Sport Star Academy vision: Peter Nikolakopoulos

By Sarah Stowe | 03 Sep 2019 View comments


Peter Nikolakopoulos founded Football Star Academy in 2002. The business would grow to become the multi-award winning Sport Star Academy franchise chain. Today there are 60 franchises in the multi-sport operation still run as a family business.

So what’s it like working as a husband and wife team? 

“Kelly and I work really well together. We have our own set of skills we bring to the business and as a result we complement each other. We are both on the exact same page when it comes to the business and its future which is really important when you’re working with your partner,” says Peter.

“My biggest challenge is prioritising and working through everything that needs to get done,” he says. “So I’m obsessed with Google calendar, which is colour coded to highlight work, family and ‘me’ time. I also read the news in my feed so I’m across what’s happening around the world.”

10 questions for Sport Star Academy founder Peter Nikolakopoulos

Why did you start your football business?

I played with South Melbourne Hellas in the National League and was offered a full scholarship with the University of South Carolina. I then played for Oakleigh and Port Melbourne in the Premier League and captained the winning Australian Team in the 5-aside Hyundai World Championships in Korea.

On return from Korea, I was approached to start coaching a young player. From here, I developed a passion for coaching, and wanting to improve the skill level of junior players. And it became apparent, that there was a need for a professional coaching business to help develop these future football stars.

What skills did you bring to the business?

Early on, I owned a promotions company that ran events in bars and clubs across Melbourne and was the featured DJ at these events. From there I moved into hospitality, where I owned, operated and managed several hotels and restaurants over a 12 year period. 

During this time I also created Sanity Entertainment in partnership with billionaire retail magnet Brett Blundy. We ran national music events and concerts for children so I gained valuable experience in event management and marketing.

From this experience, I was able to understand what the market wants and how important it is to build relationships with people. 

What is your vision for the business now?

The AllStars Academy (TAA) was recently created to encompass more than sport. TAA encompasses sport, arts, education, STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths), gaming and wellbeing. Now we can grow the franchise network across all these segments both nationally and internationally.

It’s really important to be consistently aligned to the core of values within TAA. Trust, passion, innovation, consistency and quality is what we work towards. Overall, professionalism underpins our business as families are trusting our team and people with their children.

How has technology had an impact in your business?

As the saying goes, in business you either innovate or die. Technology has had a positive impact on our business from the point of view we are able to gather insight from our customers which drives positive change. Furthermore, our platform allows us to scale and grow our business model into other segments or markets quickly and efficiently. 

Now you have 60 franchises how do you keep the same small business feel across the network?

We consider our franchise operators to be our business partners. Despite having 60 franchises across Australia, we still manage a personal approach with each ensuring success and support when needed.  I’m always available, and meet face to face or phone hook up every four to six weeks

The team at support office are like family. We try to have that family vibe and the staff socialise and spend time together outside of work hours. 

How do you persuade franchisees to adopt new ideas?

Through conferences and workshops. Also, the early adoption of ideas through key franchise partners who will then become advocates for the idea to be implemented across the network.  We also test out ideas within our company owned locations first before expecting franchise partners to adopt these ideas. 

You’re diversifying the business from the original football concept – what’s the key to getting this expansion right?

We take a clear five step process: concept, education (strategy), implementation, next phase and then leverage the asset. The senior leadership team will strategise and plan in collaboration. We then have our wider support office team who will execute and manage the detail.

What motivates you on a daily basis?

  • Life
  • Creating a legacy
  • Helping others fulfil their dreams
  • Getting kids active

What are the awards that count most for you?

While awards are always nice to receive in recognition of many years of hard work, that is not what motivates or drives me. Creating opportunities and positively impacting young children in their future endeavour is the best “award” I could receive.

For example, seeing a young player come through our Soccer Time Kids program (as an example) graduate to Football Star Academy and into the NPL system before making the A League and being signed overseas by a European club.  Seeing that player pathway come to fruition is the greatest reward I could hope for.