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Saturday, Jun 15, 2024

New Heights For Climbing Gym

Sender One Climbing, an indoor rock climbing gym—where, full disclosure, I coached youth climbers for nearly three years prior to joining the Business Journal—is scaling new heights.

The Santa Ana-based gym differentiates itself from others with its “family-friendly offerings,” according to Chief Executive Alice Kao, who co-founded the company with her husband, Chief Operating Officer Wes Shih, and President Wes Chu.

Options range from introductory climbing courses and fitness classes to youth climbing teams and organized birthday parties. The gym also sells memberships for its more traditional gym and kid-friendly climbing center, Sender City.

The company’s vision seems to be paying off. Sender One brought in $7.4 million in revenue for the 12-month period ended June 30, earning itself the No. 14 ranking among small companies (see list, page 50), according to this week’s issue dedicated to the fastest-growing private companies in Orange County. It counts two-year revenue growth of 86%.

Since its debut in 2014, Sender One SNA doubled the size of its yoga and fitness center and expanded its bouldering area by 2,200 square feet.

It also added a second full-service gym, equipped with rope walls, a bouldering area, a kid-friendly center, and yoga and fitness area, in Los Angeles.

Its second location, near LAX airport, contributed to the company’s spike in revenue, in addition to “consistent growth at the SNA location,” said Kao.


The indoor climbing industry has grown 7.2% to $638.1 million over the last five years to 2018, according to IBISWorld. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

“There has been quite a bit of competition in recent years, but [where there is demand] it’s only natural for competition to fill in the gaps,” noted Kao.

San-Francisco-based Planet Granite will add one more indoor rock climbing gym later this year in Orange County. Sender One plans more locally as well.

“We’ve seen continuous growth, and we’re steadily increasing employees to deal with increasing demand,” Kao said. “In the next three to five years, we’ll be in accelerated growth mode.”

The company plans to add at least two, if not three, gyms to its portfolio next year.

Sender One is currently looking for opportunities in North and South Orange County to build its third full-service gym, Kao told the Business Journal last week.

There is no established timeline for the OC gym at this time.

It also plans to add two more gyms in the L.A. area next year, one at a previously announced spot in Playa Vista and another in the greater Los Angeles area, which the company is weeks away from announcing.

Global Stage

Interest in the sport has exploded in recent years, in part due to feature films such as the Academy-Award winning documentary “Free Solo,” which shows Sacramento native Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without ropes.

And the climbing community will get an even bigger audience next year, when it arrives at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Sender One will play its part in the community by hosting the 2020 Pan-American Continental Championships, where hopefuls from North, Central and South America will compete to represent their country at the Olympic Games.

“We are proud USA Climbing has chosen to partner with Sender One to bring this new competition to life as part of the Olympic movement,” said Shih in a statement.

According to Kao, the qualifying event will take place at Sender One’s SNA and LAX locations over the course of a week.

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