The best business owners find ways to amplify their talents while also offsetting their limitations. In the case of the Crandalls and the Peppins, two couples combined their skills, experience and passions to start an i9 Sports franchise business.
The Crandalls both played sports through college and have experience coaching. The Peppins have years of business operations and franchise knowledge.
Together, they’ve created a thriving kids play franchise around Aurora, Colorado. Amy Peppin and Kelli Crandall operate the business full time, and their husbands, Matt Peppin and Brian Crandall, handle the financials and offer program guidance, respectively.
Each of the four friends naturally fit into a specific role within their i9 Sports business—a youth sports franchise that has served them well for their seven years in business.
“We rely on the person whose job that is without meddling in it, and I think that’s what makes the business work,” Amy says. “If you took one person out, there would be a hole. We need each of us to make it work.”
Discovering a unique kids franchise
It was in their roles as moms that Amy and Kelli discovered i9 Sports. Their sons, now high school sophomores, have been friends since preschool. Along with a group of classmates’ parents, they wanted to get their kids involved in a fun, no-frills athletic league.
The parents wanted the league to be accessible for all the kids in the group, regardless of their ability. Also, they didn’t want to spend too much time or money, especially since the kids were so young.
That’s when the local i9 Sports kids franchise opportunity stepped up to the plate.
The kids spent a season playing flag football, learning and having a blast. The parents loved it too, and couldn’t wait to sign up the following year. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find the same local league.
They registered at a neighboring league, and in the meantime, Brian called i9 Sports’ corporate headquarters to inquire about what happened to their local i9 Sports franchise.
“They told Brian the reason the league disappeared was because the franchise owner was selling the territory,” Kelli says.
Immediately intrigued by this news, Brian told Kelli about the opportunity and, before long, he was in Tampa, Florida, visiting the home office for a discovery day to discuss all the details of the sports business opportunity.
“He was ready right then. I was a little more cautious, especially about the financial piece,” Kelli says. “I said, ‘The Peppins were involved in franchises before. Let me show them the FDD (franchise disclosure document) and see what they think.’”
Amy previously worked in human resources management for Blockbuster, training employees and opening stores. Matt had run seven Shell gas station franchises with his dad and currently works for another well known franchise company.
“We showed Matt the FDD and he said, ‘This is great. If you don’t buy it, we’re going to,’” Kelli says. “We said, ‘Well, what do you think about buying it with us?’”
The best kids franchises run on hard work
In 2010, the four parents became four business co-owners, purchasing the i9 Sports Aurora/Centennial territory. They offer i9 Sports’ four core sports through their kids franchise — flag football, soccer, T-ball and basketball — at seven venues throughout the year.
They coordinate 25 employees and more than 300 volunteers, serving up to 1,500 children per season. Registration is highest in spring and fall, with the numbers waning slightly during the busy summertime and over winter, when the cold Colorado weather pushes them to indoor venues. No matter the season, the business partners recognize the opportunity that i9 Sports presents to them.
“The earning potential was what made the difference in deciding to invest in i9 Sports,” Amy says. “There’s very low overhead, and there are literally thousands of kids who need this program. If you work hard at it, whatever you put into it, you should reap back in returns.”
Amy and Kelli work hard, putting in long hours on the business in addition to each being a mom of two. The sons who originally drew Amy and Kelli together — Jason and Nick, respectively — are now two of the biggest advocates for their families’ business. Jason works the game-day canopy, answering questions, signing in coaches, and selling Gatorade and mouth guards. Nick is a T-ball coordinator and helps train coaches.
Everyone has found a comfortable role within the business, and it’s the combination of all of them that makes the business work, Amy says.
Loving their unique sports business opportunity
Amy and Kelli say being part of a franchise system has been a central part of their success. They love talking with other i9 Sports franchise owners to share experiences and learn new perspectives. And, Kelli says i9 Sports’ software tools streamline their business and league operations.
“They’ve always strived to make the software easier to use, make the process better,” Kelli says.
In the future, the two women say they’re looking to expand in incremental ways. They’ve already introduced a mid-week program at a preschool, and they’d like to bring similar programs to other schools and day care centers. They also want to expand their existing leagues.
“We’re always going to make little changes to improve the program,” Amy says.
Over the years, the families have remained friends and really appreciate the bonds they’ve created. Kelli says the business arrangement offers a good balance and a tremendous sense of support.
“We keep each other sane. At the beginning, I remember being very overwhelmed. Amy was overwhelmed too,” Kelli says. “We shed some tears together and then picked each other up and kept going.”
Thinking of starting a kids franchise?
Many i9 Sports franchise owners form partnerships to open their business, and you could too! Download our free report, How to Make a Living in Youth Sports, to find out how. Or call us at (877) 262-5730 to talk about how you can write your own story with i9 Sports.