Fancy Soccer? This UK Co Wants Indian Kids to get Glued onto the Sport
Rather than just teaching or just football – they have the kids learning colours, numbers, socialising and more
In India, a barren field often becomes the favourite spot for kids to unleash their football skills. While these fields are dominated by older kids, the toddlers often miss out on a place. While coaching centres for football exist, what lacked in the market were centres that combined sports and education to help kids.
UK-based Little Kickers is now looking to enter the Indian space to cater to kids below the age of seven. Entrepreneur India caught up with founder of Little Kickers Christine Stanschus, as she spoke about her journey and how she left investment banking to be an entrepreneur.
From Investment Banking to Entrepreneurship
As an investment banker in London, Christine Stanschus had the perfect job that she loved, she was in and out of meetings and always travelling (first class). But when she had her first child, Lucas, travelling all the time and spending time with her son became a tough task to balance. She knew that things had to change and so, took time off. Subsequently, she spent most of her time playing football with her son. "After a while, I realised I'm not the best qualified person to teach him football. When I came across someone who was really good at the sport and also interacted well with the kids, I invited him to start classes for my son and his friends. It worked as a pilot project and the first batch was oversubscribed by 400 per cent," said Stanschus. That was also when she realised that she didn't need to go back to banking anymore. And that's how Little Kickers was founded in 2002.
The Challenges of Entrepreneurship
Having moved from a corporate high paying job, entrepreneurship to Stanschus felt like starting all over again. With not much money set aside to start a business, Stanschus ended up doing a lot of things herself. "I was running around the streets handing out flyers, putting up posters on trees... At that point, I could have stepped aside from this unproven business idea and gone back to the corporate world but the toughest thing to do was to be at it," she said.
At Little Kickers, the idea was to not just promote the sport amongst the kids but also help them learn in the process. Given that they catered to the age group of children below 7 years old, finding a professional coach too was a difficult task. Most coaches weren't used to catering kids within the said age group and would end up teaching them advance stuff. "At that point, I rethought the strategies and decided to get a nursery school teacher to design the program. So, we had a teacher who worked with the football coach to come up with a program that was relevant to kids and also had nuances of early age education in it. Rather than just teaching or just football – so we had the kids learning colours, numbers, socialising and more," said Stanschus.
Franchising to Expand Her Business
As she started increasing the number of classes, parents of her son's friend's acknowledged her efforts, for they too had noticed the gap in the market for sports activities for kids. Within a year, she set up 35 classes covering most of London, where she mainly thought competitors could arise. "At that point, I thought I can't expand my business anymore. That's when I stumbled across franchising. When a lady from Northwest London approached me to set up a centre there, I put across the idea to her to take up a franchise. And that's how we started franchising," she said.
From the Best Franchise Award in 2013 to be named in the 5 star franchise satisfaction in 2016, the journey has worked out well for Little Kickers for they have gone on to win many awards across the globe.
In an Indian family, kids are often pressurised into following many hobbies. However, if there's one thing that's never really needed a push from parents it is sports. But while classes for various sports exist for kids, a coaching centre that doesn't just teach a sport but also educates children is not a common concept in India. That's where Stanschus sees the potential in India.
She believes that once introduced, the market will spiral over the next few years for India has huge potential. But for a global company to enter the Indian market with a new concept is not easy. Stanschus knew that she had to turn to franchising to enter the Indian market, for they didn't understand the market well. "We partnered with Franglobal and they have brought in the expertise and knowledge of the local market. We have set up a team in India that will look at both the operational side of things as well as the coaching aspect," she said.
Tips for Entrepreneurs
Having been in the business for entrepreneurship for a long time now, Stanschus understands the pains of other entrepreneurs. Sharing tips with other entrepreneurs she said, "You just need to dig in and be prepared to get on with it. Once you have proved your business and financial model, you need to be all in."
Challenges, Stanschus believes, are a part of the job. When she entered global markets by franchising, there were a lot of rules or legislations they had to adhere to. "There are always going to be hiccups, things won't go as you have planned. When we faced troubles with legislations in China, as it was difficult to get approval for franchising we thought of it as a good thing, that we could make things easier for the next company attempting to do so. The trick lies in never giving up," she said.
Keeping a check on your finances is another aspect. Stanschus set up the business in London with just 300 pounds. This was also were her investment banking experience came to her rescue for she kept a constant check on the money coming and going out. "I grew organically, because I didn't have money to invest. A lot of women founded businesses follow the same pattern. It meant that there were quite a few nights where I woke up with a cold sweat thinking that I have to check spreadsheets. There were quite a few months where I couldn't pay myself but I always made ensure the team was always paid," she said.