i9 Sports franchise review: Shannon & Chrystal Phillips of Chattanooga, TN
They followed their passion for youth sports into a business the whole family could enjoy
It was always a given that Chrystal Phillips’ kids would be involved in sports. Her family was big into softball and she played throughout high school. It was also a given that she and her husband, Shannon, would own their own business at some point.
So after years of being parent volunteers at i9 Sports in Acworth, Ga., where their 7-year-old son, Cayden, started playing soccer at age 3, they decided to make the plunge. They loved the i9 Sports experience so much, they didn’t even look at another franchise.
“We knew we wanted something we were passionate about, and we had the passion for this,” says Chrystal, who along with her family moved to Chattanooga, TN, to open their new i9 Sports franchise. They started their training in December, and they’ll open their first season on April 24 with soccer, flag football and T-ball.
A shift from corporate America
The Phillips were working in IT for different corporations. Like so many of our franchise owners, Shannon and Chrystal were already familiar with i9 Sports thanks to their kids. In their case, Shannon was team coach and Chrystal was team mom while Cayden played soccer. They were already sold on the concept of i9 Sports, but Chrystal saw more.
“We just fell in love with the organization,” says Shannon. “It wasn’t until recently that, with the whole pandemic and everything going on in today’s climate, Chrystal was thinking about other opportunities that we could explore.
“She brought to the table the possibility of running an i9 Sports franchise of our own. At first, I didn’t have an appetite for it. I was like, oh, well, let’s see. And then she provided me all the necessary information.”
That was all it took.
“It seemed like a win-win, in part because I just love coaching,” he says. “I love being with the kids. It’s one of the highlights of my weekend. Everything just organically happened from then on.”
“We’ve been volunteers with i9 Sports for about four years,” says Chrystal, “and once we understood that they were a franchise, I was so excited. I couldn’t sleep that night. I dreamed about it. Shannon can tell you, I couldn’t stop talking about it. I kept giving him more information about it.”
Chrystal will keep her IT project manager position, which has allowed her to work from home for about seven years, and work on the administrative portion of their i9 Sports franchise on nights and weekends. Shannon, a self-described “people person,” will act as the full-time face of the brand. He’ll do the marketing, working with schools and businesses, and setting up the fields on game day.
The timing of it all was just serendipitous. “We’ve always explored the idea of a business,” Chrystal says. “We just didn’t know quite where that would land for us…Things just kind of fell into our lap at this time.”
The sporting life
Both the Phillips have a background in sports. He was on the basketball team, went to soccer summer camps and ran track and cross-country and the thousand-meter in high school. She played softball from the age of 5 until the middle of her high school years.
“Softball was really my life for years, Chrystal says. “My father was my coach. He even coached my sister before me. So our family has always been a softball family. Even our nieces now, they play the sport and love it. I would have loved to have tried other sports — volleyball or soccer — but because softball just tended to be more of our family sport, I didn’t dabble in any other sports.
“One thing that’s really cool with i9 Sports is that you can come in playing soccer and say oh, there’s flag football over there. I want to try that next season. And I love that idea because it doesn’t pigeonhole you into one sport,” she says.
Lots of franchise support
While they’ve only been onboard for a few months, Chrystal and Shannon are already stoked about the support they’ve received, both from the main office and from other franchise owners. “I think i9 Sports has done a really great job as far as putting together a holistic offering for franchise owners,” says Chrystal.
The couple has kept in touch with other franchisees since before they officially signed on, finding them to be excellent resources of information as well as good for moral support. “They’re probably tired of hearing from us,” Shannon jokes.
With their positive history with i9 Sports, the Phillips didn’t even need to shop around before they invested.
“It just didn’t make sense to even explore anything else. It was a good fit,” says Shannon, who cites i9 Sports’ “low-cost, high-reward” business model. Plus, he notes, “you’re contributing to your community and you’re having an impact on the youth.”
And the culture? Another perfect fit.
“Once you’re out there on the field and you see everyone having a great time, it’s like, we want to be a part of this,” says Chrystal. “We want to push it further.”
Adds Shannon, “Speaking on our personal experience, we would celebrate holidays with our soccer team. We would do a Halloween trick-or-treat outing or just hang out at the park one weekend, stuff like that. So it becomes very family-like.”
“It’s about the community,” says Chrystal. “It’s not just the sports itself. It’s also the community that you’re building. That’s what we love so much about it.”
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