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Melbourne, Australia

Building a business doing something she loves

An Australian Franchisee Case Study


Franchisors name: Mary-Love Joy
Name of franchise: Little Kickers and Little Rugby Brisbane South

Tell us about how/when your Little Kickers franchise was started
The Brisbane South franchise was started in 2010 and I took over the reins as franchise owner in 2012. The motivation was simple. I come from a sporty family with both mum and dad having coached all their lives. I played soccer myself from the age of 8 and competitively through University. I have a passion for exercise, healthy living, and keeping fit. Plus, I spent almost 9 years in Japan teaching children (some ESL and some kindergarten). Little Kickers just seemed like the best of everything I love: coaching, sport, soccer, kids, being active. It’s not often you find a job that truly suits you.

When did you decide to buy your franchise?
I fell in love with the Little Kickers program after I moved to Australia permanently and became a Little Kickers coach in 2011. After a year of coaching, the franchisee I was working for had decided to sell in order to expand her family, and she came straight to me saying “you’d be the perfect fit for this role”. It took a few months to get everything sorted and I bought the franchise (Little Kickers) in 2012. Little Rugby followed a year later in 2013.

What have been your franchise’s biggest achievements/successes to date so far?
From takeover, there was no looking back. We quickly worked to build up our current classes and add some extra venues to the mix. Add Little Rugby as a second business was a huge achievement. We are proud of our Little Kickers programme and couldn’t wait to be able to offer our parents another way of keeping their kids fit and active. I’d have to say that winning the What’s On 4 Little Ones National “Best Preschool Activity 0-5years” for 2 years in a row is also an amazing achievement for Little Kickers. This year, I have also been nominated for “Outstanding Activity Leader” in the What’s On 4 Little Ones awards and it’s a major achievement to be nominated beside some outstanding coaches throughout the company.

What challenges have you had to overcome?
Being a first time business owner can be a little daunting. Finding the perfect work/life balance was a huge challenge in the beginning. I actually went through a period of extreme stress related illness when I first took on the role.

I’d say the competition is always a challenge and something to keep my eye on but overall, competition is what makes me work harder at my business.

One of the most difficult challenges has definitely been hiring others to help grow the business. It’s hard to take yourself out of the business to work on the business. Nobody will ever have the same passion your have for your own business. There’s something special about a Little Kickers/Little Rugby coach. I still coach most of my classes but it’s definitely been a challenge to find those “special someones” for our coaching roles.

What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
Weekly kindy flyer drops, social media sites (Facebook, Pinterest, twitter, LinkedIn) , attendance at mummy markets/local markets and fetes/festivals, newspaper articles, website, blogs, school newsletters, poster promotions, goodie bags, shopping centre advert boards, our own newsletter sent to our database, referrals, magazine advertising (occasionally). Always open to new ideas as they present themselves.

What differentiates Little Kickers/Little Rugby from the competition?
Our Little Kickers program starts at 18 months and rugby starts at 2 years of age. No other programs start as young as we do with our grassroots programs. The majority of our classes are run indoors to keep classes running during wet weather days. Our coach to child ratio is well balanced which allows for small group interaction. As the franchise owner, I coach 95% of my own classes which ensures consistency and quality and a good old family feel. I know my parents and kids very well and I think this reflects in the strength of our program.

In your opinion, what makes a successful Little Kickers/Little Rugby franchisee?
Passion. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. It definitely helps to be a people person if you’re working with people (as we are with Little Kickers). I think it’s also important to know your business (know your members, market, competition etc) and continually strive to improve yourself and grow, even if it’s just a little every day. You must be optimistic, confident and resilient. Having a bit of business experience and/or setting a goal to learn more about business tools throughout your franchise experience is key.

What changes have you seen in your industry over recent year? And how have you adapted to them?
I’ve seen a lot more competitors start up similar businesses over the recent years. I’ve made sure our policies and procedures, coaching methods, and program delivery is strong and consistent. I believe that both Little Kickers and Little Rugby deliver a top quality program that will keep our loyal members coming back for more and referring new business to us every day.

What does the future hold for Little Kickers/Little Rugby Brisbane South?
We plan to continue expanding through our franchise area. We are also working on introducing our programs into the kindy and child care centres. After school classes are in high demand so we will try to meet those needs. We are also looking in before/after school care program inclusion.

What advice would you give to someone considering buying a franchise?
Do your homework. Make sure you have a solid business model. Create a business plan. Set yourself some SMART goals. Take the time to find people who are passionate, motivated, and driven to succeed.

If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
Nothing! I think my Little Kickers/Little Rugby journey has been a real adventure. I’m happy I started out as a coach as I got my feet wet in the company and learned the coaching side of things from the get go. I had a good instructor-the franchisee before me. She was extremely helpful in getting me started with the business takeover. However, even if I had to do it from scratch, the best thing about being a part of Little Kickers is that you are never left to do things completely on your own. Especially if you’re unsure in the beginning. There is always someone to lend a helping hand, answer a question, give advice, or bounce ideas off.

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