Sonja Brummer owns four Amazing Athletes franchises within San Diego County, CA with her husband, Randy. She purchased the first one in 2008 and the others about a year later. Amazing Athletes provides a year-round, structured curriculum that introduces children to ball sports and helps them master key areas of motor-development. Brummer shared with Franchise Business Review how state budget cuts led her to her dream career and what franchising has been like for her.
Why did you decide to go into franchising? I have always been an athlete and was raised in a world of sports. For three years while I was going to college to become an elementary school teacher, I worked for Amazing Athletes as a coach, so already had complete trust in its founders and business model, which combined my love of sports and desire to work with children. When I received my Liberal Studies degree, the economy was not doing well and California state budget cuts had just begun hitting the school districts. At the same time, Amazing Athletes had just started franchising. Due to the budget cuts, I decided to forgo the credential program and purchase an Amazing Athletes’ franchise. I knew that the budget cuts would make it difficult for me to get a job as a teacher and that they were leading schools to cut out physical fitness at a time when childhood obesity rates were on the rise. I also knew people in San Diego valued fitness and that parents always try to give anything for their children to be happy and healthy.
What is it that you like best about owning your franchise? It’s funny, but I never saw myself as an entrepreneur. Looking back, however, I always found ways to make my own money. I shoveled driveways, set up snack bars at basketball games, and babysat. I certainly never really thought of myself as a boss or business owner, but couldn’t picture myself working for someone else my entire life either. As an Amazing Athlete’s franchisee I own a business I love that provides me with a great work/personal balance. I like that I’m in control. If I want to push the business harder, I can. If I need some down time, I can have it. I like being able to build and mentor my staff and love how they enjoy going to work. We all find working with kids incredibly rewarding. My team and I foster an appreciation of sports and fitness in them that will hopefully continue into their adulthood. I love to hear that a child is excited to go to school so they can be part of the team that day. I love hearing from a parent how a child starting eating broccoli because their coach encouraged it. I love how we feel like celebrities when we go into the schools because the children are so excited to see us. The giant smiles on their faces prove it.
Would you share your gross revenue figures? We grossed over $385,000 in 2015. We project to gross at least $415,000 in 2016.
What advice would you share with people considering purchasing a franchise? I advise that you talk to other franchisees first and find out all the pros and cons of the business to see if it’s right for you before investing. Also, ask yourself questions: Will you always value and enjoy the core of business you are going into? Will your community value the business enough to make it successful for you? What is the competition like, if any? Will you be able to motivate yourself and be able to put 200% into your business for at least the first few years of ownership? Once you decide to buy a franchise, go all in from the beginning. Be sure to use the resources the corporate office has available, to learn the business inside and out early, and then train others to take over some of your workload so you can grow your business. I highly advise you build relationships with other franchise owners and stay in contact with them too. Most importantly, love what you do and be good at it.
What is your work/life balance today? My days are not stress and work free by any means, but I have built an amazing team to take a lot of the workload off my mind and find ways to improve it. I can go on vacation now and know that my business will still be running smoothly when I come back. I very rarely have to work late nights or weekends now. When I first bought my franchise, I was doing everything myself. I’d coach classes all day and then in the evenings and weekends I’d have to do accounting tasks. When I hired my first coaches, it took some coaching off my hands, but it also added more work since I had to do payroll and manage them while I was still teaching classes. I also still had to do the day-to-day work like printing flyers, stamping brochures, answering the phone and emails while substituting for coaches and addressing other bigger business tasks like trying to grow the business while keeping it high quality. When I first started, I didn’t have children yet so was able to completely focus on our business. Today, I have the flexibility to do things such as attending my children’s events.
What do you find most challenging as a business owner? Finding quality coaches to hire and scheduling. Also, the income fluctuates a lot throughout the year depending on the season and there is also a lot of driving involved.
What kind of support did you most appreciate from your franchisor? They have always been available for me when I needed their knowledge. There is a system laid out to help new franchisees launch their business and a mentor program where veteran franchisees provide extra one-on-one support for new franchisees. There is also continuous support for both new and veteran franchisees, including numerous conference calls throughout the year on specific topics and a national conference every two years.
How long did it take to break even and eventually make a profit? The business was generating money immediately since we had bought a franchise with clients that I already had secured as a coach. We used the revenue to pay the business loans, bills and myself enough to cover my husband’s and my basic personal expenses. It took two years and 11 months for the business to make a profit.
How did you make ends meet until your business was profitable? My spouse has his own career as an engineer and I was able to be on his health insurance plan. He also helped me in the office sometimes, especially with learning QuickBooks and processing credit card payments.
Where do you see your business in the next five years? Bigger and better! I’d like to be grossing $500K to $600K.