Making Ballers out of bawlers

The BabyBallers pre-school football franchise is building towards success in Europe and further domestic honors. We spoke to owner Richard Elms about putting his faith in the youth…

Making Ballers out of bawlers

When Richard Elms couldn’t’t find a suitable activity programme for his toddler son, he decided to take matters into his own hands. 

By 2015, his home-made hybrid of football skills development and early learning curriculum for pre-school kids filled a clear niche. Just a year after launch, Ric’s brainchild was thriving in five locations. 

Sensing scalability, he set about franchising what became BabyBallers nationally across Britain. Today, over 150 clubs are teaching youngsters in the UK and Belgium – with four more countries targeted for growth within five years.

Reflecting on the origins of his company, Rich says: “When his son Fletcher was 15 months old I was looking for a local club. I found one locally and I took him, I thought it was good but felt I could make it better. So I combined my love for football and what he was learning at pre-school and BabyBallers was born.” 

Though not originally an entrepreneur, Richs’ intuition for quality drew clients initially, enabling swift expansion before opting to create a franchise.

According to Rich, experience with child development, education or even football is not essential for BabyBallers franchisees to create profitable locations themselves. 

He explains: “All we ask from you is a desire to make your BabyBallers franchise work. We don’t need you to have experience of running a business and we will teach you everything you need to know.” 

More so than specific expertise, Rich believes the right  BabyBallers leaders exhibit passion, commitment and crucially an affinity with engaging young kids.

Expanding on ideal traits for prospective franchise owners, Rich cites strong interpersonal talents as vital, specifically “Very personable, great energy, good fun and understands how to deal with younger children.” 

Development programme

While personal sporting knowledge can benefit when handling groups, BabyBallers focuses on non-contact skills building, accessible for non-athletes at a young age. 

“You do not need any knowledge of either as we train this during induction,” he explains. 

By furnishing turnkey programme content and operations blueprints, the head office enables passionate franchisees to set up an opportunity in their areas, with no prior business experience required.

So what exactly does BabyBallers offer its tiny pupils? 

“Play helps children’s skills and development” says Rich.

Unstructured physical activities emphasising balance, coordination and ball control build motor competence in fun peer-groups to enhance childhood development. Through games that introduce concepts like positional play, BabyBallers classes additionally prepare kids for the structures they will soon encounter, such as school.

Rich believes that participants gain “a head start in life, for either when they find their first football club or for when they take their first step into school.”

In scaling a children’s fitness franchise model, Rich acknowledges typical growth struggles apply, despite BabyBallers’ systematic approach. 

He points to “finding the right coaches if you aren’t going to coach yourself as you are looking for the right personality” as a primary challenge.

Loyal support

Securing viable venues is another common hurdle that owners initially face when launching a franchise. To overcome such issues, however, BabyBallers furnishes an array of field-level support including supplies provision, targeted local marketing, hiring guides, promotions assistance and more.

And once up and running, Rich says expansion can accelerate through replicating what works across sites. 

“It is very easy to scale up a club once you have your first one operating…Many of our franchisees are multi-club owners.” 

Within as little as two months of signing franchise agreements, BabyBallers head office can enable new proprietors to commence classes through marketing that drives pre-launch bookings.

Over the next five years, Rich plans to spread his football-based toddler enrichment program internationally while cementing market leadership at home. 

He explains: “The plan is to launch in an additional four countries in the next five years and double the club base in the UK operating successfully, bringing smiles to thousands of children.”

European success beckons, new signings want to join and BabyBallers young squad heralds a very bright future. 

Take your next adventure with BabyBallers. We are always on the lookout for fresh new people to take our message around the country.

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan