Lea joined Knockerball way back in the early days as the company was getting started…she shares some great nuggets of wisdom about hard work and perseverance!
When did you join the Knockerball family?
Lets start from the beginning, what were you doing before KB?
I worked in the finance sector as a licensed broker and prior to that I co-founded a music school with a friend.
Please tell us about your personal story…what inspires you and what makes you tick? What makes you who you are?
I grew up in Princeton NJ, and then moved to the NJ shore area for the majority of my adult life. I loved being there in the midst of it all, but I began feeling in my 30s that it was becoming more and more of a dog eat dog world and started dreaming of getting out. I was working just to work some more, and it was a viscous cycle that everyone around me seemed to be in. I had gone to school for psychology and most of my jobs were in social services until I opened the music school with a dear friend that was an extremely talented musician. Music was and has always been my passion, so that was a wonderful experience that showed me the value of entrepreneurship and that it is feasible for anyone – not just a certain demographic. I didn’t know anything about running a business, marketing, or any of it, but I learned and taught myself everything I could (I had to). Unfortunately, the economy collapsed in 2008/2009 and my partner got into some financial trouble which trickled down into our business. The school survived but our partnership did not. At that point, I got a job in the finance field working at a bank and just happened to be good at it. I worked my way up the corporate ladder and got licensed. I was offered a job at a firm owned by one of my clients and took it, however, that job showed me what I already knew – that I am not built for that and I began desperately seeking a way out as I woke up every day dreading work, and knew something had to change. I wanted to do something rewarding that promoted my values. My sister lived in FL at the time and was building a shelter for women that had been victims of sex trafficking or abuse. I thought it was amazing and she asked me if I would be willing to move there and help her with it due to my psychology background. I decided to take the risk and accepted the offer, moved to Florida shortly after and have been here since. I went back to school to get my Masters after I moved to FL and needed something where I could have the flexibility that I needed at that time. Lucky for me, Knockerball corporate was located in FL, and was just starting up so they were looking for help. I had always wanted a Knockerball (I thought it was the best invention ever when I first saw it on Facebook), so it was a perfect fit for me. The rest is history!
The work with my sister has led me to take various mission trips over the years, most recently to Thailand a couple years ago with a group called the Bamboo Project (http://www.wearebamboo.com) and in the spring of 2020, I’ll be heading to India. We work on a variety of projects like building homes, shelters, bathrooms, and teaching English in impoverished areas. Thankfully, one of the benefits of working for Knockerball is having one paid week of time off to serve the mission of our choice…pretty cool!
What is your main focus at KB?
As the Manager-Relationship Marketing, I take care of our existing affiliates and help with the onboarding of our new affiliates. I wear a lot of hats each day…so there’s never a dull moment. From helping with the creative team on marketing campaigns, to license agreements, to sending off referrals that come in from people looking to rent Knockerballs from one of our locations, I handle a variety of things. I also get to talk with a number of people who are inquiring about starting their own Knockerball location. I’m happy to share the insights that I’ve gained about what it takes to have a successful business.
How do you help the team on the marketing side?
We do a lot of marketing on social media, primarily Facebook. We have quite a large following that has grown over the years >320,000 and we try to capitalize on that. We post frequently to keep it fresh and to help with the Facebook algorithm, and we also boost our posts occasionally as well as utilize advertising to help our local affiliates as well as for bringing new affiliates on board. We utilize google analytics, adwords, and work to optimize our SEO. Many of the apps we use are all connected to one another which helps significantly to retain and gather pertinent info and feedback. It’s amazing how much stuff is out there. The key is that we do a lot of research and use the tools available to us. Equally as important, we try to dig into our customer base, and how to connect to them in a way that is meaningful – meaningful being a really important part of that statement. As a team, we are constantly coming up with new ideas and trying out new technologies and approaches and have a lot of different platforms and methods. Actively learning how to utilize all of them and the importance of being savvy on the ones that work for us, is crucial. We also have several arrangements with complementary businesses to expand our outreach even more. We’ve created sponsorships or partnerships with other organizations such as the Atlanta Falcons and Archery Tag®.
What is your plan to help Knockerball grow in the future?
