PTM 025 – Start Your Own Sports Camp and Coaching Program with Jim Vitale of Vital Hockey Skills

Part Time Money PodcastThe Part-Time Money Podcast is back, baby!

In this episode I speak with Jim Vitale, owner of Vital Hockey Skills (get it?), one of the premiere hockey
schools (camps and private coaching) in Toronto, and one of the fastest growing in North America!

Jim is a classic part-time entrepreneur, as he’s a school teacher full-time and Vital Hockey Skills is something that he’s developed on the side over time (since 1996)!

Jim Vitale of Vital Hockey Skills

Jim Vitale of Vital Hockey Skills

Jim’s aspiration is to be able to potentially run the hockey school lucratively full-time and slip out of teaching quietly. Although as you’ll hear in the interview, he’s got plenty of reasons to remain a teacher.

The company has gone from losing $3,500 in their first ever hockey school to a six-figure business that now operates in affiliate partnerships, joint ventures and is prominent in SEO!

Listen to the Podcast

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Jim’s Story: Coaching Hockey

One would think a teacher would be too exhausted at the end of the day or week to spend time working another part-time job, much less to start a part-time business. But since Jim Vitale was already teaching Eastern block hockey training methods for $10 an hour to his dad’s clients, he saw there was a demand for a hockey school.

Jim’s hockey school, Vital Hockey Skills, offers a variety of hockey classes: Christmas camps, March break, camps, summer semi-private, full-day camps, pre-season training, and boot cams with the team he trains and coaches in the GTHL, one of the best minor hockey teams in the world.

Growing His Business and Brand

Formulating the business took a little time and organization. At first, Jim was haphazard. People would call and he would meet them on the ice. But once he started getting busy, he started thinking in terms of the 20/80 rule—where 20 percent of his customers give him 80 percent of his business. He decided it was time to structure his school so he could lock in more VIPs. He wanted to move towards a product-based business instead of one-off lessons. If he got them into a long-term commitment, the money would come in and the students would improve greatly.

“Now we focus on the 20 percent that are going to be there to actually develop. You know, these people who call saying, “Hey, can I have a lesson this week?” and you don’t see them for 4 weeks— I can’t put my name of that kid’s back because he doesn’t represent what we’re teaching because there’s not enough repetition for him to actually learn anything, right? So I kind of tend to shy away from those types of people. I just have certain ones and I free up my nights for my family now.”

Looking into gymnastics and swimming school curriculums, as well as other successful sports academy models in Canada, he created a level-based system where if a student wanted to go to a Thursday evening session, he/she would have to master Tuesday night’s sessions first.

Jim also leveraged his website and social media to promote his hockey school. He posted unique hockey-related content on Pinterest, worked on SEO for his website, created affiliate partnerships, and started sharing tips and creating how-to videos. He will find an NHL drill that people are raving about, go on the ice and break it down step-by-step, and get 4-5,000 hits on YouTube. Little by little those things have contributed to building his brand. He’s gone from having a small list of about 220 people in Toronto that he just hoped would come to a camp to having a father in Holland bring his sons for a 3-week camp in the summer.

Growth and Success

At Jim’s hockey school, private lessons run $120 an hour. A semi-private lesson, one that has 4-6 kids in it, runs around $40-80 an hour. Camp costs around $30 an hour for a camp that has about 25 kids in it, which translates to about $250 for the week. In 2012, Jim brought in around $140,000 total revenue. Not bad for a business that is run solely on nights and weekends.

Of course, Jim doesn’t run the school all by himself. He’s the accountant now, only getting on the ice for a few private and team lessons a week. He has instructors running the camps, someone running the scheduling, and people who work on his website SEO.

One would think that after clearing over $100,000 in a year, Jim would be ready to hang up his day job, but he’s not. He enjoys teaching science, he has a great pension with the school system, and he doesn’t know what he’d do with the free time all day while the kids are in school. Thanks to an understanding wife, he gets the best of both worlds.

Highlights from the interview with Jim:

  • 0:50 – Jim’s early experience with Eastern Bloc hockey skills led to teaching hockey on the side.
  • 1:40 – Jim explains his full-time teaching career and how that relates to his hockey business.
  • 3:15 – Jim’s entrepreneurial background and what gave him confidence to do what he did.
  • 4:30 – Packaging up your teaching skills into a sell-able service or product.
  • 5:55 – Jim talks about his staff.
  • 6:30 – The business started in 1996, but got serious in 2000.
  • 7:20 – It’s all about the branding. Jim’s videos.
  • 8:25 – Jim’s website attracts customer from all over the world.
  • 10:05 – The pricing structure of Vital Hockey Skills.
  • 10:45 – Jim shares his revenue and take home figures.
  • 12:20 – How Jim was able to go on after his first camp that was a financial failure.
  • 14:15 – Handling scheduling and other administrative functions.
  • 15:25 – Choosing to stay with his full-time job, for now.
  • 16:45 – Managing his time (family/business balance).
  • 18:20 – Moving into affiliate sales and joint ventures to scale/diversify his business.
  • 20:40 – The keys to Jim’s success.
  • 21:55 – Thing Jim wishes he would have done earlier.
  • 23:33 – Jim’s next plans and what he’s excited about.

Mentioned in the interview:

Google Hangout with Jim Vitale:

We’re back!

After a year away, I’ve decided to bring back the podcast. I’m making it easy on myself this time: no fancy intro or editing (yet); I simply record the interview over Google Hangout, extract the MP3, and load it up for you guys. I’ll also be posting a transcription with each episode. This will allow me to continue bringing you these great part-time money stories without burning out on the process. Thank you so much for listening!

Non-iTunes feed for you to subscribe to the podcast. For iTunes users, you can subscribe there using the unique iTunes feed.

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