Growing a strong referral network keeps franchise growing and profitable
Franchise owner Mark Cupp’s relationship with i9 Sports goes back a long way; he started more than a decade ago as coach of his then five-year-old son’s flag football team. As a parent and coach involved with the league, Mark’s curiosity for i9 Sports franchise ownership was piqued, but the timing to buy a franchise wasn’t quite right.
Fast forward to late 2013, when all the pieces did fall into place and Mark purchased his southern California franchise. From that point on, it’s been a successful ride for Mark’s i9 Sports business.
His first season opened in April 2014. After his first full year in operation, Mark was named Rookie of the Year, posting $200,000 in gross revenue for 2015. In 2014, he received the Operational Excellence Award and was runner-up for that award the following year.
“I believe in delivering a great program and letting it organically grow with people who are a good fit,” Mark says. “The ones who love it will know others who will love it and recruit them. I’m focused on a referral model.”
Mark’s strategy has worked. His business has scaled quickly. In his first year of operation, Mark’s franchise served 1,500 kids; today, more than 3,000 kids have joined the league. For other franchisees who’d like to grow rapidly and successfully, Mark says commitment is key.
“You can’t do this business halfway or part-time,” Mark notes. “This is a full-time deal. You need to be able to develop and maintain good relationships with vendors and schools. Building relationships is important in this business. You also need to have the discipline to follow the system. Going out to recreate the wheel is a recipe for distraction.”
Profitability has come quickly for Mark. He says that i9 Sports may offer greater financial success than other franchise options.“It’s probably more profitable, with lower costs of operations, than most franchises that you’d buy. There’s not a lot of inventory, loss or a ton of overhead. You can always repurpose the equipment and trophies.”
Mark does, however, advise franchise owners to plan to reinvest early profits of the business to ensure a consistent and quality program. Pleasing customers and meeting their needs ensures health and long-term growth. “In my opinion, I’d say you need cash flow for the first three years to be able to reinvest into the business,” Mark explains. “When you scale up, it’s important you hit the ground running because that gives families a better experience. To get there, you will need to spend money on marketing and equipment in order to offer that experience of a good program.”
Financial success is just one aspect of Mark Cupp’s rewarding career with i9 Sports. Like most franchise owners, Mark says that the freedom and flexibility his business offers is an incredible perk: “One reason I coached my kids in sports was because my dad never coached my teams; he was always working. Part of my desire was to be there for my son and my daughters and have a business that would support that. So, my business is designed to support my life and not vice versa. Having personal freedom and the potential for income to do what I love and take care of my family while I’m doing it is the ultimate reward. That’s what I love about being an i9 Sports owner.”
Mark also loves helping parents as they navigate life with their kids. “I love making a difference in the lives of these young families and teaching kids how to be better players and work on improving themselves, the team and honoring the game,” Mark says. “It’s important to help them understand that mistakes are ok — that’s where you improve and get refined. At i9 Sports wee are redefining what winning is. Winning is not what the scoreboard says, but how the kids develop and grow.”
i9 Sports is the country’s premier youth sports franchise
i9 Sports is the nation’s first and largest youth sports league franchise that offers flag football, soccer, baseball and basketball to children between the ages of 3 and 14. i9 Sports provides a youth sports experience unlike any other by teaching the importance of good sportsmanship on the field and in life. With convenient, flexible hours that translate into an enviable work-life balance, and no real estate or large upfront inventory requirements, i9 Sports is a compelling low-investment franchise opportunity with an attractive profit potential. Our long-term vision is to become the undisputed leader in recreational youth activities worldwide by delivering a superior and extraordinary customer experience.
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