The first start-up company I ever worked for failed! Initially, optimism was ever-present and over-flowing. We had a great team, and product. The goal was to hit a pre-determined milestone. Afterwards, go public, and then we’ll all become rich!

Guess what? This never happened! Why? We had a “one-and-done” product. Plainly said, after we sold our “flagship” product to a customer, we had no follow-up product. Ultimately, this is why we failed.

Fast forward to starting, and running a basketball camp business. I desperately did not want to be a “one-and-done” product company. My desire was to create a portfolio of products, where each product was self-sustaining, and part of a larger solution.

Failure to implement this “portfolio-based” solution would make it difficult to stay in business long-term. Initially, many kids would support the business, but after taking the first camp, there would be nothing different for them to try. Secondly, I would be letting my family down.

To move forward, it was tough. Up to this point, I had seen no other organization with the type of infrastructure I was attempting to implement. If this was to be done, I was going to have to figure it out myself. At the time, I had no answer.

Then one day, I stumbled onto an old, discontinued book on running summer basketball camps. In this book, it broke down 5 core basketball skills: ball handling, shooting, offensive moves, defense and inside play. Bingo! This was the answer I was searching for.

Looking back at the “portfolio-based” solution I wanted to implement, the content for each product (or basketball camp) was handed to me on a “silver” platter from this book. For each core basketball skill, I would create a camp, with that emphasis. After a kid completes the first camp, there would be a follow-on camp (in the progression), with a different emphasis. This would go on until the kid has completed all camps.

My plan was to launch our basketball camps during the summer. At this time, families are more willing to try new camps. To be successful, we marketed the camps the best we knew how, which included distributing flyers, placing yard signs, posting on bulletin boards, advertising online and offering free demonstration classes.

My goal was to introduce our company (Youth Hoops) to the public in the summer, which then would act as a springboard for our portfolio of themed-based camps to be delivered year-round.

As the great boxer, Mike Tyson says, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched!” Guess what, I metaphorically go punched! Although I marketed like crazy, there wasn’t a great deal of interest. Enrollments were low. Often times, only 1 or 2 kids would show up for the free demonstration classes. At times, I thought this opportunity would fail! Through stick-to-it-ness, perseverance and a dog-it hunger, we were able to enroll 12 kids in our very first camp.

After our first basketball camp, I was able to implement, and offer our portfolio of basketball camps: ball handling, shooting, offensive moves, defense and inside play. Enrollments steadily kept increasing. Next thing you know, our camps started selling out. We expanded. They sold out again!

12 years later, we’ve enrolled over 10,000 campers. I’ve personally lead over 150 (7-day) camps, and have grossed in excess of 1.5 million dollars!

Implementing our portfolio of basketball camps has allowed me to engage my passion of coaching youth basketball for a living. It’s also allowed me to work on my own terms, and play a more intimate role in my daughter’s life. Priceless!

Cheers,
Coach Berry

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