activity space and switched from BYOB to having a bar on-site with beer, wine, and mead. We are a profitable business and are happy with the progress we have made in the first two years. We don’t regret doing a more conservative expansion over time vs the larger capacity. The sport was very new and we had a huge unforeseen hurdle with Hurricane Harvey. In retrospect, it was actually fortunate that we decided to start smaller.

We are currently working on opening another location in the Houston area, date to be officially determined. In the next few weeks, our mobile axe throwing unit will switch from a “soft opening” to announcing that we are available for more bookings. Our league continues to grow each season and we’re extremely happy with the business’ progress.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

With this being our second business I feel like I learned a lot of operations from the escape room. I also learned about being in a burgeoning community and what to prepare for the long term. Escape rooms were seen as a fad until they stuck around for a while. The same is happening to Axe Throwing, but there is much more visibility with axe throwing tournaments being aired on ESPN. It also helps motivate the people who are passionate about the sport to perhaps make it a sustainable professional sport. There are those in the community who are pushing for axe throwing to be in the Olympics eventually.

I feel like I never stop learning in business and in life. Each day and each month brings something new, especially with each new project, change, or expansion. The most important thing I learned on the business side is that new concepts are not something anyone is really equipped to deal with in every aspect of what it takes to start a business. It takes time and research to find the right answers, and anything worth doing is worth doing correctly the first time.

Personally, I've learned the most is about axe throwing itself. I went into this completely blind but eager to learn. Everything from wood density to teaching people how to throw and everything in between. Also, how to be a part of a global community and help push for changes that benefit everyone. I am constantly changing and adjusting as different things arise in the community, and I don’t think that everything will ever be truly settled for a long time.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Some of the tools I use on a daily basis are:

Passage/Escapetix for our ticketing.

Square for on site sales.

Wheniwork for scheduling.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Who moved my cheese? Just kidding. The World Axe Throwing League has been a great resource, throwers/enthusiasts, and my fellow owners. There are many Facebook groups that you can join with tons of helpful information for everyone curious about axe throwing.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Make a business plan. Then understand that it is just a guide. There will be changes and setbacks along the way.

Never join into a partnership if you don’t have your roles, funding source, and formation paperwork fully set. There are people out there who will use people to do everything for them, then take your work and scoop everything from under you. I’ve seen it happen to others.

Use every resource available to you, but always question what you find. The internet is full of people, websites and things that can actually help you. There is also misinformation and those who are looking to scam you as well.

Do not take legal advice from the internet.

Pay for and get paid for services. Exposure is not going to pay the bills for anyone, including you.

Where can we go to learn more?