My plan is to help grow Knockerball into a one-stop-shop of entertainment for kids of all ages. I want Knockerball to be a household name, the one place nation-wide that provides not just balls, but a slew of truly fun activities for both kids AND adults – kind of like a Dave and Busters, but instead of video games, it will be Knockerballs, Archery Tag, yard games, inflatables, and all of the cutting edge and cool things you see that you want to try out (like a Knockerball) as well as the classics that everyone loves, but in one place. There is a need for that that has yet to be filled. I also want to help get people into entrepreneurship. I have been on both sides of the fence, and I know the feeling of being trapped in the 9-5 and feeling your soul slip out a little more each day. I also know how hard it is to run your own business – the trials and tribulations that will occur, and how much sweat, blood, and tears goes into even getting it to a point where you’re making a profit, and after that growing it (there’s always some unexpected setback it seems – always). I think there is nothing like the freedom one gets from having your own thing, of actually creating something with your own hands and watching it grow. There is something to be said about not having to answer to anyone but yourself, although this sounds counter-intuitive the truth is that it makes a lot of people work much harder. To watch your vision come to life, to have variety in your day, to have a legacy well, that is worth the risk and all of the very hard and stressful work. And, I also truly believe it would be beneficial to our society as a whole to have a lot of thriving small businesses around, more local/community ties, a prosperous metaphorical “Main Street” etc. as opposed to a few mega-corporations that run everything, so I am ALL about advocating that and trying to help make that happen, but that is another topic for another day LOL!
What would you say are the 3 most important things to remember as a KB owner?
Believe. I mean that in every sense of the word. Believe in your abilities, believe things will get better, believe in what you’re selling, believe that you can do anything that you set your mind to if you’re willing to and can put in the work and time required to do it in your specific situation. Approach things with an attitude of “I can do that”. Actually, not even I can, but I WILL do that. You’re not going to be a master of all things, but you can certainly get a good enough grasp on things as a whole to know how to make it work, and know the right questions to ask. There will be a lot of hard times, especially in the beginning, but you have to get past them, many small businesses fail at this stage in the game. The difference is pushing through your doubt, and there will be a lot of it in many forms, to get to a point where comfort sets in. Trust in yourself and always remember that you don’t know what you don’t know- something can happen in an hour that you never could have predicted (both good or bad) and its’ easy to lose sight of that when caught in the moment. As Journey so eloquently puts it: “Don’t stop believing.”
Always improve. Treat life, yourself, your business, your relationships as a never-ending learning process. Constantly try to keep improving, learning more, and understanding things more fully. You begin to learn and figure out patterns that can help you navigate the ups and downs and prepare. I feel like a lot of people reach an age or a point in their lives where they get set in their ways, and think they are the person they were meant to be, this is who they are and what they can do, they are maxed out, and stop reaching for more; but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you keep improving and expanding your skill sets and knowledge, everything around you changes for the better. That will permeate every aspect of your existence and change your perspective drastically as well as your business. With advancements in technology and accessibility, things are changing rapidly every day, so there is always an opportunity to improve every facet of your life, especially business.
Connect. Remember that people are people. We all have fears, dreams, hopes, eat, sleep, make mistakes, etc. You have to have a personalized approach to business and find the fine line between “reading” those you are dealing with and staying genuine with yourself and your values. You have to know how to tap into and empathize with your customers, prospects, co-workers, etc. and then tailor you approach based on them. Everyone has different needs and wants and styles, yet there is common ground amongst all of us as human beings, try to find that. Try to abstain from being one size fits all while also keeping it real and you will find you have repeat customers, partners, lower attrition rates, and even new friends this way.
What are 3 pitfalls you would avoid if you could start over knowing what you know now?
Not being smart with money – make a business plan before you even start. Make a budget and solid projections that are accurate and based on reality. Stick to the aforementioned and be wise with your resources and where you invest them. You have to take risks, some will pan out and some will not, and constantly reinvest in yourself, but you have to be good at identifying those that have a higher likelihood of bringing value.
Not setting clear boundaries – know what you’re willing to accept and what you are not. Know what you expect and deserve and be sure to not short-change yourself, nor to expect miracles. There will always come a time where you feel like you’re at a crossroads and have to take the left or right path, if you follow the boundaries you set from the get-go your decision will be much more clear.
Taking things too seriously – We’re in the business of fun! We’re not searching for a cure for cancer. Yes, money is tied up in this and a lot is at stake, but at the same time, try to remember what is truly important in life, things like health, family/friends, love, basic necessities. In the grand scheme of things, those are what should be our main motivators, everything else is just part of the game.
What is your most memorable KB moment?
That would have to be getting recognized in INC 5000 as one of the fastest growing companies in US. That really solidified how far we have come and that we in fact have “made” it. It feels good to watch all of this grow and be a part of it every step of the way, and then be recognized for it…I guess you could say Knockerball is our baby, and that was the day our baby graduated.
What advice would you give other affiliates or people considering becoming an affiliate?
Believe, keep expanding your skill sets, hustle, research, connect with people genuinely, make a plan and stick to it, and be smart with people and resources.
A big thanks to Lea who wears so many hats and does a great job taking care of everyone in the Knockerball family!