After a turbulent couple of years, it’s not surprising that so many people enjoy hurdling an axe toward a target.
The first axe throwing league began in 2006 in a backyard in Toronto. Matt Wilson, who founded the Backyard Axe Throwing League, is credited with popularizing the activity in Canada. Eventually, the sport found its way down to the U.S.
Today, the activity is one of the fastest-growing American pastimes — with axe throwing businesses thriving from Mississippi to California. If you’re curious about diving into the business of axe throwing, or already run a venue, we’ve compiled the most recent axe throwing statistics to help you better navigate the industry.
Let’s dive in.
General Axe Throwing Industry Trends
- Axe throwing was one of the fastest-growing trends in entertainment before the pandemic. There was a 317% increase in axe-throwing sales from 2018 to 2019.
- Consumers spent more than $6 million on axe throwing experiences through Square sellers in 2019.
- As of 2020, there are hundreds of axe throwing venues across Canada, the U.S., Australia, Europe, and Thailand.
- Axe throwing bars started picking up steam in 2017, opening all over the U.S.
- Axe throwing venues have become popular for group events like bachelorette and bachelor parties and corporate retreats.
How big is the axe throwing industry in 2023?
- Revenue across the industry is about $215 million a year and growing, according to the World Axe Throwing League (WATL), America’s largest.
- The industry revenue has grown at an annualized rate of 1.9% to $203.3 million over the five years to 2021.
- The axe throwing market is currently worth $163 million.
- There are about 360 axe throwing businesses in the U.S.
- The industry employs 2,416 people.
Is axe throwing a growing trend or just a fad?
While modern-day axe throwing was discovered in Canada, the sport has since gone international. Axe throwing clubs have sprung up around the U.S. and beyond. The International Axe Throwing Federation, for example, has more than 20,000 members spanning 150 cities and 9 countries.
There’s even an “International Axe Throwing Day,” which is celebrated worldwide on June 13. In 2018, ESPN aired the first World Axe Throwing Championship in Chicago.
The activity’s fun and friendly nature coupled with the fact that it’s a great stress reliever has made it one of the trendiest entertainment options in the U.S. As consumers continue to prioritize experiences, all signs point to a growing industry.
Where is axe throwing most popular?
The first axe throwing facilities in the U.S. opened in Philadelphia and Chicago in 2016.
Axe throwing is most popular in the following states:
- North Carolina
They’ve also become very popular in major cities like:
- New York
- Washington, DC.
How much does it cost to start an axe throwing business?
The startup costs of an axe throwing business will be determined by space and number of lanes.
You’ll need to lease a facility that can accommodate your desired number of axe throwing lanes; hire your staff (axe throwing instructors, supervisors, front desk personnel, cleaners, etc.); and equip the facility.
Here’s a breakdown of what these costs might look like:
- Insurance liability coverage: $10,000 to $25,000
- Throwing axes: $20 up to $150 per axe
- Setting up the facility: $50,000 and $150,000 to remodel a building to accommodate the activity
- Small axe throwing venus will need a minimum staff of between 1 and 5 people. According to Indeed, the average hourly pay ranges from approximately $9.95 per hour for a bartender to $17.88 per hour for an assistant manager.
Security, facility and equipment maintenance, and replacement are ongoing costs of running an axe throwing business.
What do you need to do before starting an axe throwing business?
1. Devise a smart pricing strategy.
Start by researching other ace throwing venues in the area or similar entertainment attractions. Look into their pricing models to get a baseline understanding of your competitive landscape.
Follow up by making a list of your expected operating costs — including those that we outlined above. Rent, equipment maintenance, marketing fees, and staff wages should be factored in.
The ultimate goal is to make a profit off of each game played, while remaining competitive in your market. There are several pricing models you may consider, such as seasonal or demand-based pricing, where you mark up your prices when demand is high and do the opposite when it drops off.
2. Choose the most suitable legal entity, such as an LLC, C Corp, or S Corp.
Let’s see which business structure would suit your company best. Please note that while this information provides a general understanding, it’s important to consult with a reputable accountant and lawyer for personalized advice.
- LLC: A limited liability company (LLC) is a popular choice for small businesses like yours. This is because it offers a flexible structure that combines elements of a corporation and a partnership. Yet the baseline goal is to protect yourself from liability, and that’s exactly what it does. An LLC successfully separates your personal assets from business liabilities.
- Pros: Compared to corporations, LLCs often have fewer formalities and reporting requirements. Plus, you can choose to have your business taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or an S Corp, depending on what tax structure benefits you the most.
- Cons: LLC members are subject to self-employment taxes on their share of the profits.
- C Corp: A C Corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners, making it better suited for large-scale tour companies and attractions.
- Pros: You’ll have limited liability protection, as well as the ability to attract investors and raise capital through stocks.
- Cons: There are more complex compliance requirements and higher setup and maintenance costs than an LLC.
- S Corp: An S Corp is a special tax designation rather than a separate legal entity and it best-suited for small to mid-sized ace-throwing venues.
