You can pretty much call Erikka and Dustin Ault the dynamic duo. Or you could call them the hardest working parents in the youth sports business. Whatever you call them, this husband-and-wife team is rocking their Oklahoma City i9 Sports territory.
Purchased from another franchisee in January 2015, the sports business opportunity came to the couple at the perfect time. In the last two years, they’ve grown it exponentially, and they don’t have any plans to slow down.
Finding a family fit with a kids franchise
The Aults discovered i9 Sports through a Facebook post by their friend Chris, who was running the local league. They thought the Saturday morning soccer program sounded perfect for their daughter Kaylee, who was 3 at the time.
“We were already busy as it was,” Dustin says. “We didn’t want our 3-year-old to have two nights of practices, plus a game every week. It fit into our schedule, heading out on Saturday mornings to have our practice and our game.”
Kaylee played in the league for the next few years, and one day Dustin and Erikka were talking to Chris on the sidelines. Chris told the Aults he was considering selling the business. What he didn’t know was that Dustin had recently lost his job in the oil industry.
The Aults expressed their interest in buying the business, and within a few months they had a sit-down meeting with Chris to discuss the details. Dustin loves soccer and baseball and has played both for years. Erikka was active in sports growing up, competing in diving, basketball and cheerleading. She worked as a math teacher and the head cheerleading sponsor at Edmond North High School.
Surprised by a kids entertainment franchise opportunity
When the Aults saw the financial potential of the business, that sealed the deal. Another few months later, and they were planning their first season for their i9 Sports franchise. It came as a bit of a surprise, since the couple never sought to be business owners.
“Me losing my job was a blessing in disguise. We wouldn’t have seriously entertained the thought of starting a business if I wasn’t in that situation. We would have just told each other we didn’t have time,” Dustin says.
“We’re both really passionate with sports and kids. All the stars aligned for us to take the leap of faith and jump into this business.”
Now the couple offer flag football, soccer, t-ball, basketball and cheerleading to kids in the Oklahoma City area. With an average of 700 youth athletes playing in their leagues, they’ve more than doubled in size.
This progress didn’t happen by accident. It took hours of hard work to promote the leagues, secure venues, organize teams and coordinate staff and volunteers.
“When we started, I was just nonstop marketing,” Dustin says. “We found out it was working and adjusted the program. You get out of this business what you put into it. If you work hard at it, you’re going to be successful.”
Striking the balance between business and sports
Erikka is the organizer and administrator of the business while Dustin runs the sports side, coordinating game day activities. He says being a business owner has helped him develop professionally, especially in marketing and building community relationships.
Because, after all, Dustin says running an i9 Sports franchise is much more about business than about the actual sports.
“Knowing sports is only about 20% of running this business,” he says. “Just because you love sports doesn’t mean you’re going to run a good i9 Sports program. You have to adapt to what your customers are telling you. You have to connect with the community and run an organized, professional business.”
Of course, i9 Sports helps with awesome training and lots of support. As Dustin says, “It’s not like you’re on your own.”
Dustin is thrilled to spend more time with the couple’s children, Kaylee, now 8; Kadyn, 7; and Kyler, 2. It’s great being his own boss, not having to answer to anyone when he wants to take a day off.
They’re happy with their busy life, but the Aults want to continue to grow their large territory.
“We’ve grown astronomically over the last two years. We’re hoping to continue that success and pop up through new venues and new areas,” Dustin says.
Families just like the Aults own i9 Sports franchises all over the country. Get a hand in starting your own youth sports business with i9 Sports. Read our report, How to Make a Living in Youth Sports, to learn more about what i9 Sports can do for you!