Nieshia and Eric Stephens are starting their first season as i9 Sports franchisees.
Eric and Nieshia Stephens are launching the grand opening of their i9 Sports franchise in Frederick and Carroll counties of Maryland. For their first season, the youth sports franchisees will offer flag football, soccer, and baseball.
The Stephenses first found i9 Sports when Eric was looking for a sport that their 4-year-old son could play. They enrolled their son in an i9 flag football team, and Eric coached for several seasons. “I very much enjoyed coaching,” Eric says. “It was a joyous experience for me and my son.”
That son is college-age now, and Nieshia and Eric have two younger children (a girl, 3, and a boy, 1). After moving to Frederick (Maryland) from a nearby county, they looked for the local i9 Sports so they would be able to give their younger kids the same chance to play. But there was no i9 franchise in Frederick, and the couple began to think about opening a franchise of their own. After considering the idea, the couple decided to say yes to the opportunity.
“We felt like i9 was something we could tag team. We couldn’t do it alone, but we could together,” Eric says. Nieshia runs the back office, and Eric does the marketing and is the public face of their business.
Why join the i9 youth sports franchise?
An advantage of the franchise that the Stephenses appreciate is the convenience of the i9 Sports same-day practice and play model. Busy families save time and effort when practice and games are once a week instead of several days a week.
Another benefit of the i9 Sports franchise is the support from the home office. There’s a proven process for starting and running an i9 franchise, and it’s a formula that works. “You can tell that they’re (the home office) experienced,” Eric says. “They’ve taken notes and feedback and provided that to newcomers like myself.” Their business coach helped them find a venue for practices and games.
Another example is from when the Stephenses joined their local chamber of commerce, which offers free press releases. After looking online for information about how to write a press release, Eric contacted the home office to ask for advice, and the office sent him a link to a pre-written release that’s available for franchisees. “I thought, I wish I’d sent this email (to the home office) hours ago,” he says.
Owners helping each other
In addition, the couple has found help from other franchisees. There is a Facebook group for franchise owners, where new and more experienced franchisees can come together to share advice, stories, and experiences. Nieshia and Eric got an idea for partnering with their local DICK’s Sporting Goods for a registration event from another franchisee.
“The registration was a home-run for us, and it was great for social media. The other owners are making an effort to help,” Eric says.