Feb 6, 2020
Frank Fiume II is a pioneer in the youth sports industry and the
founder of i9 Sports—the leading franchise of youth leagues and
camps in the U.S. Since 2003, i9 Sports has generated more than
$300 million in sales, with 2 million participants in 900
communities across 30 states nationwide.
A baseball fanatic and native of Queens, New York, Frank
graduated from St. John’s University and began a career as a
medical equipment sales rep, though he was determined to pursue his
life’s true purpose. So in l995, he created his own adult men’s
softball league, ABA Sports. The start-up company quickly grew to
over 900 teams in just six years, making it the largest adult
sports organization on Long Island.
In 2003, Frank sold ABA in order to create i9 Sports, a business
that catapulted him to national recognition and that Entrepreneur
magazine ranked as the #1 children’s fitness franchise. Frank has
been featured on Fox Business News, HBO Real Sports, and in dozens
of publications and national news media outlets, including USA
Today, Sports Illustrated, and The Wall Street Journal. Frank sold
i9 Sports in 2017 to a private equity firm, but remains a minority
shareholder and member of the board of directors.
In today’s conversation with us, Frank shares how he built the
nation’s most successful youth sports franchise and what he learned
while creating a movement that has inspired 2 million participants
in 30 states nationwide.
What We Discuss With Frank Fiume II
- The power of purpose and following your dream
- How to overcome the dark days while you’re growing your
franchise and movement
- Why franchising is a powerful model for expanding your movement
- How to use social media as a franchise
- How to build wealth for your employees through an ESOP
- When to know when it’s time to move on to your next
- I wanted to create something that was all about fun, safety,
convenience and brought families together to create great
- Find mentors who can share their knowledge with you and provide
the motivation you need to keep going.
- You have to have a strong why, especially to get you through
those tough dark days of growing your franchise and leading your
- You’ll always do more for other people than you will for
- My wife and I have a mantra, which is to live with no regrets.
That means we do what we think is right, even if it’s scary. It
shuts off all excuses and you just go for it.
- I chose franchising because I wasn’t yet comfortable hiring
people all over the country and I wanted to expand rapidly. I
didn’t have a lot of capital at the time, so using other people’s
investment capital as a way of expanding my business was a great
vehicle to use. Plus you can grow faster.
- However the people in your franchise system are not all going
to believe in your vision. So you have to constantly gain their
buy-in to believe in your vision, and follow your rules, systems
- In franchising, you’re also going to be giving up some of the
revenue, but you also don’t have the same amount of expenses and
issues that occur at the franchise level.
- You want to have a franchising consultant not just a regular
lawyer setting it up. Because you don’t know what you don’t
- Having a franchise attorney is the second piece to the puzzle.
There are way too many individual state-specific laws for the
franchising industry, and they’re changing so quickly that you want
a lawyer who knows what they’re doing.
- Recruiting franchisees is going to be mostly internet-based,
through franchise portals, Facebook ads, franchise boards and other
- On recruiting – just because someone like football or played
football doesn’t mean they should own a football business. They
must be able to apply business acumen to it.
- We didn’t have social media early on, so the #1 thing we did
was to make sure that our employees were at the fields regularly –
to feel and remember why we do what we do.
- When you build your organization, you aspire to have a great
management team around you. Fortunately I did that. What nobody
told me was that when that happens, I found myself not needed
- I started to feel really guilty because I felt i9 Sports was my
purpose in life, but I got to the point where it wasn’t as
fulfilling as it once was.
- An Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is where you sell your
company to your employees. They don’t need to have any money for
the investment. Your corporation goes out and gets a loan from a
bank, which loans the money to you personally, paying you for your
stock at a valuation.
- The benefit of an ESOP is that your employees share in the
profits. You still share in the profits and control the company,
but they also benefit and get a sense of ownership.
- Another benefit of an ESOP is that you’re not giving away any
information to a competitor. A lot of times if you’re bought out by
a competitor, the deal falls through before it closes and they now
have your proprietary information.
- My purpose is to use my creativity and enthusiasm to inspire
others. I was mistaken when I thought my purpose was the ABA
softball league, then i9 Sports, and then my book. I realize now
that it was none of those things and it was all of them. Our life
is made up of a series of missions.
Running With My Head Down Book
Connect With Frank Fiume II and i9 Sports