How a former clothier to business executives found success, fulfillment and a flexible schedule with the i9 Sports franchise
Not quite a decade ago, i9 Sports franchise owner Jason Watson was selling custom suits to business executives. As the demands of corporate America wore on him, Jason decided he’d had enough and set out to find his new calling.
A rained-out tennis lesson became the first opportunity for Jason to learn about the i9 Sports franchise business opportunity. After months of research and exploration, Jason traded his tie for a whistle, wing tips for sneakers and briefcase for a duffel bag.
Jason Watson lives just west of Houston in Katy, Texas. About six years ago, he purchased an i9 Sports franchise to the south in the Sugar Land area. Then almost three years ago, he purchased one in northwest Houston in Cypress.
Jason’s i9 Sports franchise business is busy year-round; the Sugar Land and Cypress locations offer eight-week seasons in the spring and fall and seven-week seasons in the summer and winter.
Jason Watson shares his experience as an i9 Sports franchise owner, the rewards of owning the business and advice for those who may be looking into the i9 Sports franchise business opportunity.
How did you first learn about i9 Sports?
It’s kind of a crazy story. I was working in a 100% commission job, selling custom clothing to male executives. I didn’t like it all. I was 28 years old at the time, and I told my wife I was going to quit my job and search for something different. I wasn’t sure what I’d do, but I’d always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to own my own business.
During this same time, a good friend and I were learning to play tennis. One day, our tennis lesson got rained out, and the tennis pro and I started talking. It turns out he was Scott Read, a franchise owner in i9 Sports. Scott told me all about his i9 Sports business, and I was intrigued.
It was that conversation — during a rained-out tennis lesson — that set the whole thing in motion. That’s when I first heard about i9 Sports and became interested enough to consider the possibility of starting my own business.
How long was it before you opened your own i9 Sports franchise?
It was about 16 months later before I was approved for the purchase. When I started thinking about i9 Sports and the franchise business opportunity, I didn’t have a lot of cash or resources, but I did have drive. So I started researching the company. I made lots of contacts in my community and began networking. I was able to come up with some money and had several family members who agreed to help me get started.
What do you like about being an i9 Sports franchisee?
Flexibility! Running an i9 Sports business gives me opportunity to do things that I never could have done when I was working in corporate America. My schedule is flexible and allows me to have a great work-life balance.
I see my kids all the time because I can go to their school functions and extracurricular activities and eat lunch with them during the weekdays. I work out and play golf every day.
From a business perspective, the most fulfilling aspect to me is the sense of accomplishment I have at running a thriving business. I really dove into building my business by serving the community and providing great customer service. We work hard to make sure the customers are blown away on game day and have a top-notch experience.
How did you make your i9 Sports business profitable?
Our i9 Sports business was profitable within the first 12 months. We were able to make that happen by keeping expenses low, growing organically and marketing aggressively. One thing we didn’t do, though — and this isn’t possible for everyone — is take money from the i9 Sports business for the first three years. My wife was working and bringing home a large enough salary, and we lived on that. Literally everything we made, we put it back into the business.
What attributes make a successful i9 Sports franchise owner?
Someone who is successful in this business will wear many hats. Owning any business takes organization, multi-tasking, leadership and communication skills. Those apply to an i9 Sports business, as well.
Possibly unique to owning an i9 Sports franchise would be possessing a keen ability to effectively manage people. This can be a high-turnover business, so it’s important to understand how to hire the right people for the right positions and help them do their jobs well. You also need to be skilled at motivating and rewarding them, so they stick around season after season.
You definitely need to like and understand sports. You should also enjoy working with people — especially children and their parents.
Finally, if you’re looking for work that’s rewarding and fulfilling and serves a larger purpose, i9 Sports is for you!
How does i9 Sports as a company help you to succeed in your business?
One of the great things about working as a franchise owner is that your business gets to benefit from the larger company’s contacts, size, budget and experiences. With i9 Sports, we franchise owners have access to a business coach and get great deals on equipment and jerseys. The corporate office makes bulk purchases for those types of items so that they can get the costs down, which helps us immensely. Having lower costs because of bulk purchasing is a huge perk of being a franchisee and something you’d never get running a small, independent business.
The technology that the company offers us is constantly updated and is second to none. Their proprietary software program called Franchise Manager saves us so much time and makes running the business a lot easier. All of the tasks we need to do for the business are handled by Franchise Manager. It helps us create rosters and schedules, send emails and see stats. From the dashboard, you can see everything about your business at a glance. It’s an incredibly helpful tool.
What would you tell others who were interested in buying an i9 Sports franchise?
I’d say potential business owners should look at the competition and understand how i9 Sports is different — be able to articulate why i9 Sports is superior to other sports league alternatives in your community.
Also, I’d tell interested entrepreneurs to honestly examine themselves. This business is a lot of fun and offers great rewards, but it can also be challenging. Some of the questions I asked myself include: “Do I have what it takes to make this business succeed? Do I have the family support in place to help me? Can I get the right people in the right places to get the job done?”
Learn more about the i9 Sports franchise opportunity
For in-depth details about owning and operating an i9 Sports franchise, download our free report.