Part 3 – Fun finding our founding franchisees !
Recruitment was soooo exciting, travelling the country to meet new and exciting prospects mainly from the rugby family network initially.. just good people that really wanted to build something special for themselves, their families and/ or their communities . This was a way of making a difference by doing something amazing , that could also create an extra income for doing something that you really enjoy! The phrase “it’s a win, win!” was always in my vocabulary..
One of our founding franchisees Craig Hunter and his business partner Donna Clark were an awesome addition to the didi family.. I still remember my first meeting with Craig at Reading RFC – he was still employed in IT and super desperate to leave the industry, but just needed to make the extra income to start reducing hours … I could really see a lot of me in Craig.. his energy, enthusiasm and desire to be successful was definitely within him, and he just needed to believe in his dream and go get it! Fast forward 6 years, and didi rugby Reading is still going really strong at the heart of the Reading community. Craig, Donna and their team have made a huge difference to the lives of so many children , parents and coaches .. one particular child Tommy will always stick in my memory as a huge success story.. Tommy who suffers from hypermobility syndrome and he really thrived at didi rugby physically, emotionally and socially – and the benefits his Mum talked about for her and the family also was huge! We brought Tommys Mum onto our podcast and there was an article to have a read through also.. I really feel Tommys story underpins the why behind didi rugby and the culture and values that underpin everything we do and why we do it!
Read Tommys story here
More and more franchisees followed and I started to feel we were making a difference to many young children and their families , but also we had created this machine that allowed people to start up their own businesses with our support to actually change their lives for the better, make a difference to others, and gain an additional income, that for some then became their full time role!
Collaboration with the RFU on the early years strategy was brilliant! Great to be recognised as the only rugby provider to be invited along to consult and help provide the knowledge, advice and experience we had to support the strategy.. was nice to be working with some of the professionals that I had come across in my playing and coaching career to date – the paper was published and campaign launched, and another big win to ensure that we had set the bar nice and high with all providers.. as it should be with young children and their families!
Friends and team mates past and present were all championing what was now a recognised brand in the rugby world … so many of our franchisees came to the business via the rugby network.. hearing great things about the business and it’s core values .. what’s nice is we will always remain true to our values .. even when it’s not the best financial decision for us .. morally and ethically didi rugby always does the right thing and this is super important to me and the HQ team!
Ros Wiggins in the Stone and Stafford area, Keith Smith of Cheltenham, Susan Appleby-Jones in the Gloucester area came on board and the business was flying!
We had an ever growing list of didi rugby ambassadors in Sarah Hunter MBE, Emily Scarratt MBE, Manu Tuilagi, Graham Rowntree, Sam Vesty , Natasha Hunt, George Chuter, Rosemary Conley CBE to name a few… all these people truly believe in what we were doing.. none of them were giving financial reward, they were just happy to be a part of our didi family and to champion the work we were doing around the country for the children, their families and also the coaching experiences we had created !
Listen to the podcast here with Sarah Hunter
Alex Matthews was an ambassador that then became a franchise owner for the Worcester area , allowing her to run a business alongside her professional rugby playing career. There is so much cross over with sport and business and I have done lots of speaking in this field.. the key attributes to success are very similar across both. For me… drive , resilience and work ethic are the three key factors to running a successful business … this comes in abundance in a successful elite athlete who has represented their country!
We also managed to develop one of our coaches from assistant coach, to lead coach and then onto franchise owner . Jenny Burrows starting coaching for me in my local area, she assisted me initially but spotted her talent for coaching and managed to persuade her to take on her own classes . This quickly turned into huge enthusiasm and passion for didi rugby she wanted to take the next step. Jenny is now thriving with her didi rugby business which she runs along side her profession as an accountant!
By March 2020 we were a hugely successful franchise operation with 18 working franchises across the country – we had also piloted in Italy , New Zealand and Australia .. unfortunately as the World was about to shut down completely due to the Covid Pandemic – we were about to really test our spirit, resilience and resolve as a team – this is where we could really show our strength! 💪👌🏉
Watch out for Part 4 – The Covid Battle – to come!! 💪💪