We sat down with Co-Founder and Director of Franchising Johnny LeHane to discuss the genesis of WAKA, what it means to be a franchisee, how WAKA is so much more than just a sports franchise and how it might just be the best match-making service ever.
As Johnny LeHane describes it, WAKA was started by “a few friends who were used to socializing at bars but wanted a better way to socialize.” So, the group of pals put together a business plan on–you guessed it– a cocktail napkin and founded the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) the very next day.
That was back in 1998. Today, WAKA has grown to serve over 75 cities with 400 kickball leagues and the concept is still growing. The management team, which includes Johnny as the Director of Franchising, began franchising midway through 2011 and currently has three franchisees.
The ideal WAKA franchisee is an “animated extrovert passionate about business and passionate about customer service,” says Johnny. Of course, the process of finding, signing and training the perfect franchisee is a bit more involved.
The WAKA recruitment process has about six steps:
- Review candidates paying particular attention to financial wherewithal
- Explain the franchise concept, operations and processes
- Go over the franchise disclosure document (FDD)
- Detailed review of the candidate by WAKA (and presumably vice versa) and an explanation of responsibilities once he or she becomes a franchisee
- Discovery Day
- Signing and launch preparation
After the final step, an appointed Franchise Support Manager prepares the new franchisee for the launch of the new WAKA franchise location. Support is continuous and provided through training webinars, regular visits, telephone check-ins and face-to-face meetings for the duration of the franchisee’s agreement.
Clearly WAKA is doing something right; the sports franchise has been listed in Inc. magazine’s Inc 5000 for the past two years. LeHane admits, however, that the recession was challenging but not debilitating, as evidenced by the decision to grow the concept using franchising in 2011.
New franchisees are spreading the word about WAKA in over a dozen markets. (One franchisee might serve several locations.) While there remain great opportunities for new WAKA franchisees to build a following from the ground up, WAKA is open to converting existing leagues, too.
A huge benefit of investing in franchising as an expansion method has been the franchisee feedback. “We love talking to our franchisees about their ideas and market development plans,” says LeHane, recognizing WAKA franchisees’ experience and knowledge.
The best part of the process so far? “The amount of enjoyment we provide to our customers,” says LeHane of the kickball games and tournaments WAKA organizes. “It’s the best part of their week.”
WAKA, though technically a sports franchise, places a greater emphasis on the social aspect of its franchise than the sports component. Usually, small groups and individuals come together to form kickball teams within a league (there are between four and 20 teams in a league) who then proceed to compete against one another. The atmosphere is extremely conducive to social networking.
“I’m proud to say we have had more than a few weddings,” says Johnny, “and kickball babies,” he adds, a testament to the social networking atmosphere of WAKA leagues around the country.
An added bonus? Each league is sponsored by a bar and/or restaurant and receives discounts perfect for post-game socializing. Who knows, maybe thanks to WAKA another group of friends will create another successful business on a cocktail napkin.
For more information on how to become a WAKA franchisee, visit http://www.franchiseclique.com/franchise/WAKA-Social-Sports.