May 9, 2017
On today’s episode, Steve Cox joins Kevin to talk about his business venture: i9 Sports. Steve talks about his experience moving from a corporate job to the entrepreneurial world, and some of the struggles and triumphs of starting the business. As the business is growing, Steve talks about the evolution and what sorts of things they are hoping to achieve in the next few years. As a new member to EO, he talks about his experience so far, and what he’s hoping to get out of being involved in the organization.
[:27] Steve shares his lifeline so far: He grew up on a farm in southern Indiana, and from there started his professional career working as a service technician for Impact Printers. Growing up, he always wanted to own his own business. His entrepreneurial bend started when he ran an auto racing school for a couple of years. Through this, he got to interact with a lot of different successful people, and decided this avenue would allow him to do something good. He and his wife felt there was a need in youth sports, so they started i9 Sports in Columbus in 2007.
[3:23] His grandfather played a role in inspiring him to start his own business. Steve had great admiration for how his grandfather started and maintained his own farm, and this innate part of his childhood translated to his careers working for other people, and ultimately impacted his decision to start something himself.
[5:!8] Steve talks about the process of leaving a corporate/sales job and taking on something more independent. Steve and his wife looked at many different models for business that met their pre-determined criteria.
[7:12] Highs and Lows: The economy had collapsed right after their first season, and those were scary times. Steve also found that he was hanging on to too many things for too long. By 2009-2010, this balance began to work out so that by 2011-2012, the work-life balance was better than anything he’d had before. Despite the ups and downs, he wouldn’t trade the journey for anything.
[11:01] Steve talks a little bit about the work-life balance between his family and daughter and i9 Sports. Perhaps being exposed to this business will ignite his daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit. While Steve is not actively encouraging entrepreneurship for his daughter, he is hoping his example will foster an independent drive.
[12:55] As Steve’s business — and responsibility — grew, he realized he didn’t have many business owner friends that would understand some of the things he was going through. He works with Scott Everheart who introduced him to EO.
[16:00] Having recently gone through Forum training and being put into a Forum, Steve was surprised at the emotional commitment these meetings have.
[17:30] What’s next for Steve and i9? They just acquired an add-on business called Elevate Basketball Academy that is an actual physical space they were able to take over. Currently he’s working out how to integrate that business into their i9 business, with their two different focuses. They’re also spending a lot of time on helping their staff be successful, learning from them, and rewarding and recognizing them (Steve calls this his “people project”).
[22:00] Steve and Kevin talk about some of the different sport ventures they do at i9, and the growth and the chance in which sports were added and which have become most popular. He also talks about their “niche”: practice and play in the same day, presenting a very professionally run organization, and finally keeping the focus on the kids rather than the parents’ competitive needs.
[24:34] Some of the marketing techniques that Steve used initially were signs out on the roads and also going into the schools. As they’ve grown and become more well-known, they continue to stay relatively aggressive with marketing to replenish their enrollment as kids move on from the program. They still use the sign and go into the schools, and they’ve started using a social media presence.
[26:53] Steve has been trying to stay out of the way and let go of more as the business and staff has grown. His current focus is on trying to integrate the Elevate program, and also working on more long-term projects and maintaining business relationships with their partners. Kevin and Steve talk about the future of the business and what plans they have for the next few years, especially to continue to grow it locally.
[29:20] His experience in EO so far has been positive and great. Steve would take advice from anyone about how to maximize the opportunities provided by EO. Getting involved in regional events is a great way to get more involved.
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