Sibling Ownership Team Brings Youth Sports Franchise to New Orleans
When Hurricane Ida made landfall last August, lives were upended again for the residents of New Orleans. But a trio of local siblings would not be deterred from their dream of opening a Skyhawks Sports Academy franchise, operating sports camps for the youth of their community. With teamwork, persistence, and creativity, they opened Skyhawks just weeks after the storm swept through the area.
William Berry is a natural fit for the franchise. A lifelong sports and fitness enthusiast, he studied Sports Administration and Business at LSU and worked in the offices of both NBA and NFL teams.
As William prepared to graduate with an Executive MBA, he and his sisters wanted to find a franchise opportunity they could work on together and serve the youth of New Orleans. They knew they didn’t want to be tied to a storefront or have a product to sell. After researching several franchise opportunities, they discovered Skyhawks Sports. They considered it an ideal fit for their goal of operating a home-based business with the potential for profitability while also filling a need in their community.
Skyhawks Sports Academyis the nation’s leading youth sports franchise. The camps, after-school programs, classes, and leagues offer 4–12-year-olds a chance to hone their athletic ability, social skills, learn teamwork, and have fun. SuperTots offers classes and enrichment programs for little ones 18 months to 5 years, preparing them for participation in Skyhawks as they grow.
While William had the background in sports and is the face of the company, the sisters bring their own set of skills to round out the team. Catherine Barry Fabre is a CPA and stay-at-home mom, making her responsible for the business’s finances. Caroline Barry has expertise as a start-up specialist. She is currently involved in an assisted living business and other consulting opportunities while handling the marketing and social media end of the Skyhawks franchise. The siblings signed on as Skyhawks franchisees in early August of 2021 with plans to offer youth sports programs as soon as fall, but Hurricane Ida hit three weeks later. The Barry family had to scramble to keep their dream alive.
The impact of Ida disrupted the lives of New Orleans residents, damaging infrastructure, closing businesses and schools, and displacing locals, including the Barry family. While they were lucky enough not to sustain any major damage to their homes, the siblings were evacuated out of state for two weeks. Back in New Orleans, residents were dealing with downed power lines, cell service and internet disruptions, and limited business hours, each being considerable challenges for the new Skyhawks franchisees as they attempted to start their business.
Caroline initially focused their marketing strategies through Facebook ads and word of mouth. Among their hurdles were school closures and parents understandably more focused on recovery than on enrolling their kids in sports programs. But Caroline amassed a growing database of e-mail addresses of parents seeking information about Skyhawks programs. She hoped social media would generate interest as parents began posting pictures of their kids having fun and learning the basics of sports.
William pushed to hire coaches and find locations to host the programs. Locations that normally would have been open to them, such as area baseball fields and local recreation centers, were either closed or littered with debris from the hurricane. They were fortunate to secure land on private property and inside a nearby event center. Two area schools also contacted them about hosting locations.
Even though the group had to delay their sales campaign a month later than originally planned, the extra time allowed the team to focus on offering three fall programs. The response was overwhelmingly positive, as their first program sold out within 15 hours and pointed to excellent momentum for the spring.
While the delay could have proven disastrous for the start-up, it allowed the siblings to evaluate their fall programs and plan more strategically for spring. The highest demand came from parents of toddlers, so they shifted attention to SuperTots, a child development program through sports for kids 18 months through 5 years. The availability of sports programs for such young kids is rare despite the high demand.
“SuperTots is an exciting brand and we’ve found people are very interested in it, maybe even more than we anticipated,” said Caroline. “We knew it was a good opportunity to get our name out there and build a database and then be able to use it effectively. We expect this early exposure to SuperTots to fuel participation in the Skyhawks’ programs as the tots get older.”
Like any good sports team, the Barry siblings worked together to make their dream a reality. They adjusted their game plan, and came up with a winning strategy, exceeding their initial expectations.
“It’s a lot easier to be brutally honest with your siblings than in working with other staff members,” said Caroline. “At the same time, I have complete trust in them. There is an inherent trust we have in each other. It is also easier to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Since our skills complement each other so well, we are able to move faster, think strategically and avoid potential problems.”
The Barry family looks forward to expanding Skyhawks offerings as the demand for programs grows in New Orleans. Children need community and fun, especially after opportunities for socialization and physical activities were curtailed by Hurricane Ida and the pandemic.
Despite the auspicious start, the siblings literally weathered the storm and are well positioned for success in the new year. The overwhelming response they received as a fun, safe and social outlet for children following the hurricane has set the stage for more participation as the business grows. Through word of mouth and its early marketing efforts, the New Orleans franchise expects to enroll more than 500 kids in programs this spring with more activities throughout the year.