Why would a software professional quit his day job and start a club for kids? A life coach, the need to work with kids, and love for the great outdoors can do that to a cube rat.
Meet Scott Wilkinson, founder of the Kids Outdoor Club (KOC). Five years ago he said good-bye to his 150K a year software sales job after a heart-to-heart with a life coach who advised him to follow his passion of working with kids. He decided to start KOC when he realized that there were not many after-school programs that offered outdoor activities for his three children. He was frustrated with the quality of camps and programs offered by various parks and organizations and decided to do something about it.
Scott started with a capital of a thousand dollars, which he used to buy equipment, nature books and print some flyers. While he did not do any formal market research, he knew what was on offer thanks to all the classes he had sent his kids to. He however did compare the prices of other camps and classes and decided to price his classes in the middle.
In Sep 2006 Scott took his kids to the Golden Gate Park everyday and started spreading the word about his winter camp. He had 10 signups the first winter. The summer camp the next year had 15. After 5 years he has 50 kids in his summer camp, 175 kids signed up for soccer coaching and 50 families in his afterschool program.
When asked about the challenges he faces as a small business owner, Scott said, “I face the same challenges most small business owners face, hiring the right people as the business grows, building my brand, defining my target audience, and most of all, sustaining the energy it takes to run a year-round operation.”
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To help him deal with these challenges, Scott hired a consultant to create his website, and create forms on the website where people can register. He used Apptivo’s customer app to manage all the information collected on the website and to keep track of who signed up and paid. However, hiring people for other roles has been a problem since he cannot offer a full-time position all year round. The job tends to be full-time during the summer and winter break and only part-time he rest of the year.
Despite growing so much in 5 years, Scott has not yet hired his first employee. Everyone who works for him is an independent contractor. KOC’s two biggest revenue streams are the summer camps and the soccer coaching classes. He directs both brands and has assistant staff help him with the operations. The 30 part-time coaches who work with KOC come back summer after summer to work with the kids. Scott used to spend a lot of time interviewing the coaches, training them and just trying to find the right people. “Over time I found out the best coaches are the ones who just show up, help me on the site, have a can-do attitude and love kids”, says Scott.
As a small business owner, the one thing Scott has learnt is to love what you do and believe in it no matter what others think. There will be naysayers and doubters, and it will be difficult to forgo the steady paycheck, but if you love what you are about to do then you can make your business a success. To other small businesses Scott says, “Don’t expect a dime in the first year, the second year you can pay people and pay yourself something, the third and fourth year you can expect the income to be equal to the effort. It is in the fifth year that you can see if this is a business that can really grow.”
Scott has no regrets about quitting his software job. He says, “I love kids and being outdoors and the challenge of building a business and brand. And most of all I like being my own boss.”
If you are closet-entrepreneur then it is time to get that business plan together and maybe even talk to a life coach. There has never been a better time to start a business.
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