He loved kids. He loved sports. He was ready to start his own business. i9 Sports was the solution Tyler Himmelman didn’t know he was looking for
Tyler Himmelman was already doing what he loved, working with children and families in need. When he found out he could combine his passion for working with children and his love of sports in one potentially lucrative occupation, he jumped at the chance. Bonus: Being an i9 Sports owner means being surrounded by positivity almost constantly. “The families are happy, they’re excited to be there,” says Himmelman, whose i9 Sports is in the South Denver, Englewood and Littleton area. “They just want to see that their children have fun. So, you’re in a really incredible environment. It’s not political like other sports organizations.” His fiancé, Mackenzie Roberts, joined him as a partner in the business in December 2019, having changed her career path after she saw Tyler’s amazing journey. His mom wanted in, too – she bought a franchise herself this year. Tyler talks about his first epic year in business in this i9 Sports franchise review.
When did you become an i9 Sports franchisor?
I bought into it in December 2018.
What were you doing before then?
I was working as a case manager at a visitation center for children who are unable to live with their parents for any reason.
What drew you to i9 Sports?
I had side jobs where I was working in daycare and schools as a teacher’s assistant. And it became more and more noticeable to me that everybody was getting on their tablets and children weren’t as interested in sports. I really wanted to change that because when I was growing up, all I was doing was playing with my brother outside. And I wanted to see if I could influence the children in our community to do the same.
That’s really cool. So how did you hear about i9 Sports?
I was in the process of putting together a business plan for a youth sports business that I wanted to start. And in doing that I was doing a little bit of research and came across i9 Sports and realized that they had values that aligned directly with what I wanted to do. I noticed that they were selling franchises, so I figured, well I might as well jump into it because there was no way I was going to be able to afford starting the business on my own. I grew up doing sports my entire life, so I just wanted to continue doing that.
So you’ve found a way to continue working in a field you’re passionate about and add another passion to that.
That’s exactly right. And it’s been awesome so far, so I’m very happy I did that.
What can you tell me about the support you’ve gotten in your first year of ramping up your business?
The business coach has been incredibly, incredibly helpful to me. Anytime I have a question, anytime I need anything I just give my business coach a call. He’s usually the one that’s going to steer me in the right direction. If I can’t reach him due to him being on a call with another franchisee, everyone else in the office is willing to help out, which has been incredible. And the final thing that I would say about the support is with all the franchises that are around, I was fortunate enough to have several neighboring franchises.
That means I have a handful of people that I’ve been able to give a call to and they just have more of an understanding of our exact area. It’s nice to have other franchisees that I’m able to reach out to, and they’re all willing to help because they’re all just as passionate as I am. So, there’s support everywhere for this, which is awesome.
What sports did you play as a kid?
I played baseball and football. Other than that, I was doing stuff like cross country. I had a football injury when I was young and that prevented me from playing football any further than middle school, so my main sport was baseball.
What are the sports that you’re offering now at your franchise?
Right now, our biggest sport is baseball. We are offering baseball, flag football, soccer, basketball, and we are hoping to begin ZIP Lacrosse™ and volleyball here shortly.
How has your experience helped you be successful in this line of work?
A lot of my experience has been based on people, solely on what people want, on what makes people happy. The relationships that I have with people are what motivate me to do this. All of my experience in the past, especially working with those families when I was the case manager at the visitation center, has helped me to understand how to talk to people of all different backgrounds, as well as understanding what they want and how you can provide that for them.
In your first year, have you hit your break-even or are you close?
Yes, I have.
And do you have any plans to grow your business, add more territories, more locations?
Right now, the growth that I’m focusing on is just within the area that I have. Originally, I was planning on getting into more territories, but I love the location that I ended up with and I’d like to just put all my focus into that area right now.
Tell me about the families who come to i9 Sports and how you interact with them.
The best interaction that I have with them is out on the field during game day. Game day is really exciting for somebody who is the franchise owner because you really get to focus on going out and introducing yourself to people and getting to know them. There’s a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls, but if you’re listening to what the people want and you’re providing that for them, every interaction is rewarding. For the most part, you see very family-oriented people who are looking for that weekend day to spend together.
You’ll see families out there cheering on their son or their daughter. You have aunts and uncles out there. One of the coolest things is getting the parents to go out and make a tunnel for the kids after the game. It’s seeing them cheer as loud as they can for the 5-year-old that makes their first shot in basketball. The families are happy and excited to be there. They just want to see that their children have fun. So, for the most part you’re in just an incredible environment. It’s not political like other sports organizations.
That’s the best part.
How do you feel about the direction of the brand?
They have the right idea of convenience for the families, where people don’t always have the time to go out and practice four times a week and then have a full weekend of games. The convenience is wonderful and it’s also fun for the kids. I love that those are two focal points. We want parents to be happy there and we want kids to be happy there. We want everything to be easy for the families and expect us as franchise owners to provide those values for the families. That doesn’t seem to be changing in any way. It only seems to be getting more fun.
Was there a moment in your first year where you were just certain you’d made the right decision?
Yes. I had a lot of family members who wanted to come out and work with me for my first season. It was really cool when I had one of my cousins who I’m close to come up to me and tell me how incredible he felt when he helped a 6-year-old score his first touchdown and how joyful the child was, how happy the parents were. They came up and they thanked my cousin for everything that he did for teaching him that, and that was part one. But then it was really the end of that first season when I looked back and I said, “I did it.” It was a lot of work, but it was entirely worth it to see families walking out that final day with trophies and big smiles.
That was huge for me because when I first started, I was incredibly nervous. My business coach always makes these comments when we’re on our weekly phone call, he’s like, “You know you sound a lot calmer than you sounded when you first got into this.” So, I think after that first season I realized I could do this and knew this was the best decision I could have made.
That’s wonderful to hear. Is there any piece of advice that you would want to give a prospective buyer about making this investment? Anything you think they should know before getting in or that you would wish someone had told you?
One of the biggest pieces of advice that I would give is be ready to talk to as many people as you can. Do a lot of research beforehand to figure out the businesses that enjoy supporting youth sports, and there are a lot of them. Just make sure you’re a people person and you’re ready to honestly change lives in a way that you really can’t in other fields.