A self-professed sports nut, Kent Oldham considers himself one lucky entrepreneur. The Triple Crown Sports franchisee gets to collect his paycheck where his passion lies.
"It's easy to get involved in a sport you love, but to actually be a business owner in that sport is uncommon," says Oldham, whose Bastrop, Texas, franchise runs local competitive amateur sports tournaments for adults and children.
Thanks to a burgeoning interest in sports nationwide, many enthusiasts are tackling opportunities to make their love of sports a business. Franchises offering such services as events and recruiting are catching on, and there's no sign of the trend abating any time soon.
According to the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), sales of sporting goods have increased between 3 and 5 percent every year since 1990 and are expected to increase another 4 percent this year. Sports overall seems to be a growing field, says Dan Kasen, NSGA's manager of information services.
There's more interest in sports in general, agrees Jack Wright, executive vice president of Collegiate Sports of America Inc., a franchise that expects to generate sales of $1 million in its 2000-2001 fiscal year. The franchise helps qualified high school athletes gain exposure to college and university coaches, giving them a shot at scholarships and a chance to play at the next level. "Participation in high school athletics and amateur sports will surpass 7 million in 2003," predicts Wright. "The amount of money being spent on [camps, uniforms and travel expenses for] amateur athletes in general is in the billions."
Because sports fans and athletes are located throughout the United States, the best model for sports-related businesses is proving to be franchises.
For 15 years, Triple Crown Sports ran tournaments from its central office-until it became apparent there had to be an easier way. "We finally decided the business lent itself to franchising because the events are done at a local level," says David King, who founded the company in 1982 and began franchising in 1997. "By franchising, we've cut down on travel costs considerably and made the operation much more profitable."
Today, with 10 owners in 24 franchise areas, Triple Crown Sports still has plenty of territories left. Each franchise has annual gross sales of anywhere from $70,000 to $420,000, with the investment required starting at $14,500 and going up, depending on the territory.
Before Triple Crown began franchising, Oldham worked for the company's corporate office. When he moved to Austin, Texas, in 1999, he bought a franchise and had a very successful first year. "Franchising is the best way to meet the needs of customers," says Oldham. "Whereas I used to fly into areas and hold the tournaments, now I actually live in one of the territories. I have time to develop personal relationships and check out the competition. In addition, I can use the elaborate network system built by the corporate headquarters."
As for having a franchise, Oldham couldn't be happier with the results. "I've had a phenomenal first year. I'm making money doing something I love, and it's all very flexible," he says. "I'm able to run the business from a home office, with part-time help on the weekends for the tournaments."
Julie Bawden Davis is an Orange, California, writer who specializes in small and homebased business issues. She often contributes to The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and Entrepreneur's Start-Ups.