- Pros: An S Corp gives your company something called “pass-through taxation,” allowing you to avoid double taxation. You also won’t need to pay self-employment taxes on profits beyond a reasonable salary.
- Cons: S Corps have certain eligibility requirements, such as limits on the number of shareholders that can buy into your business.
3. Choose a catchy business name.
Focus on your location and what sets your company apart. Find ways to incorporate these characteristics in your business name. If you’re having a hard time, you can also use a business name generator for more ideas. Once you’ve chosen a name, consider the following:
- Is the URL available?
- Has anyone trademarked the name?
- Are the social media handles available?
4. Purchase your insurance policies, which could include health insurance, liability insurance, risk insurance, workers’ compensation, etc.
The first step is to assess your coverage needs and evaluate the risks associated with running your business. For axe throwing venues, those risks may involve injuries to guests, property damage, and employee accidents.
Make sure to do your research. Seek out reputable insurance providers that are experienced in the needs of a recreational business like yours. You may want to ask your local business community for recommendations.
The right insurance coverage will keep your company safe in the event of a lawsuit. That being said, liability waivers are key to protecting your company, too. Xola, for instance, offers digital waivers so that guests can get their paperwork out of the way before they arrive at your venue. This ensures that every guest that steps foot in your axe throwing facility is aware of the risks involved with the activity — and keeps your company covered.
Remember, insurance needs can vary based on your business size, location, and local regulations. Always consult with insurance professionals who can assess your specific circumstances and provide tailored advice.
5. If you want to protect your company’s logo, unique concept, and operation concepts, then you’ll need to file for intellectual property protection.
You’ve got a killer logo and a cool concept for your axe throwing venue — and you don’t want your competitors to take that away from you. That’s where intellectual property (IP) comes in. IP refers to the creations of your mind that deserve legal protection. Trademarks, copyrights, and patents help legalize the ideas/concepts behind your brand, which helps keep others from copying you.
6. Find a suitable location for your venue.
To find the sweet spot for your venue, you’ll need to study the demographics of potential areas. Look for places with a thriving population of thrill-seekers and adventure enthusiasts.
Remember to check if there are any existing axe throwing venues in the area. While a bit of healthy competition can help fuel the fire, you want to choose a location that gives you a competitive edge.
Also, consider accessibility. Look for a venue that is easy to reach by your target audience, with good transportation links and ample parking options.
How many injuries occur at axe throwing businesses?
The activity of axe throwing does involve a dangerous weapon, so safety is always a concern. While injuries aren’t very common, they can occur. Overall, very few axe-related injuries are reported at the venues. Those that are reported happen from mishandling of the axes themselves, and not the axe throwing, or are caused by intoxicated guests who act unsafely.
How to keep axe throwing guests safe
All axe throwing venues must have experts on hand to teach newcomers how to throw. Many guests will be first-timers, and they need thorough safety instructions before picking up an axe. Make sure you hire properly trained staff, offer additional training if necessary, and provide the proper safety precautions for both your staff and customers.
Before arriving, guests should be aware of the risks involved and receive recommendations on how to safely participate in the activity. For example, you should make guests aware of your dress code — such as closed-toe shoes — before guests even walk through the door.
Insurance companies recommend you keep at least one supervisor for every four targets. These supervisors should be first aid certified and be ready to assist if an injury does occur. Supervisors should always take the axes with them when they leave the throwing lanes and ensure that no axes are ever left unattended.
And if you are selling or serving alcoholic beverages, the server should be trained in TIPS or TAM, training programs that ensure the responsible service of alcohol.
What to do if someone gets injured in your business
Even with all of the right precautions, injuries can still happen. Here are four steps to take in that scenario:
- Have your supervisor provide first aid assistance and assess the injury.
- Seek immediate medical attention for the injured guest, if necessary.
- Collect witness statements and create an incident report.
- Contact your insurance provider.
How to avoid being sued if someone gets injured
Having strong safety guidelines in place will help avoid injuries and protect your company from getting sued. Also, make sure each visitor signs a mandatory waiver before participating. This waiver will outline the risks and rights being waived when a customer agrees to throw an axe at your venue. While your company can still be sued, the waiver can become a key part of your defense.
Every axe throwing business needs to invest in the right insurance coverage from a reliable insurance company that will help them navigate any potential lawsuits.
Here are a few safety precautions to take to avoid being sued. Remember, the following information is provided as general guidance and should be considered as legal advice. Consult with a qualified attorney to understand the specific legal requirements and risks associated with your axe throwing business.
- Safety waivers
- Safety briefings
- Axe and target maintenance
- Axe throwing instructions
- Age limits
- Dress code
- Food and drink rules
- Employee supervision
Keep in mind that every state has a statute of limitations on personal injury claims. In most cases, it’s two years from when the injury occurred, but the number of years that victims have to file can vary widely from state to state.
Axe throwing is an exciting entertainment trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Whether you’re considering expanding your business into a new market or considering axe throwing as a new business venture, we hope this round-up has given you a solid overview of the industry and where it’s heading.