Sport Star Academy: “It is up to us to make stuff happen”

By Sarah Stowe | 27 Apr 2020 View comments

Sport Star Academy delivers sports lessons to youngsters, from pre-school age up. When the coronavirus crisis hit, franchisors Peter and Kelly Nikolapoulos were swift to take action.

Marketing director Kelly Nikolapoulos told Inside Franchise Business Executive “We started delivering online lessons when we realised the crisis is not going away any time soon. The reality is you don’t know how long it will go on.

“It is up to us to make stuff happen, we’re not going to wait for this to blow over.”

Sport Star Academy ‘make stuff happen’

Kelly says it was crucial to devise a practical, long-term solution that could be swiftly implemented. The key was to work out what the solution would be.

The business is a subscription model, and it was important for the brand to continue to provide some services to customers.

“We had workshops with select franchisees. Then it was a team effort to get the technology built and to launch a new website in 10 days.”

The resulting WordPress website with an additional payment gateway attached offers three live and interactive coaching sessions each weekday, one for each skill level. The classes are also recorded and available on demand.

“Franchisees are looking for leadership and we’ve had a really positive response from customers.Parents can provide some normality,” says Kelly. She reveals “It’s been a bit of a slow burn.”

For Sport Star Academy the online move was a longterm goal that through circumstance became fast tracked. Now the franchisors are looking at how they can commercialise this for the future. Kelly believes there is plenty of scope for the subscription based model to offer sessions that can be filtered to suit the customers’ content needs.

Online leads to new markets

Online sessions can also open up the brand to regional areas which lack the customer numbers for a viable on-the-ground business.

“Some locations don’t work but why can’t we have everyone join in? All of a sudden, we’ve had to be agile very quickly, and that opens doors that you didn’t think would be opened. It’s about mindset,” says Kelly.

The experience of adapting quickly to an unexpected situation has shown her the value and importance of having a good team.

“I’ve learned very quickly, your team has to be right. Our immediate leadership team has been fantastic.”

It’s taken a few weeks to get buy-in however from some franchisees, and the positive customer feedback has helped bring them around.

“Some franchisees don’t get it. But this is our time to shine, ” says Kelly.

Sport Star Academy has moved quickly and maintained its innovative streak. That’s one of the important aspects for a business looking to recruit more franchisees, says Kelly.

“We can show that our business can perform under crisis, that in a recession we’re able to have market share, and we can keep our brand front of mind for customers.”

Kelly believes these will be important attributes for incoming franchisees down the track.

“In terms of an investment, if they are looking for a business, they want to feel like they’re making the right decision, that the people, the brand and the business under very stressful situations can still be viable.”