Social entrepreneurs are people who come up with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. Like Kelli Givens, CEO of Sport For All, they are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.
A restaurant franchisee turned social entrepreneur, Givens traded in ownership of a multi-million dollar corporation to devote herself to uplifting the lives of others thousands of kilometres away from her New York City home. She had owned four McDonald’s franchises in New York City, and 50 Pizza Hut franchises in New York State and Massachusetts.
Related: What to Expect in African Expansion
Givens arrived in South Africa in 2001, and spent a decade doing development work for organisations like Habitat for Humanity and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, which focuses on strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world.
It was during that time she was named one of the 25 most generous Americans by Worth, an American financial, wealth management and lifestyle magazine.
A combination of compassion and willingness to devote time and creative energy to helping people in need led her to Sport For All a donor-funded sports academy founded 1997 in KwaZulu Natal. It remained a non-profit organisation until 2004. When new business partners, sports personalities, as well as a franchisor company were brought in to develop a social franchise business model.
Converting to a franchise model
In 2005, the organisation was converted into a social franchise business and registered with the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA), making it the first social franchise system in the country.
Givens joined in 2009 to strengthen the business, including the buy-back of all shares to become a 50% black female-owned company. The remaining 50% is owned by founders Zee Cele and Warren Bond
A unique concept that focuses on healthy bodies and minds
For the most part, Sport For All has few direct business competitors. The social franchising business model allows for set-up funding to be used to award a sports coaching franchise to a suitable member of a disadvantaged community.
The franchisee goes through extensive training and then employs young aspiring coaches from within the same community who are also equipped with the tools to provide quality sports coaching to children in the community.
The model ensures that the franchise is sustainable and that all members benefit from the franchise’s existence. Children pay a small fee to play a variety of sports each afternoon after school.
They receive world-class coaching in multiple sporting codes, as well as life skills training, and is an alternative to after-care that keeps them off the streets and out of danger.
“Our customer has to choose from paying for a Sport For All membership, sending their child to an aftercare programme, or having their kids participate in informal sports activities in the community,” says Givens.
“What is attractive about our offering is that we provide a structured sport curriculum, with up-to-date equipment and trained coaches in an attractive environment.”
Givens admits that Sport For All continues to battle to be seen as a business rather than an NGO because of its roots in the non-profit community.
“The concept of a social franchise remains a source of confusion for customers as the expectation is that the service is free, which is why ongoing education is critical. Continuous marketing training of franchisees and national marketing campaigns to raise brand awareness are key to success for the franchisor, and individual franchisees.”
Part of the national marketing campaign is the rollout of an exciting brand relaunch in 2015. “Our members and their parents have indicated a preference for a more structured short-term clinic environment, high-profile sports events, holiday programmes and individualised coaching opportunities,” Givens says. “The expanded Sport For All menu will ensure that all our franchises are sustainable and relevant.”
Sport For All remains one of the only FASA approved members defined as a social franchise yet social franchising continues to grow in two distinctly different ways: Businesses which operate with a defined social intention (i.e., providing franchise ownership opportunities to previously disadvantaged individuals who would otherwise not qualify), and NGOs that utilise replication to grow.
Sport For All applies social franchise methodologies throughout the business – both internally and externally – from hiring practices to franchisee identification and to product development (the addition of life skills training to the sports curriculum).
Franchise expansion plans
There are currently more than 30 franchisees who have undergone training, including individuals, husband-wife partnerships and co-operatives.
In 2013, for example, Sport For All partnered with the International Labour Organisation to open two franchises in the Free State. Since 2005, Sport For All has opened 21 franchised locations in seven of the country’s provinces – Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Free State.
Givens aims to have Sport For All operating nationally with a minimum of five franchises in each province within the next year and 15 per province in the next three years.
Who is the ideal franchisee?
The ideal Sport For All franchisee is equal parts heart and mind – a person who is passionate about running a profitable business which will enable them to give back to the community in which they operate.
Related: All The Way To The Top
They also have a passion for sport and are active in their community. Franchisees will benefit from prior business knowledge and experience working with children. Innovative funding solutions are available to qualifying candidates.
A Sport For All social franchise operator must align with the franchise system’s clearly defined values and principles, says Givens.
These include making a difference in the community through:
- Income generation (payment for services at grassroots level)
- Hiring practices (youth job creation)
- Product offering (healthy living).
“Our values are purpose-driven towards the end goal of ‘profit making, not profit taking,’” says Givens. “The business owner must be committed to the objectives of the organisation, and not solely motivated by personal financial benefit.”
Training for franchisees
Two weeks of classroom training is followed by intensive on-site field training over three months. Ongoing support in the form of regular site visits and online engagement includes business reviews, audits, advertising and staff training support. A qualified independent financial service is provided to all franchisees for book-keeping requirements and banking services (including online FNB Instant Accounting).
“Success is personality driven,” Givens says.
“There is no system, no process, no methodology that can guarantee success. Franchising provides a safety-net of standardisation but only passionate, driven franchisees can make it work to their benefit.”
She adds that an entrepreneurial spirit can be nurtured. “You need ‘skin in the game’ to truly feel the highs and lows of business ownership.”
What does a Sport For All franchise cost?
Time to making a profit
Depending on the source of financing, a franchisee can turn a profit within the first three months of business. Many franchisees currently in the system had profit gains in the first month when using B-BBEE enterprise development funding mechanisms. Average turnover per month is R30 000.
How does a social business venture work?
The entrepreneur sets up a for-profit business to provide a social product or service. Profits are generated, but the main aim is not to maximise financial returns for shareholders; rather, it is to grow the social venture and reach more people in need. Wealth accumulation is not a priority and profits are reinvested in the enterprise to fund expansion.
Interested in becoming a franchisee?