Aged just 19, Luke Wilson recently started his own business with a Little Kickers franchise in Suffolk, providing football coaching to children from 18 months to seven years old. Here’s how he’s turned his passion into his livelihood while still a teenager.
How does it feel to be one of the youngest franchisees in the country?
Incredible, I can’t actually put into words how it feels! I feel very proud and very lucky. I am very happy to own a business, especially at my age I didn’t think it would be possible.
Is it scary running your own business at just 19 years old, or exciting, or a mix of the two?
I am really excited and very motivated to get the business where I want it to be, I have always loved football from a very young age and to own a business around one of my main passions is amazing. Yeah I am a little scared, but that’s another reason why I am so motivated to make something of myself and the business.
I have got the best support from my family, I would never have dreamed of owning a business or thinking it’s achievable at my age if it wasn’t for them. They have pushed me to make something of myself and I can’t thank them enough for that. Being part of a franchise has definitely made the process a lot less stressful.
What were you doing before you started the business?
I went to Cambridge Regional College and it was there where I achieved my FA Level 1 and 2 [football coaching awards] and where I managed to pass Level 3 BTEC in sport with distinction. I also had three jobs; I worked for my local Domino’s, as a lead coach at a different Little Kickers franchise and also for a different sports coaching company. It was very hard work trying to fit in all three jobs but I made it possible.
How did you first find out about franchising and why did it appeal to you?
Whilst working for Little Kickers as a lead coach I knew that there wasn’t a franchise at all in my area. Once I had a couple of phone calls with head office, and after speaking to my family, I realised that franchising was for me. There is a lot of support given to you if you are a franchisee, more support than I ever thought there would be.
One of the other reasons franchising appealed to me was that an established brand name such as Little Kickers would be much better for me than to create my own sports company. Brand names already have a history and reputation, which is only going to benefit people who franchise these brand names.
And why Little Kickers in particular?
After speaking to my boss at the franchise I was at, he made it clear to me that Little Kickers was definitely for me. I have worked with a few coaching companies and age ranges, and Little Kickers fits me perfectly – I love coaching that age group and I believe the age targeted by Little Kickers isn’t covered by other coaching companies, which means that there is a gap in the market for this type of business.
My franchise area is brand new. I have created it which is scary but very exciting, and it’s my own project. I can’t praise Little Kickers enough. Everyone from head office is very friendly, helpful and make you feel part of a team, but at the same time let you run your business however you like – which is key when franchising. The support I have had from them has been incredible. Little Kickers is a worldwide company and that is justice to how much work everyone at the company puts in.
What was the timescale and process of starting up?
I contacted Little Kickers back in January 2015 about owning a franchise in my area, then received a franchise pack that told me all the information I needed to know. I had an interview with Salli Baker from head office and straight away she made me feel welcome which was great.
I was also in the process of getting a loan from Nwes [an enterprise agency in east England], which I had to create a business plan and financial projections for. This is where a lot of research was done of my franchise area.
Once I had the loan and franchise area agreed I then had three days training in Wales by Little Kickers with Caroline, who is one of the friendliest woman I have ever met. Once this was complete I had all the information and tools ready to start building up the infrastructure of the business.
My classes started on 12 September and the feedback I have had from customers has been incredible, couldn’t have wished for a better start.
How did you fund the startup costs?
I worked my socks off to save and earn a big part of the startup costs and then with the rest I got a loan from Nwes. The support I have had from Nwes has been amazing too, it helped me create my business plan and my financial projections.
How will you attract customers and market the business?
Having a brand name such as Little Kickers is an advertisement in itself. Social media is my biggest marketing tool, I have had many customers come from my advertising on Facebook. Local advertising such as leaflets and posters around my area have been very useful too. Now that the classes have started it’s all about building up a great reputation that everyone in my franchise area will hear about.
Do you think franchising is a good option for young people? Do you think you have any advantages because of your age?
One hundred per cent, franchising is definitely a great option for young people. It allows you to own a business but with the support of the company. Owning a business is very scary and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye and franchising gives you the guidance and support needed to make the whole process a lot less stressful.
I do believe that I do have a lot of advantages because of my age, it means that I have got a huge timescale to improve and expand the franchise. Also because I am young I still live at home and don’t have any big financial commitments, which means I have the stability to go and open up a new franchise area without any added pressure that I have a mortgage to pay or any big bills.
Parents and customers have been shocked and impressed when they find out my age but it’s not something I go shouting about. Within Little Kickers franchisees there are a variety of ages which means I can learn off the more experienced franchisees and they can learn off the younger franchisees with newer ideas and ways to advertise.
What are your business aspirations?
I want to expand my business and push it to the potential I know it’s got. As my franchise area is brand new my first hurdle is to build up a great reputation and grow from there. I’m very excited to keep adding classes but I know that slow but steady progress to keep the level of my classes and service high at all times is the best way to move forward. Myself and my business have a very exciting future ahead.
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