Today I’m here to share a guest post inspired by Little Kickers. It wasn’t long ago that I interviewed the founder of the business, Christine Kelly, for my Behind the Biz series. It’s an inspiring read and a real motivation for aspiring women in business.
Read on to hear from 5 Little Kickers female franchisees.
On the eve of its 18th Anniversary, Little Kickers won, not one but two awards at The Global Franchise awards, which for many within the franchising fraternity is the ‘pinnacle moment’ within this fast-moving business sector.
Here, Little Kickers founder, Christine Kelly was asked what aspect of her pioneering business, that’s quickly established itself as the largest global provider of educational football programmes for pre-school children (currently operates in 34 different countries – 330+ franchises) had made her most proud?
Christine’s unequivocal response was the success her business had enjoyed galvanising an eclectic squad of female entrepreneurs (1/3rd of LK franchisees are female) from every imaginable country, walk of life and career background to grasp the Little Kickers nettle and create a dynamic/financially self-contained business for themselves.
Little Kickers was conceived by ex-risk manager/new mum Christine back in 2002 (Clapham) as a result of her feeling constantly frustrated by the depressing dearth of activity-orientated initiatives available for inquisitive pre-school children. ‘It still surprises me,’ concludes Christine, ‘that 18 years down the line and despite all our collective success that many onlookersstill perceive Little Kickers to be the perfect part-time work opportunity for a young mum keen to earn a little extra money on the side. There’s certainly an amazing diversity of experience within our blossoming squad of franchisee owners, however it’s worth noting that within our number we have an ex-Managing Director of an Events Co, a Chartered Banker, a university lecturer &Professional Ballet Teacher…..incredible career women who came into the business for a variety of different motives, but who in some instances are generating annual sales in excess of £1m.’
For Nicole Robinson, ‘ I realised that I needed to make some serious career changes having missed out so much on my family life and children growing up. The relentless work schedule and travelling was taking a toll on the family and I craved a better work/life balance. I knew after a year that I’d made the right decision because we were able to get a dog, join a gym, eat together as a family and live a happier/healthier life.’
For sisters Carolina Caffarena (a pre-school teacher with more than 20 years working in childhood education) and Paula Caffarena Barcenilla (a PHD history teacher & researcher) ‘We discovered Little Kickers with our children when we lived in Bristol and realised that Chilean children didn’t have the same opportunity, so decided to export the Little Kickers model to South America. We believe that children need to learn and play in tandem and need access to ‘team’ play without needing to compete against one another.’
For Julia Levene (ex-Chartered banker) ‘when I had children I thought I could do it all, work full-time, be a hands-on mum and enjoy every special moment, the reality was somewhat different and it took me a little while to accept that a career change was needed.’ On the topic of whether Julia had ever experienced any ‘what do women know about football’ moments, Julia admits she did early on but that the moment quickly passed as her reputation grew. ‘Fortunately when I look at my children’s generation I see that such attitudes won’t be tolerated and for me this is real progress.’
Lisa Granshaw’s (Brisbane) back story was very different starting Little Kickers coaching during her first year of university. Lisa studied Sports Science and initially spent a few years as a Strength & Conditioning coach for Rugby League teams. ‘Initially taking on a franchise was daunting, however I set my initial target to get 50 kids onboard a week which would enable me to pay the rent and feed myself week to week. It was all worth it in the end because I still cherish the moments when a child says their name or gives their first high 5 after weeks of silence. Looking forward I’d like to run some classes for disadvantaged kids who aren’t afforded the same life opportunities.’
For Professional ballet dancer Courtney Lyman(Toronto) Little Kickers was the perfect antidote to her professional ballet career winding down. ‘Taking on two Little Kicker franchises was perfect for my young family and ultimately resulted in my husband Kevin quitting his corporate career to join me. I stand behind my Dad’s motto, wherever you go, there you are, inother words, you can’t run away from yourself so you’d better figure out what to do with what you have.’
Little Kickers is certainly the perfect example of a business that appreciates and empowers women in the UK and abroad to shape their careers and celebrate their business acumen, because if educational football programmes can provide opportunities for dynamic female entrepreneurs, anything is truly possible!