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Liam Power, founder of Power Soccer
Liam Power, founder of Power Soccer

Report on Small Business Magazine

Power Soccer's grand plans Add to ...

Liam Power would love to tell you that his million-dollar company is the culmination of months of careful market research–putting together a glossy business plan and meeting financial benchmarks quarter by quarter, the whole story unfolding like a banker’s entrepreneurial fantasy. “There was no grand plan,” he admits. “I kind of fell into this.”

“This” is his eponymous soccer-skills academy, Power Soccer, which teaches the nuances of the beautiful game to Toronto-area kids, aged four to 16, through clinics, winter soccer schools and holiday camps. Its flagship elite development academy, an invitation-only program, trains athletes nearly year-round with an eye toward prepping them to play soccer at the collegiate level, internationally or even in the professional ranks. But the 46-year-old Irishman and professional footie player isn’t entirely accurate when he says he didn’t delve into the market before starting up.

Year founded: 1996 Home base: Toronto 2010 revenue: $1-million+, up from $60,000 in its first year Number of locations: 10 Number of employees during the summer: 75 (there are just six the rest of the year) Number of kids Power trained in 2010: 3,000+

Power came to Canada in 1988. His accent and soccer expertise–he spent two seasons as a reserve player for Galway United in the League of Ireland first division–quickly earned him coaching gigs with competitive clubs around Toronto. It was then that he realized there was a broader demand for what he was doing. “I kept having parents of the kids I was coaching offering to pay me to coach their other kids,” he says.

He started in a gym training a group of 14 players in 1996, and grew quickly enough that he could leave his career in sales and marketing a couple of years after that. Today, he’s planning Power Soccer’s 15th anniversary.

Lessons Learned

  1. Branding matters. Since he was blessed with a catchy surname, figuring out what to call his business wasn’t difficult. But Power wishes he’d been able to focus sooner on creating a logo. With a background in sales, however, the company’s early promotional materials were high quality, which helped distinguish his business
  2. Quality control counts. Power believes soccer is best learned in a high-tempo, game-oriented environment. Everything from fitness to strategy is taught with a ball at the foot of each student. It requires creativity and skills on the part of the instructional staff, which is why Power has resisted offers to branch out: He wants to hold the instructional experience to his standard.
  3. Exploit competitive advantages. Finding quality field space is a challenge in an urban, northern climate centre like Toronto. The parent of one of Power’s students had an in at Upper Canada College, a local private school, and helped Power get time on its new artificial turf field, which is domed in winter. Crescent School, which considers soccer to be a magnet sport for its international students, allows Power Soccer to use its turf field as a way to boost its footie cred.
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