Soccer Gemz: Small Business Spotlight

Soccer Gemz: Small Business Spotlight

Small Business Spotlight this month is on Soccer Gemz, a fun, non-competitive youth sports program that introduces the basic fundamental skills of soccer. Located in Lutz, FL, and soon to be expanding to Ruskin in January, Soccer Gemz attracts players from Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, New Tampa, Carrollwood, and beyond. Soccer Gemz was started in January 2012 by Jerome and Marchele Smalls and is the only youth soccer program in the Tampa Bay area that offers a Mommy/Daddy & Me class starting at age 18 months.

The idea of Soccer Gemz was born when Marchele and Jerome discovered their daughter was not enjoying her time in competitive leagues.  Marchele started playing soccer at age 8 and went on to play at the University of Tennessee. She still plays today in adult leagues in the area. This extensive experience, coupled with Jerome’s MBA from Ashford University, made for an excellent entrepreneurial soccer venture. They used their savings to get started as equal partners and have seen attendance increase in each session.

Soccer Gemz meets once a week for seven weeks and is offered throughout the year.  All of their coaches have a background in soccer and/or child-related services.  Their unique program allows their coaches to focus on making sure the kids are learning, building confidence, and making new friends, all while having fun.

Read on to get some great insight into what it takes to run Soccer Gemz from Jerome:

Did you always want to go into business for yourself?

Marchele did not have a desire to own her own business, but I always wanted to own my own business. It didn’t take much to convince her once we decided on the type of business we were going to start.

Were there times when you second-guessed your decision?

Absolutely, more than a few times.  I remember our phone would go weeks without a single parent calling.  That period was scary because I started to see our cash in the bank getting lower and lower each month.  Those were challenging times both mentally and physically because so much was unknown to us at the time. It was very easy to doubt our decision.

If so, what changed your mind?

I know that starting the business was the easy part, but the hard part is always sustaining and growing a business.  Fortunately for me, during the times I feel like throwing in the towel, I have Marchele as a supportive life and business partner. My dedication to her helps get me going every morning with the drive to make Soccer Gemz successful.

What has been the most fulfilling part of owning Soccer Gemz?

Three factors have made this entire process, from brainstorming names to color scheme to where we are now, fulfilling.  First, it is so rewarding to be surrounded by kids who are having fun, watching them grow up in our program, and knowing that for the rest of their life their first sports program was a positive experience.  Secondly, it makes me happy to know that we are teaching our daughters about hard work. Lastly, I enjoy knowing that we dare to overcome fear and chase a dream.

What has been the hardest part?

For us, I think the hardest part of this process has been patience.  It took a while for the parents to start calling and registering their kids.  A lot of what we have accomplished so far has been in small steps.  As entrepreneurs, I think it’s often hard to plant a seed and do a daily routine while waiting months for the smallest sign of flowers to blossom.

What advice do you have for other would-be entrepreneurs?

GET HELP! I have been blessed to have great help and support from everyone at the SBIC office. What I have come to realize is that you should never rely on hard work alone. Carefully think about each decision.  If it will not make you money, then it is surely costing you money. And, if you value your time, others will do so, as well.

What is your most important consideration when it comes to day-to-day business operations?

Most other businesses I talk to list financials at the top for this question, but for us, it would be our families.  Our coaches believe in our system, so we tell them to take care of the kids and the parents will take care of the money.  We really focus on making the kids experience a good one by sending our birthday cards, having fun theme days, or just a high-five after a goal.  I cannot stress enough how important this is for our business.

What three traits do you think an entrepreneur needs to be successful?

Confidence: There are going to be a lot of people telling you “No,” but you have to be stubborn and believe in a goal.

Vision: Expect to be in business 20 years from now, and develop a business model that can sustain you.

Adaptability: Recognize your surrounding competitors, and be open-minded to adjusting what’s not working when needed.

Soccer Gemz is a unique business born out of Marchele and Jerome’s desire to create a fun youth sports program for even the smallest of players.